Nashville Predators: Fans Should be Prepared for a Mini-Rebuild Season

Miles Wood #44 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates a second period power-play goal by Pavel Zacha #37 against Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Miles Wood #44 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates a second period power-play goal by Pavel Zacha #37 against Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

With the Nashville Predators’ season-ending loss comes the promise of roster changes and new beginnings. Are fans prepared for next season?

We’re a few weeks removed from the season-ending Stanley Cup Qualifier loss for the Nashville Predators. Honestly, it still stings a little.

How can a team with so much talent and promise succumb to teams that they should be dominating? It’s a reason why the call for change is so heavy right now and will only grow as the offseason officially gets closer for the NHL as a whole.

Every aspect of this team has been scrutinized. During the pause, we talked about which players needed to step up, which players were ready to break out, and who the starting goaltender should be.

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The line combinations were heavily critiqued, as well as coaching strategies and opponent’s weaknesses; you name it.

These things are discussed until a person is blue in the face, but ultimately the team’s performance on the ice matters, and it’s what they’re judged by.

With most of the 2017 finals team still in place, it seemed like this may have been the year that the Stanley Cup would finally come home to Nashville, or at the very least they’d put up a better effort.

But ever since the 2017 Stanley Cup Final appearance, the team has been in a downfall.

In 2018, the Predators made it to the Conference semi-finals. The next season saw a first-round exit.

The Predators technically made it to the playoffs this season, but under the Return To Play Plan, they didn’t reach the actual first round after losing to the Arizona Coyotes.

The 2020 Predators didn’t live up to expectations. No one can argue against that. By all counts, this season was a rough one. Struggling players, injuries, and a coaching change was ultimately too much for them to overcome.

Fans have been clamoring for changes to the team for a while now. The fans are starting to get restless as they’ve become accustomed to a team that, at bare minimum, makes the playoffs and makes things interesting.

It now appears that GM David Poile sees the writing on the wall and is realizing that the Stanley Cup window is closing on this current team. Changes are happening, and fans are getting what they asked for.

But remember, you asked for it.

Next Season and Beyond

Change is inevitable, and change is coming for the Predators. Several players who have struggled, or are free agents could be gone when the new season finally starts.

Names like Kyle Turris, Mikael Granlund, and Craig Smith have all been mentioned as likely to not be  on the team next season. These are the main players that have been discussed, but Poile may have some moves up his sleeve that could involve other players. Poile was quoted as saying, “all options are on the table.”

One aspect of Poile’s plan involves giving several prospects legitimate looks at roster spots. Eeli Tolvanen, Alexandre Carrier, Philip Tomasino, and others will be strongly looked at in the Predators’ preseason training camp, whenever that occurs.

A few new players may come via free agency, but I can’t see more than that. A flat salary cap could hamper the Predators’ ability to woo any huge names to Nashville. The future will probably lie with the team’s prospects.

Are Fans Prepared?

The question is not whether the Predators need to make changes. The question is whether or not the fans are prepared for what this mini-rebuild may do to the team.

Moving veteran players out and putting young prospects in their place will bring a fresh perspective and youthfulness to the lineup. It may also cause some growing pains and another playoff whiff.

The prospects named above all do well in their respective leagues. The trick will be to get their production up to NHL standards, which isn’t any easy task for most prospects.

For example, there have been suggestions of placing Tolvanen on the second line with Matt Duchene. This would be a huge move for Tolvanen, and indeed, there will be an adjustment period.

Carrier is another excellent example. If he makes the roster, will he be matched with Mattias Ekholm on the second defensive pairing, or will he be eased into the new role by placing him on the bttom pair with a veteran? Both will be significant adjustments, no matter what.

The good news is there were moments of promise during the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The JoFA line, comprised of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson, performed exceptionally well.

Goaltender Juuse Saros did a pretty good job as well in his first playoff starts. He wasn’t able to completely carry the team past other mistakes and misfortunes, but there’s promise there.

There was also a Game 4 performance by Duchene that showed he might be fed up with his play and ready to break out. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis put in great performances as usual.

The Predators have a good core team that’s dangerous when all cylinders are firing. They just don’t quite yet have all of the pieces together to push them over the edge and move them into elite status as a team.

2020 NHL Draft. Players to Target for the Predators at Pick 11. light

The main point is that fans need to prepare themselves for more bumps in the road next season. There are no guarantees that any of these changes, should they come to fruition, will make any difference in next season’s short-term outcome.

It takes a lot of work, and a lot of things have to fall into place to create a team that’s a consistent Stanley Cup contender. The Predators have been knocking on the doorstep for several years, but they’ve been pushing away the rebuild for too long.

This mini rebuild may move them a step closer towards the ultimate prize. It may also fail miserably. All we can do as fans is realize that there are no guarantees and feverishly back the Predators.