Why a Shortened 2021 Season Would Hurt the New-Look Predators

Filip Forsberg #9, Roman Josi #59, Ryan Johansen #92 and Ryan Ellis #4 of the Nashville Predators Mandatory Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports
Filip Forsberg #9, Roman Josi #59, Ryan Johansen #92 and Ryan Ellis #4 of the Nashville Predators Mandatory Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports /

There’s no official word on when the next NHL season will start. For the new-look Nashville Predators, they’ll need time to build team chemistry.

All indications are that next season won’t start until at least when the calendar flips over to 2021. In fact, a January 1st start date seems most likely, meaning that playing a full 82-game slate looks bleak.

For a young team like the Nashville Predators, who will be moving youth and inexperience into the lineup, there’s not going to be lot of time to build that chemistry. The season could be all but over in the first couple of weeks if this team doesn’t find its tract quick.

A shortened regular season will benefit some teams more than others. Well-established teams that know what they have should benefit more than a team like the Predators who are coming into next season with a lot of new faces and not much stability.

Furthermore, a shorter regular season means that teams can’t stumble out of the gate and recover as easily. I’m worried that the Predators are going to be the type of team that needs time to get acclimated with each other and will get better as the season progresses.

Preds will need time to build chemistry

Many times we see teams hit their surge over the last 20-game stretch of the season, sneak into the playoffs and then make their march towards the Stanley Cup. That 2017 run to the Stanley Cup Final for the Predators is a great example.

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As recent as October 12th, the NHL is in considering playing as few as 48 games for the regular season, and as many as the normal 82 games, per NBC Sports Washington.

I just don’t see how you can finish the season on time by playing the full 82 games. If the NHL is ever going to get back to their normal timeline, they’re going to have to concede some regular season games.

As much as I think a shortened regular season will hurt the chances of this young Predators team that just had a lot of roster turnover, some might argue that it does the opposite.

A shortened regular season means that you can get hot at the right time and sneak in. It allows for more flukes than full 82 games might. We saw this work out similarly in the 60-game MLB season when some abnormal teams made the postseason.

Either way, I have my reservations that the Predators are going to have everything clicking right away. An 82-game slate at least gives them more time to figure it out and hopefully play their best hockey down the stretch, much like last season.

Maybe it doesn’t matter much as the Predators clearly aren’t a Stanley Cup-caliber team in its current state. However, anything can happen if you sneak into the postseason, and I still feel like this team can put everything together and earn another trip to the playoffs in 2021.

There also figures to be more back-to-backs on the schedule than normal. That could lead to more injuries, and the Predators don’t have the depth to handle any long-term injuries to their thin roster.

Then there’s this possibility of divisional realignment due to the complexities of crossing the U.S.-Canadien border during a global pandemic. Per a report from Mile High Hockey, Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley floated the idea of a Canada division so that teams don’t have to cross the border.

This possibility really makes things interesting for the Predators as they play in the same division as the Winnipeg Jets. Some Eastern Conference teams could end up making up a larger portion of Predators’ schedule than normal.

I’ll take more games against the Detroit Red Wings and less games against the Colorado Avalanche, please. In all seriousness, there’s probably not going to be anything normal about next year for many reasons for the Predators.

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We’ll keep you updated as more comes out in the coming weeks on next season’s start date in this fluid situation. Commissioner Gary Bettman is smartly taking the cautious approach to this, as he should.

As of now, fingers crossed the NHL can figure out a way to play as many games as possible next season in a safe fashion. 82 games is far-fetched, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 isn’t crazy to hope for.