Nashville Predators: Modest Goals and Expectations for 2021-22

Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes yells from the bench during overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in game three of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes yells from the bench during overtime against the Carolina Hurricanes in game three of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Similar to this time last year when the Nashville Predators and the rest of the NHL were going through an unprecedented offseason in the Fall, it’s difficult to put a peg on this team as the preseason is almost here.

Last year at this time the Predators were just over a month removed from getting eliminated in the Edmonton bubble by the Arizona Coyotes in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. It was an uninspired showing by them, and it left my preseason expectations entering a 56-game regular season as very modest at best.

Although I don’t have soaring expectations for the Nashville Predators this time around, it’s for a much different reason. The team itself is going to bring a new energy and excitement that fans are going to appreciate. The problem is, I’m not sure the talent level and experience level is quite there to expect this to be a playoff team at this juncture.

I’ve set some realistic and modest goals for this Nashville Predators team in 2021-22. I know every player and coach in that locker room’s only ultimate goal is hoisting the Stanley Cup, but I’ve got my own that I’d really like to see accomplished that shouldn’t be too much to ask.

1. A fresh approach and improved power play

I’ve been asking this since the dawn of time it feels like. A consistent and trustworthy power play that looks like a strength, and not a weakness.

Expect goals to be at a premium for the Nashville Predators as they lost some veteran offensive scoring production over the offseason with Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Ellis, Calle Jarnkrok and Erik Haula all going elsewhere.

Over the last five seasons the Predators have only finished in the top half of the NHL in power play percentage once (11th in 2017-18). Logically enough, their near top-ten finish in 2017-18 was the year they won the President’s Trophy.

I’m not saying the Predators have to bring that productive of a power play, but we need to see it become at least viable. There should be some considerable personnel changes with regular contributors like Ellis and Jarnkrok no longer on the team.

Tanner Jeannot is a newcomer I’d like to see on the power play, while Eeli Tolvanen can hopefully continue his ascension as a top power play weapon. Just finish in the top half of the NHL and I’ll be happy.

2. Line Consistency

Yes, it’s always suspenseful waiting of the line combinations to roll out on gameday. But truthfully, I’m ready to see some consistency in this are where we have a firm idea what the lineup is going to look like. If that it happens, it probably means the team is finding sustained success, and of course that’s a positive thing, right?

Most importantly, the top line is where I want to see the most consistency. The great teams in this league know without a doubt who their top line is going to be assuming no injuries rattle things up.

That’s where the Predators need to eventually get to as the season progresses. It won’t happen immediately as the team went through a lot of roster changes, and it will understandably require some shuffling at first.

After the first ten games or so, my modest goal is for Head Coach John Hynes to have a firm grasp on what he wants his starting lineup to look like and that an identity is being built. No more line volatility, please.

3. A wire-to-wire successful season for Juuse Saros

We’ve never gotten to see Juuse Saros fully obtain this role going into a normal 82-game season. He’s always had Pekka Rinne right by his side as an outstanding mentor and teammate.

Now Saros fully has the team as the franchise goaltender, and with that is going to be elevated pressure to produce. He got what I think is a bargain contract for the Predators front office, so no one really thinks Saros is overpaid like some of these other key players are.

Still, the pressure is going to be on Saros to gain the confidence that he can be at least the bridge to whenever Iaroslav Askarov eventually gets to the NHL from the KHL.

A realistic goal for Saros is to start somewhere over 50 games and be the trusted goaltender that you know will not lose you games. If the Predators lose, it will be due to lack of goal support or something else. It won’t be Saros.

Saros also has to obviously stay healthy and available so that David Rittich doesn’t have to become the full-time starter, which won’t necessarily mean doom.

However, Saros really needs to prove he is truly a Vezina Trophy quality goaltender. To do that, he needs a full slate of games that stretches the length of the regular season, and hopefully the postseason again.

4. Hang in the playoff race until the end

As much as I know this team is in what Predators GM David Poile has tagged a “competitive rebuild”, I still want them to show passion and grit to hang in the playoff race deep into the regular season.

We’re all going to be second-guessing the rebuild and roster moves if the Predators completely tank from start to finish similar to what the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators have gone through.

This has a different feel to it than past seasons when the same tired formula was being thrown out there and expecting better results. It wasn’t going to ever happen, and that Stanley Cup window slammed shut fast.

More. Remaining Veteran Core Has Lots to Prove for Predators. light

All I need to see is that the team is building towards something better and promising. If they’re defying all odds, beating quality teams and sticking around in the playoff race, I’ll be very pleased.

Don’t count out this group of young, but hungry players like Jeannot, Mathieu Olivier, Luke Kunin, Alexandre Carrier and others. They’re out to prove they’re the next core of this team for years to come. Many of them have short-term contracts and are still auditioning for longer contracts down the road.

I have an optimistic feeling that the Nashville Predators will treat us to some entertaining hockey that will carry us down the stretch as they push for an eighth-consecutive playoff berth. They may come up just short in the end, but my goal is they at least make it interesting.