Filip Forsberg’s Injury a Fork in the Road on Nashville Predators Season

Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (9) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Injuries are a part of the game, and the Nashville Predators have to deal with their first critical one of the season with Filip Forsberg‘s injury that has already forced him to miss one game.

We might have to eventually get used to life without Forsberg in the near future, but I’d really prefer if it wasn’t right now as the Predators are trying to stay relevant in the Central Division race.

Forsberg reportedly has an upper-body injury that will designate him as week-to-week, which will really test one of the younger lineups in the NHL. It will also make it all the more challenging for this lineup to produce offensive scoring chances.

The severity of the injury to Forsberg was revealed leading up to the Predators’ Wednesday night game against the Edmonton Oilers:

Nashville Predators depth will be greatly tested

This really feels like a fork in the road to the Predators’ season and if they can outperform their low preseason expectations. If they can overcome this with a joint effort from their depth then it will show they’re indeed a playoff caliber team.

First off, hockey injuries are always such a mystery. You get general timetables, so who knows really how long Forsberg stands to miss, but we do know it’s serious enough to where he can’t play through it right now to get a “week-to-week” status. It’s at least not injured reserve.

Just when it appeared that Head Coach John Hynes was getting some consistent results from his line combinations, Forsberg gets knocked out of the lineup. His line with Mikael Granlund and Matt Duchene was really starting to show promise for the Predators as they built an impressive four-game winning streak against some very good opponents.

Forsberg’s first missed game due to this injury, which put Rocco Grimaldi back into the starting lineup, was last night against the Edmonton Oilers, which the Predators lost while only managing two goals.

Although the pressure is going to fall further onto key veteran forwards like Duchene, Ryan Johansen and Granlund to produce the offense, I actually think it increases the pressure on the younger players to continue to show progress just as much.

Someone has to fill that void, and I just don’t think we can count on Johansen and Duchene to do it all. It’s going to take a joint effort that goes down to players like Tanner Jeannot, Yakov Trenin and also Grimaldi who is getting another chance to show the Predators he shouldn’t be a healthy scratch.

The Predators aren’t built to deal with significant injuries to the top part of their lineup this season.

Best case scenario is that Forsberg only misses a week, or the next three or four games on this current road trip. I don’t have very high confidence that the Predators can keep their head above water for very long without Forsberg’s offensive impact.

It will also take monumental goaltending performances from Juuse Saros and newly-returned David Rittich to keep the Predators competitive in games against strong offensive teams.

What the Predators are missing without Forsberg

There’s no denying that Forsberg commands a lot of defensive attention with his accurate wrister and ability to overpower defenders with his skating. Without him, it’s going to draw more attention on others to step up.

As much as we have all wanted more from Forsberg as far as moving into that elite status, losing him can’t be understated. He’s a critical part of the team’s offensive makeup, and without him this team is even further offensively challenged.

You also can’t overlook Forsberg’s defensive capabilities. He hits hard and has a veteran presence that I don’t feel strongly about with Grimaldi being the replacement. It may be a nudge in the direction of calling up another prospect like Mathieu Olivier or Egor Afanasyev.

My biggest worry, and it’s hopefully just paranoia, is that Forsberg’s injury lingers on throughout the season towards the trade deadline which forces the front office to have to make a difficult decision. This will largely hinge on if the Predators can avoid falling into a losing rut while he’s out.

Forsberg is averaging just over 18 minutes of ice time per game, which is right around his career average. He’s also got seven points in nine games and strong possession numbers with a 56.4 Cori-for, which is a little higher than his career average.

Against the Oilers you saw Eeli Tolvanen‘s ice time increase to nearly 17 minutes, which was a considerable spike from his previous game at just 14 minutes. He’s a player that can greatly minimize the damage of losing Forsberg. Tolvanen has just one point on the season.

If you’re looking to see the glass half-full with this injury to Forsberg, there have been key contributors in the depth of the lineup when you look at the line of Jeannot, Colton Sissons and Yakov Trenin. Hynes needs to keep them together as they’ve been such a productive line that’s built a lot of chemistry together.

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Furthermore, the Predators have gradually built a fairly decent power play this season in the early going, but you have to wonder if it can keep up the momentum without Forsberg. They did so last night against Edmonton with a power play goal from Johansen, but it was too little too late.

The Predators have the Vancouver Canucks up next in a Friday night matchup. The Canucks are actually offensively challenged even more so than the Predators by averaging only 2.4 goals per game, which is 27th in the NHL.

Overcoming injuries, even ones to star players, is the mark of a great team. If the Nashville Predators can come together as a collective unit to replace the production of Forsberg, then we’ll seriously have reason to be excited about the Predators’ playoff hopes this season. This is a major fork in the road on the end result of this season.