Training camp is a bit of mess. Coaches experiment with line combinations, ice time, and more. But one Nashville Predators defensive pairing stood out.
The Nashville Predators defense doesn’t look the same after losing Ryan Ellis, even if it’s temporary. Left to make up the top four are Alexei Emelin, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm. So how will the pairings shape up? Justin Bradford reported today that Subban is playing with his old friend Alexei Emelin.
Does it make sense for the Nashville Predators to pair Subban and Emelin?
Well, it’s a little murky. There’s a lot of moving pieces and situational variables. It would mean that while Subban would pair with Emelin, Ekholm would pair with Josi. Most people are against this because of how well Subban and Ekholm performed. Especially in the playoffs. Subban and Ekholm combined for one of the best shutdown pairings in the NHL. And fans rightfully should be cautious, a good shutdown line is hard to come by. And it might be a mistake to split it up. But nothing is off limits in these injury-riddled times.
What needs to change for the Nashville Predators to switch up the pairs
Well, something needs to change in Nashville, it’s been apparent since the news about Ellis’ injury. A lot needs to change if the Ekholm-Subban pair is broke up. Josi can no longer receive easier minutes against second line competition. If Josi and Ekholm are to play together, then they’ll have to take on tougher minutes and play more responsibly. This will allow Subban and Emelin to take more reasonable minutes against some milder competition. It’ll also allow Subban to play a more offensive style, which will give the Nashville Predators a more balanced attack.
Will Subban and Emelin play together in the season?
Most likely not. My favorite expression is “never give up a strength to address a weakness”. And breaking up a top shutdown pair to address a missing piece isn’t a great idea. If I were head coach Peter Laviolette, I’d start Emelin with Josi and give them reduced minutes against weaker competition. That’d let Josi off the leash to wreak havoc on the defenses of the NHL.
Why would the Nashville Predators pair Emelin and Subban together in camp then?
Putting Emelin and Subban on the same pair is probably to get Emelin accustomed to the Nashville Predators playing style. Emelin now plays in a quicker style of defense than when he was in Montreal. Pairing him with an old friend like Subban will help him adjust easier. Chemistry is one of the intangible things that stats can’t quantify, but it does come into play. Subban is being a leader in helping Emelin adjust to his new home.