With the offseason roster changes still fresh on everyone’s mind, there’s no way of knowing how the Nashville Predators will perform next season.
Now there’s ongoing speculation of temporary division changes next season, which could present a whole new set of problems for the new-look Nashville Predators.
The clock is ticking for the NHL to get the upcoming 2020-21 season underway. Since this will undoubtedly be a shorter season, the Nashville Predators will have an even shorter window to gel as a team.
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The tentative start date for the season is January 1, but that leaves a lot of issues for the NHL to hammer out in a short amount of time.
To give teams enough time to conduct a proper training camp, the NHL will have to iron out all of the details within the next two weeks.
Teams will need to start training around the middle of December. Training camp should last for two weeks, three weeks if you are one of the seven teams that didn’t make it to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
With the recent uptick of COVID-19 cases in the United States, one of the main issues facing the NHL is restrictive travel, especially in and out of Canada.
Several states in the U.S. also have quarantine orders in place if you travel from state to state. This can make things tricky for the NHL and could cause a barrier to launch the season.
To combat this issue, the NHL may temporarily realign the divisions so that travel is limited. This realignment will allow teams to compete on a divisional level and restrict travel time.
This begs the question, how will the teams be split divisionally, and what does that mean for the Predators?
The first question is pretty straightforward. The geographic location of each team helps to see where the new divisions would lie. The second question is not so easy.
Here are my guesses at the realigned division splits.
This division is the easiest to predict and one of the reasons this whole realignment may be necessary. Traveling back and forth across the border is still somewhat prohibited, making it near impossible for teams to compete. All of the Canadian teams would be in this division.
- Calgary Flames
- Edmonton Oilers
- Montreal Canadiens
- Ottawa Senators
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Winnipeg Jets
- Vancouver Canucks
Metropolitan / Atlantic Division
This re-vamped division would feature Metropolitan and Atlantic teams.
- Boston Bruins
- Buffalo Sabres
- Detroit Red Wings
- New Jersey Devils
- New York Islanders
- New York Rangers
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Pittsburgh Penguins
Pacific / Midwest Division
This division is pretty straightforward, mixing Central and Pacific teams. Five of the eight teams are really close together. The other three are a pretty good distance apart. This division would feature three heavy hitters that we could see making a huge run in the playoffs.
- Anaheim Ducks
- Arizona Coyotes
- Colorado Avalanche
- Dallas Stars
- Los Angeles Kings
- Minnesota Wild
- San Jose Sharks
- Vegas Golden Knights
Central / Southern Division
This is the one we are most interested in, as it will feature our beloved Predators. This division would feature teams from the Central, Atlantic, and Metropolitan divisions.
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Florida Panthers
- Nashville Predators
- St. Louis Blues
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Washington Capitals
What Does Realignment Mean for the Predators?
For this Predators team, a mixture of core veterans, new acquisitions, and young talent, it could be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Realigning would move the rival Stars and the juggernaut that is the Avalanche out of the Predators’ division, which could be a good thing given the unknowns that the Predators face next season.
However, a whole new set of problems moves in with this realignment. The Predators would now be division mates with Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay and two hungry teams in Columbus and Washington.
The Predators could find themselves struggling for a wildcard spot come tournament time. I see them hovering around the fifth or sixth spot in this division.
Without considering realignment, Predlines Site Expert Chad Minton has the Predators sitting in the middle of the Western Conference heading into 2021.
Realignment might push them further down the list, especially if more divisional games are in the future.
Realigning the teams in this fashion makes sense, especially if that is a hurdle standing in the way of having a season, albeit a short one.
For the Predators, realignment would provide them little relief and further accentuate the fact that they will have to gel quickly if they are to have any shot at whatever post-season next year throws at us.
Whether the divisions are realigned or not, on paper, the Predators are a middle of the road team with lots to prove next season.
The steps the Predators have taken with the roster changes are moving the needle in the right direction, but ever so slowly.
If the Predators find themselves in trouble early, they could be in for a long and heart-wrenching season, which could ultimately lead to a full-blown rebuild.