Nashville Predators: How 2021 Can Be So Much Better than 2020

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - FEBRUARY 16: Kyle Turris #8 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - FEBRUARY 16: Kyle Turris #8 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

With the uncertainty of how this season will finish, we can look forward to a fresh start for the Nashville Predators in the 2020-2021 season.

We have discussed regularly about the rocky season that the Nashville Predators have had this year. Simply put, the team hasn’t played up to expectations or their potential for roughly three quarters of the season.

When head coach John Hynes replaced Peter Laviolette in January, flashes of the team’s true capabilities started to arise. He shook up the lines and appeared to crown Juuse Saros as the starting goaltender moving forward.

I have always said that GM David Poile should do whatever it takes to keep this team together, with some exceptions, and give Hynes a chance to win the Stanley Cup with this group.

Let’s take a look at some things that will have to be improved upon if the Predators are going to make that happen.

Production From Key (And Well Paid) Players

Ryan Johansen

Until this season, Ryan Johansen has put up some killer numbers.  After re-signing a blockbuster contract with the Predators in 2018, Johansen’s numbers continued to trend upwards.

Fast-forward to this season. Johansen’s numbers are close to his worst ever. An article by The Athletic’s Joe Rexrode shows that no one understands the frustrations more than Johansen himself.

"“With my role on this team and the standard I hold myself to, I need to outperform No. 1 centers on a night-by-night basis. I need to show my teammates every night, ‘Hey, I’ve got this guy.’ I’ve got to be one of our horses every night. And when that’s not happening, it’s frustrating. I’ll be honest, it has chewed me up this year. ”"

Johansen is a highly-skilled player and a leader on this team. He’s one of the core players that must step up if this team is going to be a serious threat.

If that happens, the ship will begin going in the right direction when and if the playoffs start, but also going into next season and 2021.

Matt Duchene

The Predators gave up some defensive production to acquire Matt Duchene before the start of this season. Like Johansen, the expectations for his performance haven’t been met.

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Also, like Johansen, Duchene signed a huge contract when he arrived. Although this season has been shortened, Duchene’s numbers are some of the lowest to date and not the numbers you like to see from a star center.

Duchene is an incredibly smart player who needs to adapt his game to his Predators teammates.

With this season under his belt, Duchene should be more than capable of stepping up to a leadership position to help the Predators move forward.

Viktor Arvidsson

For the previous three seasons, Viktor Arvidsson has put up some big numbers. Last season he scored a career-high 34 goals. In this shortened season, his numbers have dipped.

Some of this should definitely be attributed to the controversial injury he took from the Blues’ Robert Bortuzzo, but not entirely.

Arvidsson doesn’t blame his slump on the injury he sustained in November, but that didn’t help matters. He confirmed as much when he spoke to Adam Vingan of The Athletic in February.

"I’m trying to find my game and (get) back to where I was. I had a tough start, and then I got injured. I’m not going to blame it on that. I’ve got to somehow find a way to get back to (my game).”"

Arvidsson  most likely wasn’t 100 percent when he returned in January, or anywhere close for that matter.

Hopefully, this time off will help him fully heal and allow him to get himself back into his typical mindset. The Predators are going to need him to be at the top of his game next season to help make 2021 much smoother than 2020 has been.

Production From  Core Positions


Goaltending has been a sore subject for the Predators in recent times. Pekka Rinne has struggled since coming out of the gate hot initially. Partly because the team in front of him struggled, and partly because he wasn’t playing like the elite player that we are accustomed to seeing.

Juuse Saros had the same kind of season up until the hiring of Hynes. A switch seemed to flip after that and he’s surged all the way up to the pause.

Under Hynes, Saros has four shutouts, which is a career-high. Two of those shutouts happened in back-to-back games against the Dallas Stars and helped secure a possible playoff spot. His GAA has also improved greatly and gotten down to 2.70.

Before the season pause, Saros was on fire. If the season resumes or goes straight to the playoffs, we can only hope that his success continues.

The gameplay of Saros is crucial if the Predators are going to be a serious contender in 2021 and avoid falling back into a rebuild scenario.

Fix the Defensive eyesore

The adage says, “defense wins championships.” Unfortunately, the Predators need some help in this area.

The defensive pairing of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis is just about the best defensive line in the NHL. Both are high-quality players that are some of the best in their positions.

The Mattias Ekholm/Dante Fabbro pairing has improved, but there have been times when they haven’t meshed as well as we would like to see.

Some more playing time and development for Fabbro will do this pairing some good going into next season and beyond into 2021.

After the top-four, things get a little shaky. Dan Hamhuis, Yannick Weber, and Korbinian Holzer are all free agents at the end of this season. I don’t see Hamhuis and Weber coming back.

Holzer is a question mark, but may return. Either way, there’s just too much uncertainly with the third pairing, and the Predators have to shake some things up.

The Predators’ front office needs to shore up the defense with free agent signings, call-ups from Milwaukee, or a combination of the two. The Predators need tough, tenacious defenders who also can score goals when needed.

The Team as a Whole

Nashville is considered a small market in the NHL. The team that Poile has assembled plays well above the “small market” moniker. A lot of that is due to the outstanding fan support and atmosphere.

The Predators have excellent players at every position. What we should want to see now is this them pull together into the Stanley Cup championship team that came two wins of accomplishing that feat not too long ago, and with a lot of these same players.

I also want to see them not let other teams push them around. At different times this season, I’ve seen “bigger” teams bully and abuse the Predators without retribution. That can’t keep happening.

Management may have to make some tough decisions in the offseason, leaving the look of this team in 2021 very uncertain and unclear. I’m not sure how it may look overall.

If they can manage to keep the core players and add in some free agents or minor league prospects as needed, they’ll have the potential to make a deep run once again.

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There’s also the possibility that if they address these things we’ll see an actual banner being raised in Bridgestone Arena that no fan can make fun of us for. A Stanley Cup banner.