Nashville Predators Need a Top Line Shake Up after All Star Break

After looking unstoppable for the first two months of the season, the Predators' top line has gone through its struggles during this losing stretch.

Nashville Predators v Washington Capitals
Nashville Predators v Washington Capitals / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages
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The All Star break is here for the Nashville Predators, and maybe it's coming at the right time with this team needing some serious readjusting with just 31 games left in the season.

One thing you have to be able to do effectively as an NHL head coach is be willing to make adjustments on the fly when things appear broken. For Head Coach Andrew Brunette, this time off during the All Star break is the time to explore other options.

When the Predators were consistently winning in November and December, a major contributing factor was the Ryan O'Reilly, Filip Forsberg and Gustav Nyquist top line was unstoppable. They were a top-10 line in terms of generating offense.

Things change as the season progresses. Brunette has to be creative coming out of the All Star break to snap out of this offensive funk the team is in.

Moving Nyquist to the 2nd Line is an Option to Explore

Brunette has held committed to keeping the top line together. O'Reilly, Forsberg and Nyquist have 453 minutes together as a top line, which is fourth-most in the NHL. But they're not as efficient as you'd like, falling back to 40th among forward lines in Expected Goals Per 60 minutes, per MoneyPuck.

With this in mind, should Brunette be willing to make this big of a lineup change over 50 games into the season? If you're going to do it, then All Star break is the time to implement it.

Obviously you're not taking Forsberg or O'Reilly off the top line, so that leaves Nyquist as someone to be moved off. And to be clear, this isn't to say that Nyquist has just been awful lately, but opposing teams have seemed to figure out how to put all of their effort into shutting down this trio down and they've mostly succeeded.

The Predators have failed to score more than three goals in nine consecutive games, and while Forsberg did get a goal in the loss to the Kings on Wednesday, he has still been held quiet by his standards as of late.

Also, spreading out your veterans to every line is a useful strategy when a team is in a funk and you're trying to rebuild confidence for your younger players. Nyquist on a line with Cody Glass and Tommy Novak could be worth exploring after the All Star break.

Speaking of Novak, he is quietly having another efficient season for the Predators. He is one of the biggest bargain players in the NHL in terms of cost per point, per CapFriendly.

Think about what this could mean for Glass centering a line with Novak, who he is very familiar with, and moving Nyquist into a role to unlock the potential of both Glass and Novak.

Should Tomasino Get a Chance to Prove Himself on Top Line?

It's time for Brunette to explore moving Nyquist to the second line and giving a younger player the chance to impact the top line, and my first and only realistic option is Philip Tomasino. You have to see what you he can do for you with more minutes.

Tomasino averages just 12:40 of ice time in 40 games this season, which is one of the lowest amounts among the forwards. Among the regular starters, only Kiefer Sherwood and Michael McCarron average less.

With Tomasino becoming a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason and due to get his first standard contract in the NHL, you need to see if he can provide an offensive boost with bigger minutes and better linemates.

What's the worst that could happen if Tomasino on the top line is a failed experiment? At least you get some clarity on where Tomasino is at in his development before you get into contract negotiations. You're not going to get a clear picture on Tomasino's future with him getting bottom of the barrel ice time.

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If you don't move up Tomasino, then your options are virtually zero until you make some trades and free up roster space. You could try Luke Evangelista up there again, but he has also gotten bullied off the puck a lot this season so you have to be careful about not setting him up for failure.

The difference between Tomasino and Evangelista is clear cut; Tomasino should be much further along and ready for the spotlight, while Evangelista is still very early in the process and still has one more season before becoming a free agent in 2025.

Of the two, Tomasino is more ready for consistent top line chances than Evangelista is at this point. Tomasino and Evangelista are really your only options to try on the top line over Nyquist.

The downside to this is shaking up chemistry this far into the season can backfire, and moving Evangelista to a bottom six role isn't ideal. However, you can't make everything perfect right now and the higher priority should be finding ways to spark Novak, Glass and Tomasino in top six roles.

I'll leave it at this; if you're going to keep playing Tomasino in a fourth line role, then it's probably time to trade him. You're wasting the early years of his career by playing in this current role and I don't see how you re-sign him in the offseason if this is your vision for him.

The old saying is don't fix what isn't broken. Well, things are broken right now, and you need to fix them. Start with the top line.

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