Nashville Predators Need Matt Duchene

Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) has a shot blocked by Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) as defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) pressures him. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) has a shot blocked by Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (4) as defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) pressures him. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Nashville Predators need a piece or two to be true contenders, and as deadline day approaches, Matt Duchene could be that answer.

The Nashville Predators have been an interesting study on the consistency of inconsistency in the NHL. On the surface, the statistics state that this year’s team is relatively equivalent to last year’s team and their record reflects this. The one thing the stats don’t show is it’s been all or nothing for the Predators for most of the season until about the last ten games or so. Why do the Predators need Matt Duchene if things are starting to fall into place? Simple, to become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders for the next five years.

Ryan Johansen

Up until last year, the Predators franchise lacked a true number one center. Then one day last year GM David Poile traded Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen, and things started looking up on that front. While Johansen has been a boon to the Predators, has he played at the level Poile and the Predators have expected? Once again the stats say he’s been pretty solid however he hasn’t been elite as many would have hoped. Recently we’ve seen an uptick in his play and his overall demeanor on the ice. He’s starting to play at that elite level which is a great thing to see if you’re a fan of the Predators.

Nashville Predators
Nashville Predators /

Nashville Predators

Are Stillman and Crisp right?

Another point of contention has been the play of PK Subban and if he’s performing at the level expected of him. On the pregame show February 2 Jared Stillman and Terry Crisp pointed out that the guys Poile traded for, Subban and Johansen needed to play better for this team to succeed and that was part of the reason for the team’s inconsistency. They disagree with some rumors that are linking the Predators to the Avalanche and Duchene. They feel adding Duchene is not the right move at this time. This is where I disagree with their comments.

The Proposal

The Avalanche are reportedly interested in adding an NHL player, preferably an established defenseman, a top prospect and a first-round pick. It’s an easy package to put together if you’re David Poile. Mattias Ekholm, one of Alexander Carrier or Dante Fabbro and a first-round pick should get it done. If the Avalanche are holding out for a different prospect, the Predators could swap out Kevin Fiala for one of the prospects mentioned above.

Benefits for the  Colorado Avalanche

What it does for the Avalanche. First off, in Ekholm, they gain a consistent second pairing defenseman that could be a true number two in this league. He’s got size, moves well on the ice and has some offensive pop. In Fabbro or Carrier, they land a blue chip defensive prospect to help them rebuild. The first-round pick is theirs to do as they see fit. If they want Fiala, they land a top twenty prospect in the league that should be a consistent fifty-point winger in the very near future. Fiala has great wheels and hands, and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a star in this league.

Benefits for the Nashville Predators

What it does for Nashville. There a few keys to this. One being, it keeps Duchene from going to an opponent. The Blackhawks are hot on the trail for Duchene as well so landing him would be a plus for the Predators while keeping the ‘Hawks at bay. It also adds a center who has been a number one in his career and puts up 55-65 points a year which are solid numbers. Having a one-two punch of Johansen and Duchene would make the Predators the envy of many NHL teams. Duchene has game breaking speed which would help the Predators in the three on three overtime where they have struggled since its inception and stretch the ice at even strength. Duchene is also an ace in the faceoff dot having a winning percentage above 60% as of this writing.

A few other points to make. The top six of Nashville would have players with the names of Johansen, Duchene, Neal, Forsberg, Arvidsson and Wilson. That’s a great blend of talent that can compete with any other team’s top six in the league. Without acquiring Duchene, Calle Jarnkrok’s name gets thrust into that top six, and while Jarnkrok is a solid two-way player, he is not the game breaker Duchene can be. Duchene would give coach Laviolette a lot of flexibility with his lineup for this and future seasons. The other plus is if this trade were to go down the Predators end up with the best player in the deal which historically works out for that team.

The Reason for Duchene

One last reason for the Predators to go after Duchene, the end goal of any NHL team, the Stanley Cup. If you look at rosters of the last ten or so winners of the Cup, they had solid offensive depth down the middle and elite talent in their top six. Duchene completes what the Predators are currently missing, scoring punch from the number two center position as well as adding another elite player in their top six. They would still have three solid defensemen in Roman Josi, PK Subban and Ryan Ellis which is another key cog for Cup contenders. Matt Irwin has shown he can play top-four minutes this season so the loss of Ekholm would be absorbed.

The other component for a contender is goaltending, and while Pekka Rinne has been up and down this year, for the most part, he is looking like the old Rinne again. With the addition of Juuse Saros as his backup, Rinne is getting much-needed rest, doesn’t have to be the guy every game because his backup has shown the ability to win games that most backups don’t win and gives him a guy to groom as his eventual successor.

Trading Ekholm Hurts

While the Predators would lose some depth and a heck of a player in Ekholm, they would land a dynamite talent who already has a love for Nashville and country music. Many people wonder if the Predators need to stand still and let the team gel from the last two big moves Poile has made and see where things fall. The other theory is, make one additional big move to complete the overhaul and give Laviolette the horses he needs to play his system fully.

With any trade or roster move there is an inherent risk but with that risk comes possibilities of attaining levels the Predators franchise and its fans have never seen. It wouldn’t surprise me to see David Poile pull the trigger on a deal like this in the next week to be ahead of his opponents and give Duchene the time to get adjusted to his new teammates and system with the Predators bye week rapidly approaching. Remember Poile surprised us with Johansen last year early, I suspect he does the same this year.