Nashville Predators Mazanec Can Prove Himself In 2017

Nashville Predators goalie Marek Mazanec (39). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators goalie Marek Mazanec (39). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators regular season is more jam-packed than ever before, thanks to the World Cup of Hockey and a new “bye-week” format .

For the Nashville Predators, one of the major changes coming to the NHL in the 2017 season is the implementation of a new bye-week format, very similar to the one that you would find in the NFL, that is designed to give each teams a rest period of at least five days with no games or practices, to offset the fatigue that comes with a grueling hockey season like the NHL’s.

While adapting to a newer and much more cramped schedule is already difficult enough on its own, the World Cup tournament returning in mid-September just makes matters worse.The NHL will be beginning the regular season a week later than its traditional early October start without extending the end of the season in order to accommodate the first World Cup tournament since 2004.

That’s in addition to the five days off that each team will be receiving as part of the new bye-week schedule, thus effectively reducing an already brutal 82 game regular season by two weeks without reducing the amount of games being played.  Unsurprisingly, most of, if not all teams are seeing an increase in back to back games being played in 2017 to make this new schedule work so let’s look at what the Predators are up against next season.

Predators Back To Back Games In 2017:

  • 26 Back to Back Games Total
  • 16 Away Games
  • 10 Home Games
  • 16 Games against Western Conference Opponents
  • 8 Games against Central Division Opponents

Check out that workload!  Practically a third of the Predators season will be spent playing back to back games next year.  For comparison’s sake, the Predators did play in 24 back to back games in 2016 but with an “extra” two weeks of time in the schedule, the workload wasn’t nearly as strenuous as it will be this time around.

While it’s safe to say Pekka Rinne will still be getting the lion’s share of the workload, it’s a very unrealistic expectation of him to play both sides of these back to back games more often than not and that’s where the Predators “newest” backup comes in.

Marek Mazanec‘s Chance to Shine

While Marek Mazanec hasn’t been a familiar face in Nashville since the Predators disastrous 2014 season, the recent departure of Carter Hutton in free agency to the St. Louis Blues has given the young Czech a chance to make a name for himself.

Meanwhile Rinne’s heir apparent, another young Finn by the name of Juuse Saros, gets the starting role with the Milwaukee Admirals to further his development.  It’s a win-win move as far as Mazanec and Saros are concerned.

Instead of Saros languishing on the bench wasting his potential as a future NHL starter, he gets all the playing time he can possibly handle in the AHL.  Meanwhile, Mazanec has the opportunity to make the most of a one-year contract that he signed with the Predators this off-season to increase his own stock before becoming a free agent again next year and possibly moving on to a new team, but I digress.

While Mazanec’s first tenure in the Predators net was far from spectacular, not that any other Predators had a good season in 2014, he’d done well enough at the AHL level to earn a roster spot behind Pekka Rinne this coming season.  At least that’s the way Dave Poile see’s it and Poile’s done rather well lately after giving players a chance to prove themselves in Nashville.

Now that Mazanec is the clear backup in Nashville this year, at least to start the season, what’s a realistic expectation for how many starts he’ll be getting behind Pekka Rinne?  15 starts? 20 starts?  Do I hear 25?  Well, considering Carter Hutton never cleared 17 starts in his three years with Nashville, outside of filling in for an injured Pekka Rinne in 2014, 20 starts would seem like a lofty benchmark for the young Czech.

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At least that would be the case if it weren’t for an absurdly tight schedule this coming season and that leads us back to Pekka again.  Injury-plagued seasons aside, Pekka Rinne has averaged at least 61 starts a year since 2009 and doesn’t look to stray too far from that mark once again.

That being said, Rinne flourished late last season after getting a few games off as the starter and was instrumental in the Predators late post-season push into the playoffs.  Maybe more of the same could help launch the Nashville Predators to new post-season highs when the time comes.

We’ll see if I’m too optimistic or not but I believe “Maz” is capable of handling himself well in goal and will clear 20 starts in net this season as a reliable backup goalie.  This is a rare opportunity for a goalie not named Pekka Rinne to shine in Nashville.  If Mazanec wants to play at the NHL level all he needs to do is win. Win early, win often, and prove to everyone that he can be trusted to carry the team in net when he’s called upon.

Next: Which Pred is the Best Player?

Rinne isn’t getting any younger and if Marek Mazanec can spell him some during the season, it would be a huge help to the Nashville Predators.