Thursday, December 31, 2020

Nashville Predators 2020-21 Season Preview

 


       After two first place finishes in a row, but one series win, the pressure was high on the Predators entering 2019-20. When they came out slow, it cost Head Coach Peter Laviolette his job. The Predators hired failed Devils coach John Hynes, and the team didn't get much better. They slumped into fifth place, and with a chance at redemption, they fell to the Coyotes in four games. The Predators made a bunch of minor additions in the offseason, including bringing in the guy who scored the goal to end their season.

Additions: F Nick Cousins, D Mark Borowiecki, F Luke Kunin, D Matt Benning, F Erik Haula, F Brad Richardson.

Subtractions: F Nick Bonino, F Kyle Turris, F Austin Watson, F Colin Blackwell, F Dan Carr, D Dan Hamhuis. 

Best Move: Signing Erik Haula to a one year deal.

Worst Move: Trading Nick Bonino, a 2nd and a 3rd round pick to Minnesota for Luke Kunin and a 4th round pick. 

One Move I'd Make: Extend Juuse Saros for two years.

Best Contract: Viktor Arvidsson, four years remaining with a $4.25 million cap hit.

Worst Contract: Ryan Johansen, five years remaining with an $8 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Tampa Bay.

Pending UFAs: Pekka Rinne, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Brad Richardson, Jarred Tinordi.

Pending RFAs: Juuse Saros, Dante Fabbro, Eeli Tolvanen.

Current RFAs: Luke Kunin.


Forwards

The Predators only had one 20 goal scorer in 2019-20, which is a little bit problematic. That goal scorer was Filip Forsberg, who potted 21 in 63 games, his lowest game total since becoming a regular. Forsberg has reached the 20 goal plateau in each of his six full seasons. After scoring 34 goals in 58 games in 2018-19, Viktor Arvidsson took a big step back last year, scoring 15 in 57 games. Arvidsson's point total of 28 was his lowest since 2015-16. Ryan Johansen scored 14 goals, but his 36 point total was his lowest as a Predator. Johansen had a very high 53.2 face-off percentage. He'll still get the first line center nod over Matt Duchene, who had a disappointing first season in Nashville. Duchene scored 13 goals with 42 points in 66 games. Over his career, his 66 game average totals are 20 goals and 49 points. The Predators took months to bring back Mikael Granlund, who played with Duchene last year and scored 17 goals in 63 games. His game total and 17:48 average ice time were lowest totals since 2013-14. Former first round pick Eeli Tolvanen has tried to transition to the NHL but has failed for the past few years. He's still only 21, and scored 21 goals in 63 AHL games last year. Tolvanen has played in this KHL season, and had 13 points in 25 games. The Predators signed Erik Haula, who used to be teammates with Granlund in Minnesota. Haula is a two-way center who scored 12 goals in 41 games for Carolina last year before a trade to Florida. In 2017-18, his last season with over 50 games played, Haula scored 29 goals. Another former Wild, Luke Kunin was never teammates with Haula, but could be on his line this year. Kunin scored a career high 15 goals in 63 games with 31 points last year, but he had an ugly 45.3 CF%. Calle Jarnkrok scored 15 goals with 34 points in 64 games, and hit the 15 goal mark for the fourth time in the past five seasons. With Haula in the mix, Jarnkrok should be a full-time winger in 2020-21. The fourth line will be a mix of 4-5 players. Of those players, Rocco Grimaldi had the most points with 31, with 10 of them being goals. The five-foot-six winger has seen his role increase over the past two seasons. Between Montreal and Vegas last year, Nick Cousins scored 10 goals with 25 points, and had a 54.6 CF%. He had five assists in Vegas' 17 game playoff run, earning him a two-year contract in Nashville. Colton Sissons is under contract for the next six years, although last year he was mostly a defensive specialist. Sissons had 15 points in 57 games, but only Nick Bonino spent more time on the penalty kill among Predator forwards than Sissons. Brad Richardson scored just two goals in the postseason for Arizona in his five years there, but one of them ended the Predators' season. He proved that his 19 goal 2018-19 was a fluke last year, when he scored just six goals in 59 games. He won 54 percent of his face-offs, but he had an awful CF% of 42.5%. 2015 second rounder Yakov Trenin debuted as a rotation player last year, getting into 21 games. He had two goals with four assists. 

Defensemen

Roman Josi had received Norris votes for years, but finally won the award in 2019-20, when he posted career highs in goals (16), assists (49) and points (65) in 69 games. Josi had a 52.6 CF%, and he averaged nearly 26 minutes on ice a game. The Predators have to be satisfied with their top pairing of Josi and Ryan Ellis, who had 38 points in 49 games in 2019-20. His analytics are absolutely insane, as he had a 23.2 GAR, and Evolving-Hockey estimated his worth last year at $20.2 million (!!). While he had 33 points in 68 games, Mattias Ekholm is a defensive defenseman. He had a CF% over 50 for the sixth consecutive season, and no Predator spent more time on the penalty kill than him, at two minutes and 49 seconds a game. After trading away PK Subban, the Predators relied on rookie Dante Fabbro, who didn't blow anyone away. Fabbro had 11 points in 68 games, and excelled a lot more defensively than offensively. To ease the load on the right side, the Predators brought in Matt Benning, the son of Canucks GM Jim Benning. Over his four year career, Benning's average GAR is 7.45. He had eight points in 43 games for Edmonton last year, and was underutilized. Mark Borowiecki finally left Ottawa, where he was universally beloved. Borowiecki scored seven goals last year, and he only had multiple goals in one of his previous eight seasons. He is very physical, with 199 hits and 58 penalty minutes in 53 games. Jarred Tinordi played in 28 games last year, and before that he hadn't played in an NHL game since 2015-16. Tinordi scored once, his only goal over his five career seasons. The Predators acquired a former teammate of Borowiecki in Ben Harpur in a minor deal at the deadline. Harpur played in 103 games over four seasons for the Senators, but didn't appear in a game last year.

Goalies

Goaltending is a big question for the Predators, with Pekka Rinne expected to be Juuse Saros' 1A again. Entering his 15th season, all for the Predators, the 38 year old former Vezina winner posted the worst numbers of his career last year, with an .895 SV%, a 3.17 GAA and a -14.22 GSAA. Saros outplayed Rinne, and replaced him in the postseason. The 25 year old had a .914 SV% in his fourth full NHL season. 


Projected Lines

Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson

Eeli Tolvanen - Matt Duchene - Mikael Granlund

Calle Jarnkrok - Erik Haula - Luke Kunin

Rocco Grimaldi - Nick Cousins - Colton Sissons

Extras: Brad Richardson, Yakov Trenin


Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm - Dante Fabbro 

Matt Borowiecki - Matt Benning

Extras: Jarred Tinordi, Ben Harpur


Projection

The Predators saw their success slip away from them last year, and they were bailed out by the pandemic to get to the playoffs. They didn't show much in Edmonton, and now as they enter a division with one more team than they are used to, their job gets harder. The door is closing on Nashville's window, and a sixth place finish, as a I project, will not help that window stay open. 

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