Nashville Predators Early Outlook to 2023-24: Growing Pains?

Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators celebrates a 2-1 win against the Boston Bruins with his teammates at the TD Garden on March 28, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
Juuse Saros #74 of the Nashville Predators celebrates a 2-1 win against the Boston Bruins with his teammates at the TD Garden on March 28, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) /

When early predictions start rolling out for 2023-24, the Nashville Predators will be one of the more difficult teams to figure out.

As exciting and somewhat invigorating that it is to see the Predators finally ushering in a new era of change, with that comes a period of being far out of Stanley Cup contention.

To be completely frank, the Predators have been fading out of serious Stanley Cup contention for around five years now, but masked it with decent regular season play and postseason appearances.

This leaves you wondering what’s actually in store for the Nashville Predators in 2023-24? A roster that’s going to have an even blend of youthful inexperience and some battle-tested veterans who have been on this team during the gradual dip out of contention among the NHL’s top teams.

What Should Early 2023-24 Expectations be for Nashville Predators?

The easy and safe answer is that the Predators will likely be right in the middle of the pack and hovering around the 85 to 90 point range. Narrowly out of the playoffs, just like this past season.

However, to push back on that notion, if the Predators can even have slightly better fortune on the injury front, then it lends itself to suggest that maybe this team can return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2023-24.

This is why when analysts and writers start writing up their preseason predictions later this summer, the Predators will be tricky to predict.

I’m not expecting too many drastic changes, if any, to the main roster of the Predators when opening night of 2023-24 gets here.

The obvious expectation is for all of the core veterans who fell to season-ending injuries will be back ready to go. Here’s the five that you’re probably thinking of:

Season Ending Injuries for Predators Starters

  • Filip Forsberg
  • Ryan Johansen
  • Matt Duchene
  • Roman Josi
  • Alexandre Carrier

Forsberg’s nasty head injury suffered on February 11 put an even larger dent into the already struggling Nashville Predators offense. It was hard to recover from that, both at even strength and on the power play.

Losing Josi was actually the final blow to the veteran core that was just too much to overcome. The Predators were still in the midst, thanks to the youth stepping up, of a relentless effort for the playoffs but came up just short at three points back of the Winnipeg Jets.

Assuming all five of these players are back in the starting lineup, then you still have questions of can this group play up to their full potentials? Each had their stretches when healthy of playing well, but also a lot of inconsistency.

How quickly Forsberg shakes the rust off from being out of game action for what will be eight months will be key to how the Predators start off their 2023-24 campaign.

Johansen’s future remains somewhat of a mystery. Newly named general manager Barry Trotz remains confident but says that Johansen needs his “best summer” this offseason, per John Glennon of The Nashville Post. 

If these five can return from injuries and play at levels that we know they’re capable of, then sure, the Predators can put forth a decent squad that can hang around the playoff bubble just like they did last season. That is a huge “if” that takes a big leap of faith with where we sit right now in May and the dead part of Nashville’s offseason.

Can the Youth Make More Significant Strides?

Here’s the other part of the equation when trying to assess Nashville’s expectations for 2023-24; Do young players like Luke Evangelista, Cody Glass, Tommy Novak, Juuso Parssinen, Philip Tomasino and even Egor Afansyev pick up off the promising showing they gave to close out what was a commendable fight to the end.

All of these players have different personal situations, but there’s two players who more than the others I’m interested to see if they have another gear they can kick it into next season; Parssinen and Tomasino.

Parssinen made his NHL debut on November 12 and instantly made his presence felt in a positive way by scoring a goal and logging just under 18 minutes of ice time in a Predators win over the New York Rangers.

I’m looking to see if Parssinen can avoid a sophomore slump if you will, or even slightly elevate even more to become one of the more exciting young players in the league. I certainly think he has the body of work to show us even more in 2023-24.

Tomasino has been around a little longer and the time for him is now to really take hold of an important role for the Predators. Will he remain on the wing or find himself moving to the role he was originally drafted for which is center?

All of this is to say there’s a lot of unknown variables surrounded by can the youth that everyone has been beating the drum for can maintain their positive trajectories that they showed us in 2022-23.

You have to expect growing pains and some dips in development from at least a couple players in this aforementioned group.

Tomasino is the player out of this short list that I’m looking to take a huge step forward to help improve an offensive attack thatfinished with only 223 goals as a team, ranking 28th in the NHL.

Predators are a Mystery in terms of What to Expect Next Season

Good luck trying to predict where the Nashville Predators may end up in 2023-24. I can understand arguments from all over the spectrum, with the two exceptions being the extremes on either side.

The Predators aren’t going to tank into being one of the bottom feeders of the NHL. They have too much talent and Juuse Saros in net. However, they’re also not on the other extreme of being a viable Stanley Cup contender. Where you want to place them in the large in-between of those two extremes is up for debate.

Trotz isn’t thinking rebuild or rip it all down. He has a vision of fine tuning this team to keep the momentum going in the right direction, and already has some strong pieces to avoid plummeting too far down.

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Now, will just hanging around in the middle of the pack be enough for Head Coach John Hynes to make it through another full year behind the bench? That’s going to be the main topic of discussion all season long, and amplify every time the Predators hit a losing streak.

The product will be much more exciting and fresh, but we’re probably in for another year full of highs and lows that likely will fall short of the postseason. That will be an easy out for Trotz to move on from Hynes.

It’s impossible to predict what roster changes could occur midseason, but as of now, the Nashville Predators remain in the unknown middle pack of the league trying to get over that hump of being the top tier again.