Another major move could happen for the Nashville Predators, but the overwhelming likelihood is that the roster is set that will go into 2021.
In expected fashion the Nashville Predators were very active once free agency opened up. They let some key players go while adding some players to address weaknesses.
Now that the dust has settled and we can comb through the current roster, there’s a wide range of feelings on if the Predators got better, worse or stayed the same.
Here are the results of our social media poll we did after the main portion of free agency was conducted:
The fanbase is pretty evenly split on how much the Predators improved or got worse after making their free agency moves. But in slim fashion 34 percent of our 466 voters said that the Predators slightly improved.
The most telling result from this poll, and one that surprised me, was that only 3 percent of voters polled said that the Predators “greatly improved”.
Unless you’re extremely biased and optimistic, the Predators definitely didn’t “greatly improve”, but I thought more would be prisoners of the moment.
The rest of the Central Division teams had active free agency periods as well. With all of the major moves already done, let’s see where the Predators stack up now in the dead period of the offseason.
Most improved teams of the Central Division
Analytics are becoming a big deal in the sports world, and most notably in hockey. Dom Luszczyszyn of the Athletic does outstanding work and is a great social media follow. He recently posted a graph tracking how much teams increased or decreased their win totals since free agency started:
The graph basically slots the Predators in the area of not changingmuch. Technically they decreased their win total, but not by much. Their team salary eent down and left some comfortable cap space to make a move in the future.
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Looking at other teams in the Central Division, no team really jumps out as improving drastically except for the Colorado Avalanche. A team that’s already stacked and you can argue got even better.
Colorado is the undisputed Stanley Cup favorites for next season. They’ve been gradually building a juggernaut, and they’ll be back again next season to own the division.
The Winnipeg Jets also slightly improved on the graph, while most teams stayed around the same.
On the other end, the Chicago Blackhawks decreased by four wins according to this graph while not adding any salary. NBC Sports Chicago has the Blackhawks as losers in free agency, citing the losses of Brandon Saad and Olli Maatta.
The Blackhawks, Jets and Predators look like three teams that will probably battle it out for wildcard spots and trying to avoid last place in the division.
The other teams will grind it out for the division crown, with Colorado being the favorites.
Can the Predators keep up?
With so much roster turnover and so much inexperience coming into the picture, there’s going to be growing pains next season. This happens to every team, and the Predators have to flip the page from the last few seasons and build a new foundation.
I like what Predators GM David Poile is doing by adding free agents who play a certain defensive style that will make this team tougher physically to play against. But is it going to be enough to relieve pressure off the top players to be almost perfect every game?
You have to have quality depth in this league to be a playoff team, and the Predators have a lot of uncertainty in this area.
These younger players and new free agents could end up coming in and not missing a beat right out of the gate. If that happens, then the Predators have a chance to get another playoff berth. Especially in a shortened season, which looks likely.
Here’s a refresher of who the Predators have added in free agency:
- Luke Kunin, C ( via the Bonino trade with Minnesota Wild)
Mark Borowiecki, D ( from the Ottawa Senators)
Matt Benning, D (from the Edmonton Oilers)
Nick Cousins, C/F (from the Vegas Golden Knights)
Brad Richardson, RW (from the Arizona Coyotes)
The division around them is deep. When an up-and-coming Blackhawks team is your perceived worst team, then you have a strong division from top to bottom.
The Avalanche are the team to beat, with the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars not far behind. You can’t realistically slot the Predators in that group with so much uncertainty and inexperience.
However, if everything comes together with all of the newcomers that are going to be in the starting lineup, then it’s conceivable that the Predators can hang around with Winnipeg, Minnesota and Chicago.
Some people are throwing away next season as a full-on rebuild, but I’d pump the brakes on being that weary about next season. They’ll be an exciting team with a fresh look to them, but whether that translates to a respectable postseason berth or missing the playoffs altogether is anyone’s guess.
Here’s how I rank the Central Division after the bulk of the offseason free agency moves have been conducted:
- Colorado Avalanche
- Dallas Stars
- St. Louis Blues
- Minnesota Wild
- Nashville Predators
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Winnipeg Jets
I’m pretty locked-in on my top-three. The Wild, who are having a decent offseason and on the rise, are comfortably at No.4. But spots 5-7 are quite honestly interchangeable.
The reason why you have to give the Predators a puncher’s chance to make things interesting next season is they still have some All-Star caliber players in their lineup.
A lot of the spotlight will instantly be on Matt Duchene, and rightfully so. He has a lot to live up to and can transform this team into a real contender again if he shows up in a big way next season.
The free agency additions didn’t move the needle much, but they’re also not horrible moves. I like the Nick Cousins addition the most because he’s a well-rounded player and one that will be aggressive while forcing good things to happen in front of the net.
This outlook is a long and treacherous fall from just three years ago when the Predators were riding high after a Stanley Cup appearance and looking for more. Now it’s time to rebuild the foundation.