Our Nashville Predators 2020-21 Preview is part of a one-a-day series covering the entire NHL. Click here for the rest of the teams in the leadup to another action-packed NHL season!
Nashville finished 5th in the Central Division with a 45-26-8 record and 78 points. Their season ended when they lost in the Qualifying Round of the 2020 NHL playoffs to the Arizona Coyotes (Or the Arizona Darcy Kuempers) 3 games to 1.
Nashville had issues with scoring this year. They were only 17th in the NHL for goals for with 215, and they were also 17th in the NHL for best goals against with 217. They actually ended up with a negative goal differential which many people will tell you is a sure fire way of telling good teams from bad ones. I’m not sold on that but the proof is really in the pudding in this case. The top end forwards of the team really struggled to generate offense with Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Matt Duchene all regressing from last season’s point per game pace. In the case of Johansen and Arvidsson it was quite a significant decrease in production. The team generated offense from the blue line, with Roman Josi showing his leadership abilities and scoring prowess, getting a team leading 65 points in 69 games. This was good enough to earn his first Norris trophy for best defenseman in the NHL (John Carlson was robbed). Ryan Ellis also had 38 points in 49 games, but unfortunately injured with a Corey Perry’s elbow to the head in the outdoor winter classic and missed some time. His absence was definitely missed.
In 2018-2019 Pekka Rinne posted a .918 save percentage and a 2.42 GAA. This season he played 20 less games and had a .895 save percentage and a 3.17 GAA. The 37 year old goaltender has definitely slowed down, which in turn led to that goal differential. Pekka Rinne did arguably have the highlight of the season for the Preds though, when he scored the first goalie goal since 2013!
The bright side is that Juuse Saros stepped up and in 40 games had a respectable .914 and a 2.70 GAA, showing he is a capable netminder in his own right.
The team also struggled significantly on special teams. On the powerplay, the team only had a paltry 17.3% effective rate. This puts the team right in the basement and bottom 7 of the entire league. I can’t decide what’s worse. That, or the fact the team had a 76.1% penalty kill, which tied them with the Ottawa Senators…okay that’s worse.
Despite the underperformances, it still came as a bit of a shock when in January 2020 the team fired head coach Peter Laviolette while the team was 19-15-7. General Manager David Poile said a week before the firing he was not contemplating any coaching changes, so remember to never believe anything a GM says. Lavy was 248-143-60 with the Predators and helped guide hem to the franchise first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2017 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Laviolette is not known as a specifically long ternured coach with any team, and tends to have immediate success which tapers off after a few years. We all know coaches are the first head to roll too, and sometimes you need to spark an underperforming team to get better results.
Which is why I was even more surprised when they hired John Hynes. Hynes had been fired from the head coach gig of New Jersey Devils in December 2019. With the Devils he was 150-159-45 in 5+ seasons. He hadn’t done anything particularly noteworthy in New Jersey and didn’t have a lot of experience on successful teams. After the coaching change, Hines ended up going 16-11-1 before the Covid break ended the regular season. He ended up losing in the qualifying round to the Coyotes. Keep in mind all the stats above are season long and take into account both Laviolette and Hines tenure during the season. This hiring really was a head scratcher for me.
- Brad Richardson
- Matt Benning
- Mark Borowiecki
- Nick Cousins
- Luke Kunin
- Dan Hamhuis retired
- Yannick Weber
- Craig Smith
- Mikael Granlund (unsigned)
- Frederick Gaudreau
- Korbinian Holzer
- Nick Bonino
- Kyle Turris
- Austin Watson
Nashville Predators Roster Preview
The issue I see this team having with the current roster, is scoring, both primary and secondary., but I don’t think we are seeing the final version of the roster at this point. Nashville currently has 9 forwards signed. 10 if you count Luke Kunin who was brought in with the Nick Bonino trade to Minnesota. but he is still an RFA and has no contract.
The team has a first line of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Vikor Arvidsson. They all had down years, and mixed the lines up a lot due to injuries and poor performance. If they play together again let’s hope they can return to career norms.
Matt Duchene is a solid piece on the second line that signed a long term deal with the club last off season. One issue the team is faced with right now is that Duchene has limited options to play with on line two. I’m guessing that newcomer Luke Kunin who earned 31 points in 63 games signs a deal and gets to slot in here, but there’s a definite need for someone else. They currently have about $13 million in cap space, so I think they should be focusing on bringing in someone else to play here. They could afford to sign a player like Mike Hoffman with the cap space they have left. Its definitely doable, reunite the Senators teammates of Hoffman and Duchene on the second line! If they don’t bring someone in maybe Rocco Grimaldi or once-hyped up prospect Eeli Tolvanen gets a second look.
Craig Smith, Nick Bonino and Rocco Grimaldi were one of the most consistent lines this team had last season. Two thirds of that line are now gone, so Hynes is going to have to do his best to come up with some more consistency here. Rocco Grimaldi earned 31 points in 66 games and is looking for new linemates. If he doesn’t move onto the second line with Duchene and Kunin he’ll start out on line 3. He won’t have Kyle Turris as an option, and it’s also looking like he won’t have Mikael Granlund to either. After years of trade rumours, Turris was finally bought out by the team and signed in Edmonton. Granlund is a UFA and could sign elsewhere. I’m not entirely optimistic in Hynes’ ability to come back from losing 4 of the top 9 forwards but Nick Cousins and Calle Jarnkrok will likely round out the line with Grimaldi. Yakov Trenin, Brad Richardson, and Colton Sissons will compete for the rest of the roster spots.
The aforementioned terrible penalty kill has lost a few members. Bonino averaged 2:36 per game on the penalty kill. They also lost Korbinian Holzer Kunin averaged 1:23 per game on the penalty kill in Minnesota so he should see time out there along with Colton Sissons, and Calle Jarnkrok. Austin Watson also saw some PK time and left town. Hopefully it isn’t as bad as it was this season.
This season the defense will look a little different with no Dan Hamhuis, Matt Irwin, or Yannick Weber. Instead this season, they’ll have a bottom pairing of Mark Borowiecki and Matt Benning or Jarred Tinordi. Dante Fabbro, who’s coming off his first full season with the club will remain on the second pairing with his d partner, Mattias Ekholm.
Captain, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis will form up the first pairing. It don’t think defense will be the issue on this team with two solid pairings.
We could be poised to see Pekka Rinne’s last season with the Predators. The career Predator is on the last year of his deal and his numbers appear to be in nose-dive. Juuse Saros should have the reigns as starter coming into the season, but can he repeat his numbers from last season? This is a big year for him too, because he is a pending RFA at the end of the season and could be due for a big pay day depending on his performance.
Nashville Predators 2020-2021 Prediction
4th-5th Central Division
Nashville has seen a lot of turnover and I’m not sold on the replacements filling out the lineup. The team is banking on their star players all having bounce back seasons and consistent goaltending out of still-green starter Juuse Saros. This will also be the first full season of head coach John Hynes. Seems like a lot of things have to go right for the club to remain relevant, and the odds are against them with a lot of teams really improving in their division.
If Nashville doesn’t go deep this year I’m curious if they start to think about a new GM after having stuck with David Poile since day 1 of the franchise in 1997.
That concludes our Nashville Predators 2020-21 Preview. Check to see if your team has been covered yet in our 2020-21 Season Preview Series.
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