It’s no secret that the Nashville Predators have declined since their 2017 Stanley Cup Final appearance. The front office wants to make changes and get the team back to being the league’s hardest-working team.
It can’t be said enough how important this offseason draft and free agency period is for the Nashville Predators. They are at a critical juncture and on the brink of a full-blown rebuild.
Poile stated in his end-of-season interview that he wanted the team to get back to playing the “Predator Way.” In essence, he wants other teams to be worried when they face the Predators either in Nashville or on their own ice.
“We need to get back to our identity. We need to start playing, as we used to call it, the ‘Predator Way,’ the ‘Predator Culture.’ We have to become the hardest-working team in the League. We have to play with more passion, more determination, urgency.”
The words used by Poile, such as determination, passion, urgency, etc., all translate to one idea; physicality and presence on the ice.
Even though the Predators may add prospects and possible free agents to the roster next season, one thing is certain. The big bodies that the Predators currently have on the roster need to step up big and get back to being the hardest working team in hockey.
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Watching the Stanley Cup Final was an eye-opening experience. It’s no fluke that both teams made it to the finals by playing physical brands of hockey.
It pained me to think that had the Predators met either the Dallas Stars or the Tampa Bay Lightning, that it would’ve ended badly for Nashville.
Since the 2017 Stanley Cup run, the Predators have lost their grit and swagger that they once had. What was once a team that others didn’t look forward to playing is now one that can be taken advantage of.
There were flashes of brilliance last season. Sweeping the St. Louis Blues and shutting out the Dallas Stars two games in a row come to mind.
However, this team lacks consistency, and that lack of consistency and determination cost them dearly this season.
With several players leaving the team due to free agency and the use of prospects to replenish the ranks, Poile needs to take a look at adding some players that will bring some physicality back to a team that desperately needs it.
I have identified a few moves that are maybe far-fetched, but that Poile could consider once the free agency period starts. The criteria is for size, physicality, and/or presence at a budget price.
These players may not be popular with Predators fans, but we all must remember that they wouldn’t be hired to win a popularity contest.
At 6’6″ and 245 pounds, Brian Boyle fits the mold of being a physical presence on the ice. If Poile were to go this route, it would be Boyle’s second stint with the Predators.
Boyle was acquired from the New Jersey Devils by the Predators before the trade deadline in 2019. A free agent after that season, Boyle signed a one-year-deal with the Florida Panthers for the 2019-20 season.
Boyle’s salary cap hit for last season was $940,000. At the ripe age of 35, Boyle’s career is winding down, so he may sign for that or a little less.
Last season, Boyle only played in 39 games and scored 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists). His Corsi average hovered around 48% during his time with the Predators. Boyle’s addition on the fourth line would add some size to a line that didn’t have much consistency last season.
It seems strange to be talking about a player possibly leaving a team that just won the Stanley Cup. Pat Maroon is now a free agent after signing a one-year deal with Tampa Bay last season.
He spent the previous season with the St. Louis Blues, where he also won a Stanley Cup. He is only the eighth player in NHL history to win back-to-back Stanley Cups with two different teams.
At 6’3″ and 225 pounds, he is rightfully nicknamed “Big Rig.” He scored 23 points (9 goals, 14 assists) last season. He also only carried a salary-cap hit of $900,000.
Maroon spent his time on Tampa’s fourth line. He would be an excellent addition to a Predators fourth line that struggled last season. His size and presence could add an aspect to the Predators’ game that is sorely missed.
Corey Perry is another player that just participated in the Stanley Cup Final. He scored five goals during Dallas’ deep playoff run, including the overtime winner in Game 5 to keep the Stars alive.
Perry tallied 21 points (5 goals, 16 assists) during the regular season. He also served 70 minutes of penalty time in the regular season, so that’s always a give and take with him.
Perry was on Dallas’ first line in Game 6 of the finals. We know that he would never be placed on a Predators’ first line, but a third or fourth line spot wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.
One aspect that would complicate a signing like this is Perry’s salary cap hit of $2.625M. With limited cap space, the Predators would not be willing to offer that much for the 35-year-old winger.
This is a pretty far-fetched proposition and one that would not sit well with the majority of the fans. It may not even sit well with the players as it would more than likely affect locker room chemistry. There is no love lost between the Predators bench and Perry.
Perry is an agitator on the ice, and he plays that role well. He is one of those players that’s hated unless he is on your team, but in the case of the Predators, I’m not so sure that he would be welcome with open arms.
Two things are clear after this up and down season. Changes are coming, and what was done with the roster for the past three seasons didn’t work.
Whoever is on the Predators’ roster next season needs to step up and be more aggressive on the ice. Getting some big bodies which have a presence or are known to cause other teams problems would be a huge help to a team who, frankly, has been pushed around and has no fire.
To make matters worse, the Predators are likely going to lose Craig Smith, who is the definition of playing the “Predators Way” of being the hardest worker on the ice.
Who plays this style that’s likely coming back to the team next season? Yakov Trenin, Rocco Grimaldi, Mattias Ekholm and, of course, Roman Josi come to mind first. But that’s not enough to be a legitimate playoff contender in a stacked Western Conference.
Poile’s wish to return to the “Predator Way” will require a new mindset for some players. Complacency has hurt this team to the point where Poile had no choice but to make the forthcoming changes.