Nashville Predators: Nick Bonino’s Resurgence a Big X-Factor

Nick Bonino #13 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Nick Bonino #13 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

With such a long stoppage in play, it’s going to be hard to predict which players for the Nashville Predators come back playing as well as they were before.

This is basically like starting a new season for the Nashville Predators and the other 23 teams, but instead of preseason games and a couple early regular season games to get everything flowing, teams are being thrust right into playoff action.

You can’t help but wonder if players who were playing at the top of their respective games before the pause can pick up where they left off. Nick Bonino immediately jumps to mind in regards to the Nashville Predators.

With that comes the question of how players will respond as they’ve each had unique experiences in dealing with the stoppage and not being able to properly condition throughout the past three months. A lot of it depends on what local communities and parts of the world these players were in while riding out this pause.

Bonino was a key piece that kept the Predators engine from completely shutting down in the middle of the season around January. The head coaching change occurred, but methodically Bonino kept playing well.

Picking up where he left off

Bonino might not be a secret to the Arizona Coyotes coaching staff, but he’s also not perceived as a top star on the Predators. We’ll leave that title to Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen.

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Even Craig Smith puts up more flashy offensive play than Bonino tends to do. The thing with Bonino is he does everything on the ice pretty well. He’s not a liability anywhere really, or at least he wasn’t for much of the 2019-20 regular season.

Bonino was a huge surprise for the Predators this past season. I wasn’t sure how much he really had left to give to the Predators initially going into the preseason back in September of last year.

As training camps officially open today, I’m very intrigued to see how players like Bonino will look in terms of conditioning. He’s not a young buck anymore, and asking an aging player to go through this long of a layoff and then right into intense playoff action is a tall order.

Bonino is a key part of the depth for the Predators. They need him badly to pick up where he left off, and boost the play of what I would expect to be the third line once again. Who he gets grouped with remains to be seen as Head Coach John Hynes has some tough roster decisions to make.

It’s worth noting that Bonino did cool off somewhat at the tail end of the regular season with just one point over the last eight games. Even with that slump, which every player usually goes through, it was a resurgence of a season for him.

Full confidence in Bones

Day 1 of training camp brought back the practice rushes, and Bonino was matched with his usual linemates, per Brooks Bratten:

It will be foolish to mess with this line combination of Bonino, Rocco Grimaldi and Craig Smith. They were arguably the most consistent line combination on the Predators all season.

With that said, Bonino has to continue his resurgence of a season by carrying into the playoffs. He’s such a major piece to the puzzle for the Predators to have that depth that’s needed to go deep in the playoffs.

Hynes shouldn’t touch this trio one bit. Keep them together and be more focused on the top-six and implementing better play on with the man advantage and on the penalty kill.

As for Bonino, he’s a player I have full faith in to play well in this situation. He’s not a flashy player, but he does things that maybe the casual fan doesn’t notice. Quality forechecking, passing accuracy, crashing the net and just avoiding the critical mistakes.

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Bonino had a surprisingly great regular season, and we have to hope that carried over into an August restart. The Predators need his veteran leadership and smart all-around play to show up against Arizona and further on.