There’s a fine line in hockey between playing with a fiery edge while also playing smart, and that line was blurred for much of last season for the Nashville Predators.
I’ll be the first to say I loved the fact that last year the Predators took on that reputation of being the annoying pest that teams dread playing because they know it’s going to be a hostile and hard hitting affair.
With that being made clear, the Predators have to adopt a more balanced and level headed approach in 2022-23. They have the talent level on the roster to compete with teams in multiple ways. If the game dictates playing rough and physical, then we know they can do that. However, there will also be nights when more discipline and restraint will be required.
It got comical at times last season when it came to the penalties. You just expected it at any time. If the game started off without the Predators having to kill off a penalty in the first 10 minutes, you were pinching yourself to see if this was reality.
Walking that fine line of aggressive, but beig smart for the Nashville Predators
Simply put, the Predators cannot survive against the top teams in the NHL if they’re committing penalties at the same NHL-leading rate they did last season. It can get you by occasionally against lesser opponents, or when Juuse Saros bails you out, but it’s not sustainable.
This is where Nino Niederreiter, among other reasons, makes a huge impact on this team. He will bring the defensive qualities as a two-way veteran, but also minimize the unnecessary penalties.
Surprisingly enough considering how he plays, Niederrieter had just 34 penalty minutes last season for the Hurricanes. A rather low total for a player like him.
On the flip side, the departed Luke Kunin who played a lot in the top-six last season for the Predators, committed three times that amount with 99 PIM and very little offensive value to back it up.
This swap alone should allow for some penalty relief. However, it doesn’t stop there. Tanner Jeannot plays a big role in cutting back on the penalties. His 130 PIM was third in the NHL, with Mark Borowiecki being the top dog in the sin bin with 151 PIM.
Both Jeannot and Borowiecki return to the team this year, and many of their penalty minutes came through fighting. Something that can be controlled. Just pick and choose your battles is what has to be preached here.
Another player who commits a lot of penalties and will likely get a much larger role with the Predators this season is Jeremy Lauzon. He’ll see a lot of time on the third defensive pairing, and he’ll get in his fair share of scraps. However, once again, discipline and picking your battles is vital.
With the personel that was just mentioned, and the style the Predators play with, it’s unrealistic to think they’re suddenly going to be a team that doesn’t go to the box much. They’re going to remain one of the heaviest penalized teams in the NHL. We can however ask for slight reduction, and avoiding the blunder penalties in crunch time.
If this team can learn to walk that fine line, then that will do wonders for Saros in net. Also, the team won’t get worn down as much if they’re not constantly killing off penalties.
The Predators also have to make sure they don’t try to become something they’re not. You’re not going to out finesse some of these teams, so that’s where the fine line comes in. It’s a tall order to ask for, but hopefully they can at least show some improvement.
If the Nashville Predators are going to move up the standings and challenge for second place behind the Colorado Avalanche in the division, a reduction in penalties has to happen. Simple as that. It’s a ripple effect in a positive direction if they can manage this in 2022-23.