With no completion of the 2019-20 regular season, there will be some major burning questions that were never answered for the Nashville Predators.
For starters, the Nashville Predators were wildly inconsistent. You couldn’t trust them at all in one way or the other.
Even when a Stanley Cup champion is crowned during a normal 82-game season there are still often questions left unanswered. But those questions amplify even more when the results are incomplete or modified.
There were some nights when the Predators didn’t look worthy of even sniffing the playoffs, and then quickly they would flip that around and crush a top-tier team to look like Stanley Cup contenders.
How about in February when the Predators were sleepwalking and took an embarrassing 6-2 loss to Vancouver only to turn around and crush the Islanders 5-0 and then complete the season sweep of St.Louis?
That’s just one example. It happened regularly, and sometimes even in the midst of one game from period to period.
Until we see a final result of the 2019-20 for the Nashville Predators, we’ll really never know what version of the team we really got.
Perhaps they fall somewhere in the middle, but without a fair completion of an 82-game season, inconsistent bubble teams like the Predators leave a lot of uncertainty.
I have some more specific questions that will go unanswered and leave us wondering if the season never finishes and just move onto 2020-21 at its normal time.
Is John Hynes making a difference?
It was a pretty popular opinion that Peter Laviolette needed to be relieved of his duties back in January, but I wasn’t one of them.
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Admittedly I originally thought the Predators were jumping the gun and needed to let the talent override the slump with still a lot of games left to be played.
However, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly the Predators started to show improvement in key areas after John Hynes had time to implement his systems and philosophies.
No matter how bad it got, the Predators were obviously going to ride into next season with Hynes as their head coach. But my confidence in him as being the right choice, and knowing for sure that the Predators didn’t rush into a coaching decision, will stay low without seeing how the Predators play out their last 13 games.
Not only did I think the Predators fired Laviolette too quickly, but I also thought they rushed into the hiring of Hynes too quickly. I was starting to come around on the fact that maybe Laviolette’s time to go was indeed here, but I’m still not completely convinced that Hynes was the right choice.
If the season were to play out and the Predators actually earn their way into a playoff spot after a full 82-game season, then my confidence in Hynes would grow considerably. He would be crediting for turning a team around that was drastically falling short of expectations based on the talent they had on the roster.
Even if the Predators get into the playoffs thanks to a shortened season, I won’t fully be convinved that Hynes was the right choice just yet because the season didn’t go the full 82 games.
Was Matt Duchene the right addition?
Judging just off the games that have been played up to the current pause, Matt Duchene hasn’t met the expectations I had for him coming in over the offseason.
Duchene has a ton of skill and has a big spotlight on him thanks to the big offseason acquisition that the Predators pulled off. He was brought in to boost the center depth on the team and be a one-two punch to Ryan Johansen.
Be Duchene is the type of player that can change all of that in the bright lights of the playoffs. Not just in the playoffs, but down the stretch of the regular season in games where the Predators have to win to get in.
Let’s say these last 13 games were to be played and Duchene goes on a hot streak to propel the Predators into the playoffs. I think if that happened we would quickly forget about the first 69 games and be much more pleased with his addition.
It’s not entirely far-fetched, but we may never know.
If the season is never completed, then my thoughts on the Duchene addition will be very much uncertain. You can’t judge him off one season that featured a coaching change and other players around him also underperforming, but he also didn’t play up to his talent level.
However, if there’s a playoff format played out and the Predators get in the field, then Duchene has the opportunity to deliver the results and change the outlook. That’s a big “if”.
Who really were the Predators this season?
This is the big one, and the most obvious one quite frankly. When the season paused on the day that the Predators were due to play the Toronto Maple Leafs on the wave of a three-game winning streak.
They were also beginning to catch the Dallas Stars in the division race as they had just swept a quick two-game set by impressively shutting them out in both games. Things were looking promising.
Not to look at this from a totally negative lens, but the real beef of the schedule was about to hit them. The put up or shut up part of the schedule.
The Predators had critical matchups against other wildcard hopeful teams in the Western Conference like Minnesota, Chicago, Winnipeg and Arizona coming up. Also tough games against Colorado, Philadelphia and Columbus.
Two games each against Minnesota, Colorado and Philadelphia. So by no means were the Predators anywhere close to righting the wrongs and getting into the playoffs.
If the NHL decides to start directly in the playoffs and the Predators get hot at the right time to go deep into the playoffs then that will still be an incredible thing to see. But it will have an asterisk next to it, and rightfully so.
Teams who had already cemented how good they were and basically just jockeying for playoff seeding will still be able to argue that they were getting in no matter what. But a fringe team like the Predators, not so much.
I’m holding out hope that the regular season gets completed so that the Predators can earn their way in. If not, then no matter what happens in a playoff format, I’ll have my reservations about just how real this season was for the Predators.
Unfortunately, this team was just too erratic to really know what we were going to get over the last 13 games, and even more so if they got into the playoffs.
But these are unprecedented times in every aspect of life, so I’d rather see an incomplete season that sees the Predators go deep in the playoffs over seeing no resuming of 2019-20 at all.