Nashville Predators: Out With the Old, In With the New…We Hope

(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

The Nashville Predators have had a rough go to start the season. On the heels of a Stanley Cup run, this year’s team was supposed to start out swinging.

So far, it seems like the Nashville Predators have reverted back to last year’s regular season form.

The Nashville Predators have started out the new season as badly as possible. They have gone 0-2 in games that have not been close. Although, the final minute of game one was fun. Outside of those garbage time goals, the Predators have looked abysmal. The opposition outhustled them in both games. They are playing especially sloppy defense. Might I remind you: this defense is supposed to be the best in the league. They are definitely feeling the effects of losing Ryan Ellis for so long. The defending Western Conference Champions have talked all offseason long about how they can’t afford to start off slow. Last season, they started slow and almost missed the Playoffs. Unfortunately for the Predators, and us fans, this year’s team is very similar to last season’s.

The Story of Last Year

The summer before last season, the Nashville Predators shocked the hockey world by trading its best player. In what was arguably the biggest one-for-one trade ever, the Nashville Predators traded Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban. When the news first broke, everyone was in awe. Weber had been the captain of the Predators for some time and was their best player for multiple years. However, the Predators had adopted a new style of play, one where defencemen needed to be mobile. For all Shea Weber was, mobility was not high up on the list. So, they got faster on the back end with Subban. Not to mention, a little younger as well (Weber was about to turn 31 and Subban just turned 27).

The trade had ripple effects into the season, however. The Predators had traded away its greatest leader. Even though they promoted Mike Fisher to captain, there was still an obvious void in the team’s leadership, especially in the locker room. Another effect felt by the trade was how P.K. Subban was going to fit in. Subban had long been the guy in Montreal. In Nashville, he would have to adjust to being just one of the guys. Undoubtedly, there would be an adjustment period for him.

The effect of those changes manifested in an extremely slow start to the season. The Nashville Predators ended October with a 2-5-1 record, winless on the road. Not the start they were hoping for. They continued to struggle through December, posting a below .500 record of 16-14-6 at the winter break. Eventually, the Predators would end the season in a bit of a groove and just squeezed into the Playoffs. All was well.

New Year, Same Story

Expectations have never been higher than this years. The Nashville Predators were the darlings of the playoffs after a remarkable run landed them in the Stanley Cup Finals. It was the farthest the franchise had ever gone in the playoffs. They owned the honor of being the called the defending Western Conference Champions all summer long. October could not come fast enough for Nashville Predators fans.

So, what has changed? For starters, they have a new captain. After a long and successful career, Mike Fisher decided to hang up the skates for good. He officially retired, and the Nashville Predators had another opportunity to name a new captain. After much secrecy throughout the offseason, Roman Josi was named the new captain of the Nashville Predators. Additionally, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm were all named as part of the leadership group. The Predators now had to adjust, once again, to a change in the locker room.

Also, the Predators went out and signed a few free agents. The most notable signing was Nick Bonino. The Nashville Predators center depth was exposed in the Stanley Cup Finals playing without Ryan Johansen. So, the Predators stole one away from the Stanley Cup Champions. Nick Bonino has a very good reputation in the league for his defense. He is one of the best two-way centers today. However, Bonino has played the last few years in a third-line role. But he is expected to be the second-line center, especially considering his contract. How is he going to adjust? Time will tell, but so far, he still needs time.

Will It Get Better?

After all of the similarities between last season and the current one, it is not surprising the Predators have started out sluggishly. There is new leadership. There is a new, established player finding a new role. But, there are rising expectations. On top of all of that, Ryan Ellis is out for extended time. His absence has left a hole in what should be the most solid aspect of the team. The defense has been anything but solid so far this season. Adjustments will be necessary as the season goes on.

There is hope. The Nashville Predators started about as poorly as they could have imagined last season. They persevered through injury and chemistry issues all season and managed to pull it together to make their playoff run. This year’s team is younger and ready to explode on the scene once again. Even if they hobble through the first half of the season, the return of Ryan Ellis will solidify the defense once again. Look for the Predators to excel through the second half of the season and make the playoffs. Like they have done in the past.

Next: Despite Slow Start, It's Not Time To Panic

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