Our Nashville Predators 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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Nashville has definitely taken a step back since they won the President’s Trophy in 2018. This past season the team went 31-23-2 for 64 points, good enough for 4th in the Central Division and a playoff berth. The team they beat out for that spot was the Dallas Stars who really should have earned that spot but could not win in overtime or shootouts all season. Nashville snuck into playoffs and then got beat in the first round by the Carolina Hurricanes in six games. Nashville made it a great series though with four of the games going to overtime, including two double overtimes.
During the regular season the team struggled to score, both at even strength and special teams. They were 22nd in the league for goals for with 151, and their powerplay was a dismal 17.6% effective, putting them at 23rd in the league. You can tell they weren’t a particularly offensive team by looking at the point totals for the skaters on the team.
The top 10 on the team looks pretty disappointing to be honest. Roman Josi really saw his point production drop after his Norris winning season in 2019-2020 where he was nearly a point per game with 65 points in 69 games. Filip Forsberg looked great for the team, sometimes being the only person scoring, but he missed significant time. Trade rumours also swirled around the team, including Forsberg. At one point the rumour was everyone on the team except Rinne, Josi and Ellis were available. With everyone struggling as illustrated by the point totals above, its not surprising that Nashville didn’t have a lot of offers they were jumping at. To have no single player above 13 goals on the team is incredibly lackluster. The top forwards on the team are paid far too much to have such dismal production. Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene both make $8 million per season and aren’t even in the top 5 for points. Duchene isn’t even in the top 10, he finished the season with just 13 points in 34 games. So because values were at low for these players, they instead focused on playing to make playoffs and beat out some other teams in the race. The one bright side of that chart is that Eeli Tolvanen started to make an impact, which is great because Nashville needed him to take a step forward.
The team also struggled on the penalty kill, where they had a terrible 75.6% kill rate. Which places them at 29th in the league. However, the goals against overall were quite good at only 154 for 11th in the league. This is better than you might expect, but it still is a negative goal differential for the team. It speaks to how good Jusse Saros was for the team. This season he fully eclipsed Pekka Rinne as starter for the team, which is good because Rinne really struggled at times. Saros really shined. He had a slow start but really took off. He finished the season with 35 starts, 21 wins, a goals against average of 2.28 and a save percentage of 0.927. He was in the top 5 goaltenders in the league for save percentage, and goals saved above average. And he was top 10 in the league for goals against average, shutouts, saves, and wins. Outstanding year for him.
The story of the offseason was the loss of some veterans of the team. They lost Calle Jarnkrok in the expansion draft to Seattle. He was tied for top of the club last season for goals, so it hurts to lose him. They also had Pekka Rinne retire. The career Predator was probably ready for a while and hung in to make sure Saros was ready. Congratulations to Rinne for a hell of a career, and on the honour of being the most recent goalie to score a goal! The team made some waves when they dealt Viktor Arvidsson to the LA Kings for a 2021 2nd round pick and a 2022 3rd round pick. Filip Forsberg showed some frustration on social media when this happened, so it may have been something not well received in the room. Arvidsson has definitely struggled as well as most of the team, but considering his cap hit is about half of Duchene and Johansen hes far more palatable to other teams looking to bring in talent. In a three team treade, they also moved Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers for Phillipe Myers and Nolan Patrick, and Patrick was then sent to the Vegas Golden Knights for Cody Glass. So veteran defenseman Ryan Ellis out, Myers and Glass in. Let’s take a look at the other additions and subtractions.
- David Rittich
- Philippe Myers
- Cody Glass
- Matt Luff
- Matt Tennyson
- Pekka Rinne
- Ryan Ellis
- Erik Haula
- Calle Jarnkrok
- Viktor Arvidsson
- Brad Richardson
- Erik Gudbranson
Could Nashville’s offensive depth be even worse this season? Jarnkrok and Arvidsson are 2 of the team’s top four forwards in terms of point totals from last season. Haula was in the top 10 for points on the team as well. The Predators brought in Cody Glass as a young offensive player to replace this loss and that’s really it. They’ll be expecting large bounds forward from some young players like Cody Glass, Eeli Tolvanen, and Rocco Grimaldi. Despite the low points totals all around last season, to me this looks like a loss of depth on the front end. It will be a development year for all these young players as they will be getting more ice time overall.
The top six has been reduced to two thirds of the players from last season. The JOFA line of Johansen, Forsberg and Arvidsson is no more. Calle Jarnkrok, Luke Kunin and Mikael Granlund was actually the team’s most stable forward line at even strength last season, with the most minutes together. They had 239 minutes played together and after that its a huge drop off to the second closest at only 150 minutes together for the JOFA line. So both of these lines can’t be put together so some new players will have to be thrust into the roles. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it, Nashville had to do a lot of line jumbling last season due to injuries. This means they tried a lot of combinations and might have a leg up on what to try going into the season. The most obvious solution is to try Matt Duchene in the top six, but he should have to earn it over anyone else. His 13 points last season was terrible. Eeli Tolvanen should jump up into one of those vacant spots as well.
The third line is likely to be comprised of Rocco Grimaldi, Cody Glass, and Nick Cousins. With the fourth line being a mix of Tanner Jeannot, Colton Sissons, Mathieu Olivier, Yakov Trenin or Matt Luff.
Honestly this offense could be just as poor as last year. It really depends if some of the teams highest paid forwards return to form and if these young players excel in the opportunity.
Nashville has historically been pretty strong at defense, and this year that may come to a change. The top end talent of Josi and Ekholm is still there, but the loss of Ellis is pretty huge. Josi and Ellis played close to 400 minutes together last season, as the number one pairing. The team is used to playing without him due to his injury trouble, but the replacement talent brought in or coming up is a drop off.
Does Alexandre Carrier, who played a lot of time with Matthias Ekholm step up into the number one pairing? Could be risky for a defenseman with under 25 NHL games under his belt. They received Philippe Myers in the trade that saw Ellis leave town, and while he’s a competent defenseman, the offensive part of his game won’t compare to Ellis. The other possible replacement is Dante Fabbro, who played almost the same amount of minutes with Ekholm that Carrier did. Can he take the increased role? He’ll have to take a step forward to play in the top four.
So Ekholm and Josi are within the top four, but it’s unknown going into the season who they will play with.
The most often seen third pairing last season was Mark Borowiecki and Matt Benning. Both these guys are still around but one or both could be bumped down into a healthy scratch status with Myers, Fabbro and Carrier all looking for a spot.
They’ve also got the massive 6’6″ Ben Harpur and journeyman Matt Tennyson in the ranks available to call up.
Depending how the young players and Myers fit in, this could go either way on the blueline. Josi needs to return to form offensively as well to pick up the loss of Ellis.
Saros is the number one. After his last season that is without question. The team had Rinne retire and they brought in David Rittich. Rittich did not look great last season in Calgary or Toronto so he will be looking to improve his numbers to stick around.
Beyond Rittich the team has an interesting third option in Connor Ingram. This could be the year he gets a look in the NHL. It’s been a tough road for him since he backstopped Canada at the World Jr. tournament in 2016-2017. I’m pulling for him to make it still.
Nashville Predators 2021-22 Prediction
In a tough Central Division Nashville is going to have a tough time returning to the playoffs. Barring some outstanding seasons from some of the team’s youth and a return to form for some veterans I don’t see Nashville being competitive this year. Juuse Saros will do his best to will this team to playoffs, but if the offense struggles as poorly as it did last season, he just won’t get enough run support. There’s too many question marks with Nashville to earn a vote of confidence going into the season. How can their forward group bounce back? Will the youth perform? What will their top two defensive pairings look like? All these point toward a season where trade rumours will creep back in and the team will look to earn a good draft option in a deep draft.
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