Nashville Predators: Craig Smith Needs More Ice Time in Upcoming Play

Craig Smith #15 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Craig Smith #15 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /

Now that we’re starting to get more clarity with a possible NHL playoff format, the Nashville Predators have to start game-planning for a deep run.

A huge announcement is coming later today from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman regarding the plan to return to action for the 2019-20 NHL season and the current season for the Nashville Predators.

The announcement will be aired on NBCSN and NHL Network locally, as well as streamed online.

The 24-team playoff format is expected to be formally announced, as well as plans for playoff seeding and possible matchups in the play-in series.

There will probably be some details that will remain unclear, but this is at least another step in the right direction to getting hockey back, and our Nashville Predators.

Moving forward for the Predators

It’s fully expected that the Nashville Predators will be in the play-in round for the right to play in the normal 16-team playoff field. I’m also expecting to see the Arizona Coyotes as their first opponent.

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With that part out of the way, now it’s time to figure out how the Predators can maximize their potential to win and not only the play-in round, but go even further.

Craig Smith jumps to mind immediately as a player who needs more playing time. Seeing how head coach John Hynes sorts out his initial lines is going to be intriguing to see.

The last time the Predators had to set their lines for an actual game, they had Colton Sissons on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Calle Jarnkrok. According to, that was the 31st-best first line in the NHL.

Safe to say we don’t want that going into a play-in series against Arizona, or any team for that matter.

Smith was on the third line with Nick Bonino and Rocco Grimaldi. A line combination that worked excellent over the course of the season, but one that can’t have the impact that’s needed with the ice time that comes with it.

Give that man more ice time

If there’s one player that needs more playing time, Smith is the top dog. I have Grimaldi as another player that deserves more playing time, but not as much as Smith.

Smith’s average ice time this season has been a meager 13:25, which is the lowest of his NHL career. The next lowest was 13:49 in 2016-17, which was a great Predators team that didn’t have to lean on Smith as much.

The Predators are going to need proven veteran who have been in the spotlight numerous times in the past, and Smith has done that in a Predators uniform. I don’t have to worry about him bringing everything he has or shrinking in the big moments.

Where Hynes fits Smith in the lineup to get him more ice time is where it gets tricky. I really like the second line combination of Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund. That shouldn’t be broken up.

Some will probably disagree, but I want to see Smith on the top line coming into the play-in series. The Predators need that raw energy and fiery play on their top line. He’ll set an early tone and crash the net for goals more than any other player on the team.

Smith’s impact diminishes greatly when he’s only getting a 13:25 average of ice time. The only regular players on the roster who get less average ice time are Grimaldi and Austin Watson.

I’d plug Jarnkrok on the third line and shift Smith up with Johansen and Sissons. As underwhelming of a season as Johansen and Sissons have had, I think they can turn it up a notch in the playoffs.

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It’ll be interesting to see the initial practice lines that are rolled out once we hopefully get to that point that was detailed in the NHL’s “Phase Two” return to play.