Last season was full of roster moves for the Nashville Predators, and the return of Scott Hartnell was one that provided an extra punch.
Hartnell is one of those classic Nashville Predators players that you can argue belongs in the top ten of the franchise. When he returned to the team after a decade with Philadelphia and Columbus, you couldn’t help but be excited.
I love Hartnell’s physical style of play and the veteran leadership he still brings every game. He’s as reliable as you can hope for from a player that’s approaching two decades in the NHL. He’s not the scorer he once was, but he does remain a steady contributor on the third or fourth lines of any team.
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It doesn’t look like Hartnell is ready to retire just yet. However, it also seems that the Nashville Predators will not bring him back for another season, per Adam Vingan of the Tennessean. That doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. The Predators have a young crop of talent that need bigger roles, and there’s just not room for everyone. Here’s what Hartnell had to say to the fans following the heart-shattering playoff elimination at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets:
Doing the dirty work
I never felt as if Hartnell was holding back the team when he was on the ice. His all-around game on the back end of the roster is a nice luxury to have. With 82 hits and 25 blocked shots, the Predators got a nice boost from the veteran. You need savvy veterans like that who can produce in areas other than just scoring goals. Knowing your role and executing it consistently is very important.
Hartnell’s best days are clearly behind him when he was still playing in Philadelphia. However, he served his role well on a one-year deal for a Predators team that was just a few pieces away from a Stanley Cup return. You can’t look at Hartnell’s season and draw the conclusion that the Predators didn’t get what they expected and wanted.
When you look at Hartnell’s career numbers, you’re reminded how solid his career numbers are. He’s not putting up career-highs anymore, but many categories remain respectable. His Corsi-for percentage is a prime example. His 54 percent Corsi last season is his lowest in eight seasons, but still very solid for a fourth line player.
Since his role wasn’t as vital as it was in his previous stays with Nashville, Columbus, and Philadelphia, his average time on ice drop significantly. At 12:01 per game, his time on ice for 2017-18 is his lowest average since his rookie season with the Predators. That’s a difficult adjustment for a talented player like Hartnell to make. Age catches up with everyone, and he made the most out of his limited opportunities.
Hartnell shows efficiency, provides boost
A number that jumped off the page is Hartnell’s 15.9 shooting percentage. That’s tops on the team and near the top 30 in the NHL for qualifying players. That highlights efficiency and high quality shots. Hartnell’s production is down more so due to his low amount of time on ice and him missing 20 regular season games.
Hartnell recorded just 82 shots on goal all season to still manage 13 goals. That’s an impressive number for a 35-year-old who wasn’t really brought back with high expectations of scoring goals.
A younger player will have to step in take the role of Hartnell next season. Someone who can provide more speed and scoring, but the trade-off will be reliability. That’s what we love about Hartnell. He’s a bargain at this point in his career. He gives you just enough production and physicality you want on your fourth line. It’s understandable that the Predators want to move forward with younger players who have a lot to offer.
Hartnell didn’t light up the box score every game, and wasn’t expected to when he came back on a modest one-year deal. The Predators came up considerably short of their goal, but not due to Hartnell’s play. If anything, he provided the necessary depth and veteran leadership on the fourth line to help the Predators to a Presidents’ Trophy.
It’s unknown if Hartnell will retire or play somewhere. Here’s to hoping he retires as a Predator after playing this last season with respectable numbers at age 35. He gets a solid grade from me thanks to living up to his role to the team. The fact that he’s such a great ambassador to the team and local community is bonus points. He will be missed once again in Smashville.