Updated: Oct 7, 2019
The Predators begin their season on Thursday night against the Wild. The game is at 7:00pm at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The Predators made a couple big offseason moves and it will be interesting to see how the moves change the team.
In the offseason, the Preds made two huge moves, one being trading star defenseman, P.K. Subban to the Devils for Steven Santini, prospect Jeremy Davies, a 2019 second-round pick and a 2020 second-round pick. The trade was strictly a move to open up cap space to eventually sign a star forward.
The resulting move was the signing of forward Matt Duchene. With 31 goals and 39 assists last season, Duchene would have been the second leading scorer, 3rd leading assister, and overall point leader on the Predators with 70 points. Duchene will likely center the 2nd line for the beginning of the season. At the Thursday morning skate around, the offensive lines looked like this:
1. Smith Johansen Arvidsson
2. Forsberg Duchene Granlund
3. Grimaldi Turris Jarnkrok
4. Sissons Bonino Watson
Defensive pairings at practice:
Rinne will start his 10th consecutive season with the Predators. I think he will play around 60 games this season, and Juuse Saros will play about 25. I hope Rinne’s age does not show this season but Saros is a great backup and he can start a large portion of the season.
These lines are pretty similar to what I expected but I am still a bit surprised that the JOFA (Johansen, Foresberg, Arvidsson) line was broken up. The line was likely broken up so the Predators would have two, high power lines. Kyle Turris struggled last season, he has practiced with the first and second line and is now projected to start on the third line. I think he will have a bounce back season. I do not necessarily think he will have a huge, record breaking season, but I think he will play better than last season with better players around him.Overall, the lines look good but Laviolette and the coaching staff will certainly not hesitate to switch it up.
Last season the Predators had a few obvious issues that kept them from being a great team:
1. The Power Play
In the playoffs, the Predators did not convert a single Power play. While the Power play killing was good, the predators power play was unimaginative, and just bad overall. The Predators have done multiple things this offseason to address this issue. The team hired Power play specialist coach, Dan Lambert. Lambert was brought in to primarily be in charge of the power play. The power play has looked good in the preseason. The power play line consisted of the best players on the team: Foresberg, Duchene, Johansen, Arvidsson, and Josi. I am hoping this line can score a lot of goals and I think they will. I think a change in coaching and a few additional players will greatly help the power play.
2. Scoring and Offense
This is very broad but scoring in general was a big problem for the Predators. In addition to the power play, depth scoring was a big problem. Outside of occasionally the first line, the Predators greatly struggled to score goals, especially when it mattered most. Hopefully the shift from defense to offense (trading Subban, signing Duchene) will help the general scoring.
Last season, it never felt that everything with the Predators clicked. The team ended the season with a good record but it felt that many things were off. Even when the Predators got to the playoffs, they did not pick up the intensity quite as much as people thought they would. I had the same view as many people which is: Just get to the playoffs and the Predators will turn it around. This never happened due to many problems.
The Predators lost in Game 7 of the first round last season against the Dallas Stars. I think if the Predators were to have another first round exit this season, many people would be upset and Peter Laviolette would be on the hot seat. I love Laviolette but if the Predators do not make a run this year with the talent they have, someone will likely be fired.
My prediction for the Predators this season is making it to the Western Conference Final. In the NHL anything can happen even more so than other leagues. If a few things go badly, maybe the Predators lose in the first round, and maybe if a few things click, the Predators can make it to the cup. I would not completely count out any result, especially this early when the season is just now starting.
My prediction for tonight is a 5-1 Predators win. I think the power play will flourish and the Preds will score one or two empty net goals. Since it's the first game of the season, and it is at home, I think the Predators will play a solid game.
I feel confident in the Predators this season and they should be a very interesting team.