Nashville Predators: Deep Dive into Mikael Granlund’s Bumpy Season
If there is one player who has been a man of extremes since joining the Nashville Predators, it is Mikael Granlund. His first two seasons were full of inconsistency, but he finished strong enough in his second year to earn a one-year contract to return, and the way he finished his third year on the team got him a four-year contract when it once looked impossible.
Even more surprisingly was once Granlund began playing under his long-term deal, it looked like a bargain. He meshed so well with Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene last year, and reliable play on both ends of the ice made him one of the very most important forwards on this team.
This year, he is back to his underperforming ways, and he along with many of the other forwards on the Predators has been in a funk since the season began. But with John Hynes’ lineup decisions and how the team is currently constructed, why Granlund has been struggling should not be a surprise to many.
Granlund’s Role with the Nashville Predators has Changed
Overall, Granlund’s best stretch with the Nashville Predators was from the second half of the 2020-21 season through the 2021-22 season. And the biggest reason he was doing so well then is because he was in a position to maximize his strengths the whole time.
Granlund was playing at center and he fit so well as the glue between Forsberg and Duchene. He was the main distributor, reliably setting up highlight reel goals for his fellow line-mates, and also responsibly holding his own at the other end of the ice.
Granlund has never been known as a prolific goal scorer, so being a facilitating presence in the middle of the ice worked so well for him. This year, things obviously have not been anywhere near the same.
Granlund started out on the line with Forsberg and Duchene, but he struggled along with the rest of the team, and they eventually got broken up. Granlund has now played the vast majority of the season on the wing, and it just has not been the same.
What is tough is that when you look to the start of the season, he was actually doing some good things. His offensive output was pretty good, and he was still doing his part on the defensive side, including playing some demanding minutes on the penalty kill for a team that could not stop taking penalties.
Things are not working out like last year, and the Predators needed to provide a jolt to their top six by giving Juuso Parssinen, Cody Glass, and Tommy Novak a chance. But all of those guys are exclusively centers, and so is Ryan Johansen, forcing Granlund to be a top six winger because he is one of the few players on the roster with legitimate flexibility in that regard.
Glass and Johansen are the top six centers, and Parssinen would be next in line, so Granlund is not leaving the wing anytime soon. He has bounced around a good bit but is now playing alongside Johansen, which is not a good fit at all since both of them are similar in terms of styles they play.
Over the course of the year, Granlund has become more and more invisible on the offensive side, and in particular he has been atrocious as a goal scorer. He just does not seem comfortable at all shooting the puck even when he is in a decent position to do so, and this clip here encapsulates his lack of confidence for the majority of the season.
Additionally, Granlund is just 11th on the team in shots on goal with 62. Barely over a shot per game, which is the lowest of his NHL career. He averaged over two shots per game in his first full season with Nashville.
When you find that Granlund is not in the best lineup spot, has not been in any one place for more than a few games at a time, and is kind of being screwed over since he is one of the only centers on the roster who can play winger, it is a really unfortunate situation and at least understandable as to how one can lose a good bit of confidence.
But the league and sport itself do not care about how fair it is or is not, all that matters is that you adapt and are able to perform. Unfortunately for Granlund, he has failed to adapt and underperformed expectations this season.
What should Nashville Predators do with Granlund?
The tough reality of the situation is that Granlund has fallen out of fit with the Predators recently, and may not return back to it. The team has almost too much at the center position, and with how well Parssinen and Glass are performing, you have to reward them and give them the top six center minutes over Granlund.
The trade deadline is less than a month from now, and whether or not the Predators are doing better by the time it approaches, he is someone they should trade if possible. I just don’t see him regaining his past form.
Granlund started to turn it on a bit before the All-Star break with two goals in three games, but that’s a very small sample size.
If the Predators are at all able to trade Granlund at the deadline, they should do it. His contract is not the best for how he has performed this year, but it is far from the worst, and if a contender can put him in a spot where he can maximize his abilities, they will have no problem taking him on for the rest of this year and two more years.
Now, that is probably unlikely to happen at the deadline since cap issues are likely to prevent many of the teams from adding more players, but do not rule out a trade happening in the offseason.
The Predators should try to get whatever value they can get for Granlund at the trade deadline or during the next offseason. Far crazier things have happened.