Nashville Predators: Forward depth will force key players to sit

(Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images) /

With the additions for Fisher and Hartman, the Nashville Predators have a luxury no other team enjoys. But, the forward depth now causes a major problem.

This may well be the best team the Nashville Predators have ever put together. We will not know until the season is complete. Regardless of the final outcome in the playoffs, the amount of talent and depth the Predators hold is rather ridiculous. No other team compares to the Predators in terms of talent across the roster.

Sure, other teams may have more superstars. The Pittsburgh Penguins do have great forward, but the gap between the first line and the fourth line is greater than the Predators. It certainly is a luxury. Should something happen to one of their players, the Predators have a roster to fill the void.

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But, it also brings a major problem. The team is currently healthy. Quality players will be forced out of the lineup each night. It is a great problem to have until it becomes a problem. Each man on the team wants to play. But, two men will sit each night. The question is who those players will be.

Tough call

With the forward depth the Nashville Predators enjoy, we know the front two lines will remain intact to start games. Splitting up Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson is not wise. While the trio only accounts for 22 goals while on the ice together, they generate a great number of scoring chances. The same can be said of Craig Smith, Kyle Turris, and Kevin Fiala. In the same amount of games together as the JoFA line this year, the Predators’ second line has 21 goals and generated 238 scoring chances. They also have 15 high-danger goals, more than the JoFA line.

The third and fourth lines will see rotations of forwards changing over the next 20 games. Sure, Nick Bonino, Calle Jarnkrok, and Scott Hartnell work well together, but new players on the roster could improve the team’s performance. While each player deserves playing time, swapping Ryan Hartman with Hartnell adds scoring without losing the grit the veteran brings.

The change in the third line trickles down to the fourth. We already saw Miikka Salomaki scratched against the Winnipeg Jets in favor of Hartman. Should Hartman move up to the third line, Hartnell could move down.

But wait…

Mike Fisher is ready to return to the Predators. In all likelihood, he will be slotted on the fourth line. Obviously, someone else would have to move down. Who could that be? The physical play of Austin Watson nearly forces him to play each night. He blocks pucks, lays hits, and can win a faceoff when needed. Colton Sissons may be the best scoring option on the line, though he only has 20 points on the season. And the Predators did not bring Fisher back to sit the bench and enjoy the ride.

You see the issue.

If the Predators are wise – and I believe they are – Coach Laviolette and his staff will rotate players each game. Of course, the lines created will be geared toward matchups in each game. But, giving players a night off for rest could serve the team well moving forward. As for the common line formations, there are two options for the third and fourth lines I see work well.

Sissons/Hartman – Bonino – Jarnkrok

Hartman/Sisson – Fisher – Watson

To me, Hartman and Hartnell play a similar game, but one provides a better scoring threat. Both are gritty and play the net well. Hartman also provides better speed and handling, with more takeaways than giveaways. Fisher is a better center than Sissons, but Sissons improves the team’s play at 5v5 over Hartnell. Watson just plays the defensive end better than all other forwards.

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Any way you look at the issue, the Nashville Predators are in good shape the rest of the season. An injury will not be a detriment to the team come playoff time. The Predators have the pieces to win. And I am ready to watch.