Nashville Predators: Tricky Decisions Ahead if Team Keeps Winning

Nashville Predators center Nick Cousins (21) and teammates celebrate after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators center Nick Cousins (21) and teammates celebrate after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

As we’re officially past the midway point of the regular season, the Nashville Predators‘ playoff hopes have nearly faded into dust. There’s an outside chance they go on some crazy run, but the odds are pretty low.

The trade deadline on April 12 is quickly approaching, and we’re waiting for the dominoes to start falling. Numerous players on the Predators are considered to be highly tradeable, including Mattias Ekholm as the main one.

However, if the Predators somehow do string together five or six in a row and get back into the playoff mix, things will get even more complicated for the front office and for Head Coach John Hynes.

Everyone’s greatest fear is the team tries to go on one more run instead of fixing the deep rooted problems and looking ahead to the future.

What the Nashville Predators should do when players get healthy

Eventually some key players are going to start returning to the lineup in the coming weeks.

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We’re seeing this youth movement mostly because the Predators are forced to do so. It’s refreshing to see the youngsters take control and develop their games, but where does that leave them when the veterans start returning?

On the flip side, it will be an easy decision for Hynes to make regarding the starting lineup if the Predators fall back into old habits and go on another losing streak.

This team clearly has a lot of fight left in them. They showed that beautifully and respectfully yesterday when they finally got a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was an all-around team win that you have to come away impressed by.

Shoutout to Boyd of Penalty Box Radio for bringing up this tricky scenario that the Predators will find themselves in in the coming weeks:

It really comes down to what the Predators do between now and then. What’s unfortunate is if the Predators do manage to surprise us and get a little winning streak going, then it will likely be thanks to many of these young players that in return might lose their starting spot when players like Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Matt Duchene and Brad Richardson return.

Richardson is a player you could see as a healthy scratch to keep a rookie in that’s playing well, like Mathieu Olivier or Yakov Trenin.

Obviously you’re going to insert Josi and Ellis right back into the lineup on the top defensive pairing when they’re healthy again.

Ellis was originally tagged with an upper-body injury and projected to miss four to six weeks. Josi’s injury, on the other hand, was a little more recent and is considered as week-to-week. Both should be back within the next two weeks.

Duchene is dealing with a lower-body injury and was also projected to miss multiple weeks originally. He hasn’t played since March 4.

If Duchene also returns in the next two to three weeks, then who does he replace in the lineup? By that point, the Predators might be completely eliminated from contention and you might very well just put him on the shelf for the remainder of the season.

Navigating past the trade deadline

Many fans have the fear that the Predators management is going to think they have a chance by winning some games and in return don’t trade some of these assets while they can. In other words, they stick with what they have and don’t do much of anything ahead of the deadline.

As much as we love Ekholm and don’t want to lose him, it makes sense to move on and get what you can out of him while his trade value is skyrocketing. He’s been arguably the most consistent player on the team this season.

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Same goes for players like Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok and several other players on the team. The last thing we want to see is the Predators kicking the can down the road even more and pushing off the necessary rebuild.

We’re caught in an odd situation. You want your team to win at all costs, but with that will come some challenging decisions for GM David Poile to make when it comes to entertaining trade offers.

I don’t envy Poile in the slightest for the difficult decisions that he’s going to have to make. Some coveted players are going to be traded away, or he’s going to stick with them if he believes the Predators are turning the corner. That’s going to send fans likely into a frenzy.

The Predators are still pretty far out of reach in the Central Division standings. They sit in sixth place ahead of Dallas and Detroit, but Dallas has also played four fewer games and just one point behind. There’s an eight-point gap between the Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks for that fourth and final playoff spot.

With just 27 games left on the schedule, I don’t see the Predators making up that gap unless they win four out of every five from here on out. If my math is correct, they can only take around five more losses to have a realistic chance.

Regardless of whether the Predators start winning more games, I think the youth movement and the trade scenarios need to happen if it makes sense.

The bright spot of this season is seeing the future of this team rise up and play well. They’re showing energy and intensity, and they’ve earned their right to finish this season out as starters.