This season Nashville Predators fans have been, well, confused. Night in and night out fans have to wonder what team is it that is going to take the ice for the Predators? Is it going to be the team that puts up seven goals on the Florida Panthers, or is it going to be the team that gets embarrassed at Bridgestone Arena by the Boston Bruins, where there were more Bruins fans than Predators fans?
The inconsistency of this team has been showcased this season and that is why they are going to end their playoff streak this season. We are closing in on the March 3 Trade Deadline and the Predators are seven points out of a playoff position.
The name of this Predators season for me is “A Tale of Two Teams”. While they are just one team, with one roster, it is never a guarantee as to what team is going to show up that night to play. I am going to dive into the good, the bad, and the ugly of this team so far.
The Nashville Predators Good Side
When the good side of the Nashville Predators shows up to play, there is hardly a team in the NHL that can compete with them. The only problem is that team has not shown up very often through the first 54 games of the season.
In fact, I would say that the good team has shown up to play on 17 occasions this season. Now you may say, well they have 26 wins so haven’t they shown up at least that many times. Not in my opinion they haven’t. Some of the wins that they have are over teams that they should have dominated, and it took them going to overtime or to a shootout to win.
When it comes to individual efforts, I think the only consistent has been the level of play of Juuse Saros and Kevin Lankinen. They have played lights out each and every game with the exception of a few. Everyone else on the team, it’s a crapshoot to see how they are going to perform.
Saros has a 2.82 GAA and .916 save percentage on the season. Lankinen is actually ahead of Saros in both categories with a 2.70 GAA and .919 save percentage. Granted, Lankinen has not played near as much as Saros has and one could believe that given the same number of games played, their numbers would be pretty much identical. When you have both goaltenders with under a 3.00 GAA and over a .910 save percentage, it is safe to say that goaltending is not the problem.
The only other person that I could possibly get behind as giving everything night in and night out would be Matt Duchene. While he has not put up the same numbers as he did last season, he plays his heart out each and every shift and always seems to be noticed. While he is on pace to have the highest number of penalty minutes of his career this season, Duchene has been relentless on the forecheck and has been leaned upon heavily.
The Nashville Predators Bad and Ugly Side
Where to start with the bad and ugly of the Nashville Predators is the question. Let’s start with the offense. Last season, you saw career years from Roman Josi, Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Tanner Jeannot. So where are these players this year? Matt Duchene is still playing at a decent rate, so we won’t focus on him at this point.
Josi is coming off a season that saw him put up numbers offensively that hadn’t been seen by a defenseman since the early 1990’s. While no one expected him to be able to continue at that pace, his 15 goals and 34 assists this season puts him at 49 points in 54 games. He is averaging almost a point per game which is pretty good for a defenseman in today’s league. But even for a top tier defenseman such as Josi, there have been some stretches where he has been non-existent on the scoresheet, and he has taken some bad penalties of late.
Forsberg, Johansen, and Jeannot all fall into the same category. Last season, these three players accounted for 92 goals and 96 assists. This season they have 36 goals and 48 assists. They are on pace for 54 goals 73 assists. That is a drastic change coming off last season.
Again, last season the Predators scored 266 goals throughout the season and had games of four or more goals on 36 occasions. This season, they have only scored four or more goals in 18 games. In a season where scoring is higher than it has been in many years, the Predators have not been able to keep up and find themselves on pace to only have 231 goals for this season.
Where Does This Leave the Nashville Predators?
Due to the inconsistencies in their play, the Nashville Predators are on pace to not make the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. The fans in Smashville are beyond getting restless with this organization and it is time for change.
The NHL Trade Deadline is only a week and a half away and the front office has some choices to make. This morning General Manager David Poile backtracked on statements made last week about the team being sellers at the trade deadline.
This organization needs to take a long, hard look at the fanbase, the coaches, the management team, and the roster, and changes need to be made if this team is going to be competitive for years to come.