This Season Feels Different for the Nashville Predators

Jan 1, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Tanner Jeannot (84) celebrates after a goal during the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators left wing Tanner Jeannot (84) celebrates after a goal during the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Many words can be used to describe fan sentiment towards the Nashville Predators for the past few seasons, disappointment being the main one. Ever since fans got a taste of the 2016-17 Stanley Cup run, they have wanted more from this team, and rightfully so.

The sentiment was definitely high after that epic run, and the Predators’ front office did everything in their power to keep the central core of that team together. Thinking another Cup run was imminent, GM David Poile kept the Stanley Cup window pried open, perhaps longer than it should have been. But unfortunately, for a myriad of reasons, it just hasn’t panned out.

Since the Cup run, the Predators managed to get out of the first round of the playoffs only once. When Head Coach John Hynes took over, things didn’t change right away. In his first season, Nashville made a disappointing showing in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

When Hynes entered the fray, the Predators were pretty much in shambles. He inherited some big contract players who were not living up to expectations and a superstar goaltender staring at the end of his career.

The 2020-21 season got off to a rough start, but by the midpoint, the Predators were one of the better teams in the league and managed to claw their way into the playoffs, carried by excellent goaltending from Juuse Saros.

Fans saw an encouraging first-round playoff performance, but it wound up being yet another early exit. However, that playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes was a preview of things to come.

The 2021-22 offseason, dubbed a “competitive rebuild” year by management, saw the trades of some beloved players and the retirement of Pekka Rinne. With a youth movement on the horizon and questions surrounding top players, fans resigned to the fact the Predators would not be good and would possibly get into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, if at all.

Things are different now for the Nashville Predators

There was not much confidence in the Nashville Predators during the preseason cycle, despite showing promise during the second half of last season and through the first round of the playoffs.

During the preseason, questions arose about Saros’ ability to start in the most games of his career ever. Also on everyone’s mind was how players like Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene would perform after several disappointing seasons.

If anyone says that they thought the Predators would be where they are today during the preseason, they are lying. This Predators team has proven so many of us wrong, and it appears that they are on a mission to make all of us feel bad for doubting them.

Just take a look at the current NHL standings. The Predators sit atop the Central Division, with the 2nd place team trailing by three points. They are also number one in the Western Conference and 5th place throughout the entire league. At the moment, Nashville is on a five-game win streak, the longest in the NHL.

It can also be pointed out that several players have performed admirably so far this season, including Johansen and Duchene. Saros sits atop the heap of NHL goaltenders while Roman Josi is in serious contention to win his second Norris Trophy. Tanner Jeannot is also considered one of the top rookies and is easily a top-five candidate in the Calder Trophy race.

Hynes and his coaching staff also deserve some accolades. They took an imploding team down on itself that was getting bullied by the other teams and turned them into a powerhouse, not only in the Central Division but the entire league. Because of the incredible success and turnaround that the Predators have made, Hynes should be in consideration for the Jack Adams Award.

The Predators are now a team that plays for one another and with a chip on their shoulder. Teams in the NHL have taken notice that playing Nashville is no easy task and that if you fight one, you have to fight them all. Nobody pushes the Predators around anymore without facing the consequences.

What does the future hold?

For some reason, there is always a feeling that this team will implode or that something will happen to derail their progress. There is also the fact that the Predators hardly get any respect from the NHL media outside of Nashville (and sometimes within Nashville).

Even with how well the Predators have performed up to this point, questions remain. There is the lingering issue of Filip Forsberg‘s contract and the question of whether or not the team can continue to compete at this high level. Not to mention whether or not Saros can keep up his current level of play.

Also, to this day, there are still those who question Hynes’s every move and give him little credit for the team’s success. One lousy performance brings out the naysayers and the calls for his firing.

The truth is we don’t know what will happen with the Predators down the road. No one can predict the future, but at the moment, Nashville is on a heater, and their star continues to rise. This Nashville Predators team is the most exciting one to watch since 2016-17. They continue to amaze night after night, and you know that they always leave everything they have on the ice. Have faith, Smashville.

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