Nashville Predators: Remaining Veteran Core Has Lots to Prove and Gain

Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) and center Ryan Johansen (92) Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) and center Ryan Johansen (92) Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Nashville Predators head into a season tagged as a “competitive rebuild”, the veteran core that remains still has lots to prove this season. They have a unique opportunity to change the narrative back into a positive one.

All we’ve heard about this offseason for the Nashville Predators is how they’ve gone through significant roster changes and that they’re in a “competitive rebuild”, and while that is definitely true, there is still a shred of hope from myself that maybe it’s not as grim as it seems.

Expectations are rather low on the outside looking in, but don’t tell these players that. Especially the ones that have been here for several years and two wins shy of hoisting the Stanley Cup just over four years ago.

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There aren’t many of them left from that crazy run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, but here’s that short list of those veterans that’s heading into the 2021-22 season on a roster full of youth and limited NHL experience:

That’s all that’s left from that Stanley Cup run. Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Ellis and Calle Jarnkrok have all been lost for different reasons this offseason, while Pekka Rinne finally chose to hang them up after a legendary career.

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Things can come crashing down rather quickly in this league, can’t they? With that said, unexpected things happen in sports constantly, and I’m sure these veterans that remain are relishing at being counted out and can’t wait to hit the ice to prove us all wrong.

Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund came after the Stanley Cup run, and of course they will be leaned on to provide veteran leadership.

Duchene has the tall order to make that $8M contract not look quite as bad as it has looked leading up to this point.

Confidence is low that this aforementioned group that’s left can come together and produce a postseason winner, or even will this team into the playoffs once again like they improbably did last season in a shortened 56-game schedule. We’ll never know how that would’ve gone under normal circumstances.

The betting odds are extremely low on the Predators, with Wynbett having their odds of winning the Stanley Cup among the worst teams in the league along with the likes of the New Jersey Devils and the LA Kings at +7500.

There are a handful of really bad teams that have worse odds than the Predators, but my oh my seeing these low odds really eats at me on how far this team has fallen in just a couple seasons.

These futures odds were released before free agency, but I can’t suspect they’ve improved at all based on the moves the Predators have made, and if anything they may have even gotten worse with the losses of Ellis, Jarnkrok and Arvidsson.

In reality, the Predators have a lot of returning top contributors from last season, which pushed a much more talented Hurricanes team on paper to a hard-fought six-game battle in the first round. Seven of their top-10 points scorers from last season are returning, and three of their top-five.

To the same token, these veterans that remain really have a great opportunity to shut the critics up and accomplish something special. We know the talent and skills are there with these players, but four-straight years of postseason failure gives fans no reason to think it will miraculously change this season, hence the push to break it all apart and start fresh with younger players who have promise.

I’m really enthusiastic to see how these players that are still left respond to the pressure, and the leadership roles with so many new and young players around them. They can prove a lot people wrong by entering a season with the lowest preseason expectations for them that they’ve dealt with in quite some time. Maybe ever for some of these players.

Forsberg, Johansen, and Duchene really have to seize the opportunity

I tend to not worry much at all about what Josi and Ekholm will produce this season. They’ve fully earned the confidence and trust from me to be leaders once again and play at an extremely high level.

My confidence goes down considerably when I think about the veteran forward trio of Forsberg, Johansen and Duchene. Not to say they’ve all been horrendous, because they haven’t. But in terms of putting together a wire-to-wire strong season and silencing the critics to exceed low preseason expectations, I have my doubts.

Forsberg is the most talented player on this team aside from Josi. We all know he has it in him, and we know he’ll give us more highlight reel goals this coming season. My reservation is if he’s ready to step us as a veteran leader and block out a lot of the negative outside noise. He’s going to be badly needed to do that to keep the Predators from being a lottery team.

Same goes for Duchene and Johansen. They can’t go on disappearing acts for several games at a time. This team will get buried fast if so. Consistency is key, and both Duchene and Johansen showed plenty of flashes of that down the stretch. Now do it right out of the gate in October.

Sissons still fits into this mix as a vital piece to the depth. As much as I hated losing Jarnkrok, it would’ve been a tougher blow to lose Sissons in the expansion draft. Look for Sissons to fit in on the fourth line once again and be an important all-around player.

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The naysayers seem to think the book is already written on these veterans that remain. I can’t go that far. Forsberg and Ekholm will most likely get re-signed in the near future, as GM David Poile has mentioned as the next thing up on his agenda before training camp:

These are the veterans that made it through the hectic offseason full of changes for the Predators. It’s time to make the front office look smart that they’re the ones that stuck around for a reason, while others were dealt elsewhere.

I’ve followed this team through the lowest points of almost losing the franchise to relocation and the early days when they struggled to score more than two goals in a game, to the pinnacle in the summer of 2017. Let’s see if they can shift this thing back into the right direction in 2021-22.