The injuries have not gotten any better for the Nashville Predators, and in fact, they have gotten even worse. Nobody significant has returned, and they recently lost Matt Duchene for probably the rest of the season.
At this point, a fully healthy lineup is a dream at best, and it might even make more sense to continue to sit the injured players. Even if the Predators get close or even completely to full health, playing them may not be worth it since they would be further risking injury for a team that will be a wildcard in the playoffs at best.
But it does not mean we cannot have more fun imagining what a healthy defense could have looked like after the trade deadline, as we did with the forward core. As crazy as it sounds, the defense still could have been one of the league’s best even after dealing Mattias Ekholm.
Let’s take a deep dive into what would have been three strong pairings on the back end.
Top Pairing: Roman Josi — Alexandre Carrier
Josi and Carrier started out as the Nashville Predators’ top pairing this year, but it did not make much sense with how the defense was constructed. At this moment, it is the way to go and most likely will be for 2023-24.
With how involved Josi is in facilitating the offense, Tyson Barrie would not be his ideal partner since he too is so heavily offensive-minded, and Dante Fabbro is solid but unfortunately not top-pairing caliber.
Josi and Ryan McDonagh were very lethal as a pairing this season, but with the team’s distribution of right and left-handed defensemen now even, they do not make sense together.
Carrier checks almost every box needed in this situation, and it could be very beneficial to him at this point in his career.
Additionally, Carrier was on the first all-rookie team in 2021-22 alongside Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider, and came into this year expected by many including myself to take a big step forward. But inconsistent play and a few injuries contributed to what was a slight down year for him, and it does not look like he will return from his current ailment.
While Carrier has not played at the NHL level for very long, he will be 27-years-old when 2023-24 starts and needs to get it together quickly in order to maximize his prime age.
Pairing Carrier with Josi will allow him to play with less weight on his shoulders and subsequently more confidence, as he will need more time to ease into a bigger role with the shaky year he has had.
The only downside here is that Carrier also plays with an offensive element to his game, but he has defensive abilities too and can chip in offensively without being the catalyst. Ryan Ellis was similar in that regard and played alongside Josi for much of his time in Nashville, so Carrier could do it just fine.