There’s a lot of talk about how the Nashville Predators will construct their new-look lineup in 2021. Is any of it really set in stone yet?
The coaching staff of the Nashville Predators is really going to have to earn their money next season as they try to sort out this new lineup and put the right pieces in the right places.
Head Coach John Hynes is heading into his first full season at the helm for the Predators.
There were glimpses of positive things last season after Hynes took over, but nothing really happened that makes you feel overly confident about the future.
With so much uncertainty surrounding this team, one thing has been pretty certain from most fans and analysts alike. The top line for the Predators will be Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson.
An undeniable chemistry
There’s no discounting the chemistry that Forsberg, Johansen and Arvidsson have built over the last several seasons. With such a new roster, chemistry is going to be at a premium early on.
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However, is this trio for sure the best option? It appears that way now, but training camp and intersquad scrimmages should reveal a lot more when it comes to what works the best.
The wildcard here is Matt Duchene. The coaching staff has to identify the best two players that are going to maximize Duchene’s value to this team, and vice versa to the players he plays with.
It’s hard for me to ignore the possibilities of Forsberg and Duchene tearing it up on the same line. It worked briefly last season in the first few games.
Injuries and just a lack of defensive presence rattled things up eventually, and we never really saw that combination again.
There’s an enormous amount of pressure on the top line, or JoFA line, to return to elite status. They have more pressure to produce at extremely efficient offensive levels even more so than other typical top lines around the league.
Other top line candidates
There really aren’t many that you can honestly identify right now. That’s the reason why the JoFA line appears to be the only option at the top. However, if they struggled out of the gate, it might force Hynes’ hand to make some drastic changes.
Pairing Forsberg and Duchene would be your first option if it comes to this unfortunate reality. I think you have to keep Duchene on the second line, so who then would replace Forsberg at the top?
I’m increasingly intrigued to see what newcomer Luke Kunin brings to the table. He’s entering the prime of his career by all accounts, and he might flourish in his new Nashville home more so than the last Minnesota Wild acquisition. He will go nameless.
If Kunin is producing at a higher level than expected early on, then he should absolutely be a candidate for the top line. The first replacement if the JoFA line isn’t getting it done together.
Kunin is already a likely choice for the second line on opening night with Duchene and someone else that’s up for debate.
Also don’t completely throw out Rocco Grimaldi to keep growing his game. Obviously he’s not a prototypical top line player, and hopefully it won’t come to that. But this is going to be a season of growing pains for the Nashville Predators, and Hynes might have to be more creative than he’d like to be to keep things afloat.
To answer the initial question about the top line already being set in stone, it kind of is due to the unknown. It would be extremely bold and not very smart to break up Forsberg, Johansen and Arvidsson right at the start.
The JoFA line is hopefully your bell cow that takes over some games and gets wins while the rest of the lineup may still be figuring out how to play effectively together.
With that said, Hynes better be exploring Plan B’s and Plan C’s for the top line, because I’m not overly confident that everything is going to click flawlessly at first.