Nashville Predators: Return of JoFA Line Makes Total Sense for Playoffs

Playoff training camp is in full swing for the Nashville Predators, and old chemistry is being reignited by bringing back the JoFA line.

During the regular season, there was something special about seeing that announcement on the day of the game about the projected lines for the Nashville Predators.

The Predators constantly changed their line combinations up during what was a turbulent regular season that nearly got away from them and left them out of the playoffs.

That all changed when the Predators entered training camp a week ago to prepare for the return to play. Fans once again received news of those glorious lines. It was something to be excited about, even if it was just for the practices.

The Rocco GrimaldiNick BoninoCraig Smith line has been a solid performer all season. There was also the dynamic defensive duo of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis.

The most exciting development is the reuniting of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, which has always been known as the “JoFA line”.

Head Coach John Hynes has resurrected the JoFA line, probably the most talked-about line in Predators’ history. He’s wanting to find that quick chemistry in a critical training camp period to get ready for a deep playoff run.

This line, consisting of Johansen, Forsberg and Arvidsson hasn’t seen the light of day for quite some time. Nor have they been a consistent “go-to” line that Hynes could feel comfortable using.

Johansen and Forsberg have had off years by their standards. These are two of the Predators’ top players, but their production just hasn’t been there.

Arvidsson was injured in November and never really seemed to get his speed back even after being cleared to play. He confirmed what everyone has speculated since his return.

New Coach, New Lines

When Hynes took over on January 7,  interesting line combinations started rolling out on game days. Nothing was off the table. He was experimenting with his new team, while also trying to save the season from going down the drain.

Hynes implemented a system of performance-based line combinations. The better a player performed, the higher up on the roster they could climb. Every player was competing for more ice time, regardless of stature.

At one point, Grimaldi, who usually resides on the third line, moved up to the top line. Forsberg and Mikael Granlund spent quite a few games together on the top line as well.

This seemed to ignite the team and help them recharge the batteries and stop the leaking. They strung together some impressive wins over quality teams and got the No.6 seed in the Western Conference.

Coming to the team at midseason, Hynes had little time to find consistent lines and was trying everything he could to light a spark under his team. His methods seemed to work as the team started clawing their way back up in the standings.

The Pause Changed Everything

The season pause has allowed Hynes some time to get to know his players and evaluate his roster more so than he could have during the rigors of a regular season schedule. This is a key part to how he seems to be approaching this postseason training camp, which is something we’ve never seen in sports. A restart to get ready for the playoffs.

The time off also gave Johansen and Forsberg some time to push reset and make mental adjustments that were needed before play resumed. Arvidsson used the time to heal from his unfortunate injury that affected his speed.

During these player conversations with Hynes, apparently, Johansen, Forsberg, and Arvidsson talked a lot about chemistry, both past, and present, with their line. They have had past success and are probably itching to regain their former glory.

Go with what has worked in the past

In an article by Nashville Predators writer Brooks Bratten, Hynes stressed the need for chemistry and consistency in this shortened training camp. He needs these players to gel quickly and to get back into the groove of playing hockey.

[Johansen, Arvidsson and Forsberg] have played well together, and people are coming off fresh from their breaks and we’d like some chemistry.

This really shouldn’t be a complicated approach, and it’s refreshing to see Hynes not make things more complicated than they already have to be.

With the need to implement his system and philosophies quickly, Hynes can’t waste time trying new line combinations during camp. Thus, it appears that the JoFA line could make a return for the playoffs.

If this time off has truly helped these three accomplished veterans, then the Predators could be in store for something great offensively. There’s other areas the Predators have to address, but getting more consistency from the top two lines is paramount, and a return of the JoFA line should ignite a lot of chemistry in quick fashion.

This is a smart and calculated move by Hynes to go with what has worked in the past. No need to reinvent the wheel with such little time to get prepared. It’s the playoffs, and a brief five-game series to get you started.

The first good look at the JoFA line’s return might come on July 30 as the Predators take on the Dallas Stars in an exhibition game. The first game of the qualifying round against the Arizona Coyotes takes place on August 2.