Nashville Predators: Let’s Squash the Talks of Tanking Right Now

Nashville Predators players celebrate after a goal by defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) as Florida Panthers center Eetu Luostarinen (27) skates off during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators players celebrate after a goal by defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) as Florida Panthers center Eetu Luostarinen (27) skates off during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

All I’ve been hearing for the past few weeks regarding the Nashville Predators is they should tank and get ready for a massive rebuild.

While I agree that the Predators heading into a rebuild looks inevitable at this point, the talks of tanking just make me cringe. Just the thought of the Predators being akin to a tanking organization like the New York Jets last season is something I just can’t get on board with.

I’ve never been a fan that wants to see my team “tank” or not put out maximum effort so that a better draft pick can come of it.

First and foremost, it’s not that simple in hockey to just hope for a better draft pick. Most of the time even the high draft picks take time to develop and work their way up to the NHL. It’s almost never an instant fix to your problems.

Additionally, this upcoming draft class looks mediocre at best. There’s no one really at the top that’s setting themselves apart from the rest of the pack. It’s a very wide open draft class, as Tony Ferrari of outlined in his most recent draft class rankings.

When the Predators perform their expected sell-off, I’m hoping they acquire more in return in terms of prospects and depth starters over draft picks.

Deeply rooted problems for the Nashville Predators

When it comes to the Predators, they have some deep-rooted issues that stem back to their improbably Stanley Cup run. Ever since then, it’s been my belief that the Predators have held off the rebuild too long in hopes that they can replicate that same magic with the same core of players.

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Instead of investing heavily in the future and better developing the prospects they had, the Predators decided to dive into long-term contracts that didn’t work out.

Kyle Turris is the big one that happened, and now all of the focus is on Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen‘s contracts. It could be the ultimate downfall for GM David Poile if this is indeed his last season as general manager.

Be that as it may, tanking is never the answer for me. And quite frankly, this team doesn’t have to tank. They’re going to take many more lumps this season in a division that’s loaded with highly-potent offensive teams at the top.

The Predators are heading into the one of the most brutal stretches of their schedule starting tonight as they have two-game sets against the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.

With a record of 1-9 against those three teams, things look like they’re going to hit a boiling point after this six-game stretch. No tanking will be necessary because the Predators will be outmatched regardless.

However, I do think the Predators still have a lot to play for even if the playoffs aren’t going to come of it. Seeing these prospects emerge has been refreshing to watch. They’ve mostly lived up to the pressure while the injuries have piled up.

Eeli Tolvanen is obviously the the major development when it comes to the youth of the roster. His impact on the power play alongside Filip Forsberg has been fascinating stuff. It’s going to be fun to watch him the rest of the season and see where he ends up in the Calder Trophy race.

Seeing other young players on the roster like Mathieu Olivier, Ben Harpur, Alexandre Carrier, Yakov Trenin and Rem Pitlick get ice time has also been good to see. These guys have a lot to play for, so tanking is definitely not something that’s going to happen.

Then you have the veterans that are likely playing to boost their own trade value. If the team is going to start trading off assets, then these players know they have to put forth strong efforts to boost their individual value.

Mattias Ekholm in particular has done himself a lot of favors in elevating his trade value, as has Calle Jarnkrok.

Still plenty to be excited about

With all of these players knowing what’s at stake for different reasons, you should keep seeing this Predators team play with high desperation and a business like demeanor. That’s what I saw for most of the game against the Dallas Stars that narrowly ended in a 4-3 shootout victory.

Fans love to throw around the term “tanking”, but I don’t see this team quitting in the slightest. We’re going to see their effort maximized as the trade deadline gets closer and the organization is forced to trade players away.

As I mentioned earlier, Tolvanen’s uprising as a power play scoring machine is enough right there to stay tuned into this team.

Forsberg is performing at an All-Star level with 26 points in 25 games. If he can maintain this scoring pace, it will end up being the most efficient season from an offensive standpoint in his NHL career.

We’re possibly witnessing Pekka Rinne‘s swan song, and we’re seeing him being used more heavily than we could’ve anticipated with Juuse Saros being on injured reseve. Rinne has gifted us with plenty more vintage saves this season, like this one against the Stars:

I still have to be brutally honest and objective here; even with maximum effort and improvement in key areas like the power play, I don’t see this team being able to keep their heads above water for much longer when it comes to postseason hopes.

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I guess call me old fashioned when it comes to my sports teams, but I want to see them win at all costs. If the Predators have to turn into spoilers down the stretch, I’ll fully embrace it.

We may not have a playoff contender on our hands, but there’s still plenty of be entertained by with this team from here on out. As we see more of the youth of the roster get those valuable minutes, we’re going to start getting a heavy taste of what the future holds for this franchise.