Nashville Predators: Deeper Issues Than Coaching Exist

Mar 6, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes (top, right) talks with his team from the bench during the first period against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 6, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes (top, right) talks with his team from the bench during the first period against the Florida Panthers at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Oh, what a difference a couple of weeks has made. May 10 found the Nashville Predators riding high on a wave carrying them into the playoffs after turning their season around. May 20 sees the team in turmoil.

The Predators turnaround is an incredible story. Two months ago, the team was playing horribly and was facing a rebuild.

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Through hard work by the team and Head Coach John Hynes, the Predators went on an improbable run to clinch a playoff spot, beating the top team in the Central Division to get in.

At one point, the Predators had the longest active winning streak in the NHL this season. The players had finally bought into the system that Hynes was selling and began firing on all cylinders.

Goaltender Juuse Saros was putting up Vezina-like numbers and, at times, keeping Nashville in games that they didn’t deserve to be in.

Fast forward to today. The Predators have dropped the first two games in their playoff series with the Carolina Hurricanes, which turned out to be poor showings in games that Nashville could have won.

The vehement calls for Hynes’ dismissal have reappeared as well. He was amid his highest approval rating ever after navigating the Predators through the turnaround. Any stock that he had built up before the playoffs has all but disappeared.

While Hynes has had some cringe-worthy moments in this series with questionable line changes and a strange post-game press conference, there are other deep-rooted issues at play here.

Star Players Have Been Non-Existent In This Series

The most glaring example of why the Predators are struggling is the performance of their star players. They have yet to step up and lead this team to victory against a formidable opponent.

Captain Roman Josi has put in less than stellar performances in both games. Carolina has taken him out of his game which is rare for a player of his caliber.

The top line, for this series anyway, of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson has struggled as well. Other than Erik Haula, Forsberg is the only other player who has scored a goal in this series.

Even though this top line hasn’t spent much time together on the ice this season, Hynes should be able to confidently put them together with better results than he has gotten so far.

Other players have had issues during this series as well. They continue to struggle against a very tough Hurricanes team that is showing few if any weaknesses in their game.

The Nashville Predators Need An Elite Forward Or Two

When you look at the other powerhouse teams in the league, most if not all have one or two elite forwards that can be counted on, for the most part, to take over games and push their teams to victory.

The Predators do have an elite defenseman in Josi. Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm are on the cusp of eliteness as well.

Forsberg is considered the Predators’ top forward and is one of the greats, but he hasn’t crossed the threshold to the elite level just yet. He is so close but just hasn’t produced at a level to be considered elite.

It may be time for management to consider acquiring a higher-caliber player next season. We know that changes will be coming to the organization soon and that there is a laundry list of things that need to be changed. On a player level, this should be a top priority.

A Management Change Is Needed

GM David Poile gambled at the trade deadline and did not move any players that had value. He felt that this current roster had what it takes to win, and he stood pat.

It was a huge gamble and one that appeared to pay off during the last two months of the season. The team was good enough to make it to the playoffs, but now it looks like they could be swept in four games.

The story of the playoffs isn’t finished being written, and if the Predators can pull off a miracle, Poile will look like a genius by keeping this core team together yet again.

However, if the Predators can’t pull off this much-needed miracle, it will leave a mark on Poile’s extraordinary career, costing him his job.

Regardless of the outcome of this season, it is time for Poile to retire. He has done great things for the Predators in his long career, but his insistence in keeping this core group of players together for so long and with poor post-season results is evidence enough that the time has come.

We Love These Players, But…

Fans of the Predators love this core group of players. They have provided many memorable moments, and we are all grateful for their time with this club.

However, it is painfully evident that the time has come to make some roster changes, no matter how much it may hurt. It is time to rip off the proverbial bandaid and move this team forward.

On paper, this group of players should be dominating on a nightly basis. There is just something wrong within this group, which holds them back from greatness.

We have seen former players move on to other teams and have success, and fans have, for the most part, been happy for them. And while it is usually good to keep a team together, it just hasn’t worked out in this instance. To the ones who may leave, we wish you well.

For the sake of the player’s careers, the organization, and the fans, make some moves this offseason and stop mortgaging the team’s future.

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By all counts, we all want to see this current roster succeed. However, it appears that the rebuild changes that everyone was clamoring for at the trade deadline have been postponed by only a few months.

We want to see some changes, some fresh faces, and a renewed spirit within our beloved hockey team. The time has finally come when it is no longer avoidable.

Change is sometimes painful but necessary for the growth of a team. This team has not grown in the past few seasons, and complacency is no longer an option.