Finally, the excruciating long offseason wait for Nashville Predators hockey is over! The 2018-19 season is upon us and the hype is through the roof.
The hype is so large that the Nashville Predators needed to upgrade their scoreboard to handle it all. With this hype comes high expectations set from the players themselves and from the fans. We at Predlines have a big list of bold predictions for our Predators this year.
Duchene and Dan Lambert breathe new life into the Power Play efforts.
Did you know that the Nashville Predators acquired Matt Duchene in the offseason? If you don’t follow social media, yes it did happen! Sarcasm aside, Matt Duchene has brought the hype and needed depth to the Nashville Predators top lines.
Last season Duchene posted six power play goals and 14 points, per Hockey Reference. When comparing that to last year’s Predators roster, he ranks second on the list behind Ryan Johansen who posted zero goals but had 16 power play assists for total points and second on the list for power play goals behind Filip Forsberg who had seven.
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Dan Lambert has been brought in as an assistant coach to revive the Predator’s power play abilities. His last two years were spent as the special team’s coach for the Spokane Chiefs.
Granted the level of play in the WHL isn’t the type you’d see in the NHL, the statistics the Chiefs were able to post speak for wonders about their special teams. In 2017-18 they posted a 20.6% and in 2018-19 they posted a league-leading 29.1% power play success rate!
Another factor that we can also look forward to that currently has been overlooked is the addition of Dante Fabbro and his potential he could bring to the power play if called upon.
The young gun has a knack for playing smart hockey and could give the power play a fierce look from the second line. In 112 games with Boston University, he scored 14 power play goals. With his addition, we are looking to get back to our 2017-18 ways with the defense active in every power play chance.
The Nashville Predators ranked T-29th in goals scored on the power play last season for a league-worst 12.9% percentage.
A bold statement that we can look forward to this year is that the Predators will be back in the <20% range on the power play. The addition of Matt Duchene, Dante Fabbro, and the refreshing ideas of Dan Lambert will right the wrongs of last season.
Rinne stays elite, however, loses reps to Saros
Pekka Rinne. Saying his name resonates years of love and joy that players and fans appreciate and carry within their very soul.
He has been the netminder of the Nashville Predators for over a decade posting ridiculous numbers and making immaculate saves that make jaws hit the floor. Unarguably, he has played his best hockey these last three years helping this team succeed.
The worry for every team is, “who will step up next when that player’s time is up?” Enter Juuse Saros, who has been learning and growing in ability and confidence under Rinne’s guidance.
The relationship between Rinne and Saros has been a fan favorite to enjoy the last four years. Commonly, the running joke among fans is that “Papa Pekka” has taken his son, Saros, under his glove and shown him the ropes.
Statistically, Rinne owns the crease as he has posted consistent numbers at an average .921 save percentage and 15 shut-outs the last three years. Pekka’s teachings are showing through as Saros has posted an equal .921 save percentage and 7 shut-outs in the last three years.
As Saros gets more workload, he continues to prove his worth and show that he is ready for the next level.
Rinne will still get the tougher workload and will still be the go-to goalie. This year unlike any other, Saros looks to get more reps in the crease but more importantly will get more back to back games to condition him more for the future.
A split 50/50 tandem help Saros continue to grow and gives Rinne the ability to play at an elite level when we need him most.
Breaking the JoFA line will create more offense
This line posted positive stats and created game-clinching goals for many years. With the addition of Duchene and multiple sources stating that Craig Smith would be taking Forsberg’s spot on the top line, the fan base should start accepting that a change of the JoFA line is needed to create a more offensively potent team.
Craig Smith is a shoot first and “hit the guy that got in the way of the shot later” type of player. In the last three years, he has been in the top three for power play goals and the top five in overall goals scored consistently on the team.
If Smith can keep up that level of offense and learn to not play the physical game as much, it will make the top line lethal. This, in turn, makes the second line even scarier for the opposition.
With the top line, that most likely won’t get the name of JoSA, set in place the second line of Forsberg, Duchene and Granlund is ready to make its debut.
Forsberg in his own right is a sniper with silky moves. Duchene can provide a level of playmaking that provides the best depth at the center the Nashville Predators have seen in years. Granlund is an assist machine that can also shoot when needed. All three guys together create a very well-rounded line that will keep the opposition on their heels.
The second line’s potential will rival and could even pass the first line offensively. With the defensive pairing of Ekholm and Fabbro to run with that line, expect the hype to become reality this season as the offense goes on to post their best offensive numbers in recent years. The bold prediction, baring injuries to players, the Predators will shatter old records across the board with this lineup.
Changes to better the team
While the top lines on offense and defense take the team to new levels, there will be some tough choices that should be addressed through the year. Some major questions that fans had this offseason were, “Will Bonino or Turris be traded?” In a bold prediction, Turris finds his mojo again and Bonino gets traded.
Bonino doesn’t get traded because of lack of offense; Bonino gets traded because of the depth the organization has and his contract to off-load. David Poile has come out to say that he does not feel comfortable where he is for the team’s salary cap level per the Tennessean. That was why P.K. Subban was traded but if Poile wants to create more cap space, Bonino’s 4.1 million a year contract seems like the most likely cut.
Other players that came up on the radar were Irwin, Hamhuis, and Weber. Don’t expect the Predators to deviate away from these three guys unless it becomes a problem. Any slip up will cost them their NHL roles and they will be sent to Milwaukee. Milwaukee currently has a plethora of talent waiting for their chance to get to the NHL.
The Future Stars
A final bold prediction about the team is about their future players. The Nashville Predators will call up Eeli Tolvanen and he will play more than half the year in Nashville. Tolvanen was one of the last players sent down to Milwaukee this preseason. This came as a surprise to many as he was displaying signs that he was ready to make it into the NHL this year.
In his defense, he did take this offseason to work on his game and to increase his overall stature on the ice. Sending him down to Milwaukee isn’t a move to say that he isn’t ready, its a statement have him prove to the organization that he is ready to commit.
The Nashville Predators previously did this with ex-Predator, Kevin Fiala. Fiala still has all the talent and ability to be great but one major thing that needed to be worked on was his mental game. It’s about the same story with Tolvanen. When Tolvanen started the year in Milwaukee, it came as a shock that he wasn’t playing at a level that people were told he would play at. He would look lost or slow to the puck early on. He learned and adapted to the speed and play of AHL level hockey and started to show glimpses of a star near the end of the year.
Eeli has started to prove that he is ready to physically take his game to the next level. Now he needs to take his mental game to the next level to go further into the NHL. Showing his new-found strengths in the AHL early on this year will be important as he will become a threat in the NHL.
The overall prediction?
The reigning back to back central division champions made some important changes this year and are still a team to not take lightly at all. Fixing their problems of last year, look for the Predators to still be one of the teams fighting to win the division again this year. Rises in teams such as the Avalanche, Blues and Stars pose the biggest threats to them this year.
I predict the Predators will have another 100 point season under their belt and will have some fun this year in hopes of a deeper playoff run.