Nashville Predators: Misery Loves Company Early on in Central Division

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29: Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators stops a shot by the Washington Capitals during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on October 29, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29: Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators stops a shot by the Washington Capitals during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on October 29, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

As bad as the Nashville Predators have been so far, other top teams in the Central Division have also stumbled to open 2022-23.

No one is going to be satisfied with the way the Nashville Predators have started the 2022-23 season, but at least they’re not alone in the disappointment.

The Nashville Predators have fans clamoring for a head coaching change and front office change and we’re not even a full month into the season. This coming on the heels of a 3-0 shutout loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday. A game where the offense was dry, the power play was 0-for-5, and Juuse Saros had another strong performance wasted.

Most teams will play just their 10th game of the season in the next couple of days, and we’re already seeing some underwhelming results from teams who were expected to be near the top of the Central Division.

Is the Central Division a Weak Division?

I’m on record of stating that the Central Division was probably going to take a step back and wasn’t as daunting as it once was just a couple years ago. It’s more watered down, even with the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche still the perceived favorites.

The Dallas Stars are the exception, of course, as they currently sit in 1st place with a 5-3-1 record. Even the Stars have hit a speed bump early in their season losing four of their last six games, including a 6-3 drubbing to the New York Rangers in their last outing.

The Winnipeg Jets have the identical record as the Stars and shouldn’t be overlooked, while the Chicago Blackhawks have managed to actually not be the tanking team many expected them to be. Still plenty of time for the impending tailspin to occur for that team.

Even the Avalanche aren’t free of criticism early on. They’re 4-4-1 with back-to-back losses to the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders. Nothing to panic over as their talent will eventually take over and they’ll be just fine.

I’m going to lump the Predators with the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild as three teams who have no excuses to be playing this poorly. The Blues have lost five in a row, while the Wild seem to be trending back up after opening the season with three consecutive losses.

At least the Predators beat the Blues head-to-head in what is their only win since opening the season with two wins at the NHL Global Series.

Vote in the poll below to tell us who you think has been the biggest letdown to open the season in the Central Division.

What is Behind the Nashville Predators’ Ugly Start?

Despite the Predators’ struggles, they have benefited from teams around them also looking just as bad. They have plenty of time to correct their issues and play to the level that their roster on paper should be producing.

A top-10 power play last season has turned to dust for the Predators through the first nine games. They’re not taking advantage of all the power play opportunities they’re getting. They have 36 power plays, good for 6th-most in the NHL.

In return, the Predators have connected on just three of those power plays, putting them at 30th in the NHL. That ratio right there should explain a lot into why the Predators are 3-5-1 and really have just one impressive game out of their first nine (6-2 win over the Blues).

The Predators now have to take on the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames up next. Two opponents who have not been letdowns by any means and will pile the goals up on a team that isn’t playing with discipline and intensity.

It might seem bleak now considering how they have played up to this point, but the Predators are a short winning streak away from being right where they should be, which is battling in the top-three of the division.

Circling back to the calls for the firing of Head Coach John Hynes, obviously that’s not going to happen anytime soon. In fact, I can’t see a scenario no matter how bad it gets that he gets fired during the season.

Hynes has never been a popular choice for head coach since he was brought on after the firing of Peter Laviolette in January 2020. His NHL head coaching track record is nothing to write home about, and there’s no reason to think that’s miraculously going to change now.

With that said, Hynes can’t go out and execute for the players. At some point, the blame has to significantly shift to the highest-paid and most talented players just not performing in critical moments.

Players like Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene are not safe from criticism just because they’re likeable and fan favorites.

Core Players Not Producing Offensively

  • Forsberg (2 goals in 9 games, 6.5 Shooting %)
  • Duchene (2 goals in 9 games, 22 SOG)
  • Johansen (5 points in 9 games, 1 point on power play)
  • Josi (4 points in 9 games, 2.3 Shooting % on 43 SOG)
  • Niederreiter (5 points in 9 games, 1 point in last 5 games)

If the Predators remain in this ugly slump, and they end up being near the bottom of the Central Division, then I can’t make a case as to bringing Hynes back for his second year of the contract he signed over the offseason.

The sweeping changes won’t stop there, however. It will finally be time to rip the band-aid off and make drastic changes to this organization from the front office to the roster.

As for now, some good fortune around the Nashville Predators have bought them some more time to figure things out. The calendar has flipped to November, and the “it’s early” excuse has run its course. Time to produce or some serious changes from the top down will have to finally occur.