We have finally made it to the last edition of Nashville Predators report cards. It has been a long road full of varying grades, but we’re here. Many of these players didn’t touch the ice for extended periods, whether it be due to injury or not being put in the lineup regularly. Still, their impacts were felt in one way or another throughout the season.
Mathieu Olivier was a member of the original “Herd Line” with his partners in crime Yakov Trenin and Colton Sissons before he got hurt. The line was all about hard forechecking and good defense, which is precisely what the “Biloxi Bull” brought to the table. He was the guy that could hit people hard and create chances through physical play. He did provide some good defense, but overall, his play lacked in both ends of the ice. It’s a bit more forgivable because his role wasn’t to play offense, but at some point, it will affect the overall analysis. He totaled five points over 30 games and had the team’s worst goals above replacement (GAR) numbers with a minus-2.6 per Evolving-Hockey. His expected goals above replacement wasn’t much better at minus-0.7. Overall, the regular season wasn’t great, and the fact that he got hurt didn’t help his chances at picking it up.
Olivier only played two playoff games and wasn’t effective at all. He had a well-below average expected goals for percentage (xGF%) at 41.02 percent.
There were times that Olivier looked like he could be a substantial contributor to the Predators’ depth as a whole. However, most of the time, he appeared to be a replacement-level player, and the numbers reflect that idea. I love the physical aspect of his game and his willingness to get in the dirty areas, but there are better options to have in the lineup.
Overall grade: C+
One of those better options is Rem Pitlick. He only played 10 games for the team, but boy, were they eventful. His ability to drive play north, take advantage of possession, and create for his teammates using his speed was something that can’t be taken for granted. Not only was he a decent offensive contributor, but his defense and forechecking are probably the best parts of his game. He performed well in a checking role on the third line, and his numbers reflect that fact. He ended the season with a 0.3 GAR and a 1.6 xGAR, so his contributions are well-documented. His xGF% leads all Predators with a minimum of 100 minutes played at 61.36 percent. It’s fair to say the play swung in the Predators’ favor when he was on the ice.
Pitlick didn’t get playing time in the playoffs, which was supremely unfortunate considering what he had done in the regular season. I would have liked to see him get a shot, even if it was just a couple of games, but sadly we didn’t get that chance.
Overall grade: C+
Mark Borowiecki was the second of two additions to the third pair in the offseason, the other being Matt Benning. He was viewed to be the physical yet defensively capable depth presence. Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out that way for most of the time. He only played 22 regular-season games and tallied a whopping one point. Points were not his main priority, but even his analytics don’t help his case. His even-strength defensive numbers were solid, but his shorthanded defense dragged him down. Overall, he had the second-worst GAR (minus-1.8) and xGAR (minus-2.9) on the team, but I think the analytics are a bit harsh. His xGF% in the regular season wasn’t great either, as he had the worst numbers out of any Predators player at 32.09 percent.
Borowiecki didn’t play in the playoffs either, which was extremely unfortunate considering the bottom pair was Ben Harpur and Erik Gudbranson for multiple games. The Predators missed his physicality and grit alongside Benning throughout the regular season.
Overall grade: D+
Jeremy Davies was one of the pieces in the P.K. Subban trade to the New Jersey Devils. He sat in the minors for a fair amount of time but finally got his shot after substantial injuries to the blue line. He played a total of 16 games and recorded only one point, but his overall performance was better than the point totals suggest. Not only did he look extremely comfortable in his first NHL game quarterbacking the first power-play unit, but there were very few mistakes off of his stick. His GAR number was decent at 0.7, but his xGAR faltered to minus-1.1. He was around replacement level in total, and some of his bad numbers could be because of his partner, Harpur. He had a slightly below average xGF% at 46.32 percent, but once again, I think it has something to do with who he was partnered with within the time that he played.
Just like the last two players, Davies didn’t hit the ice during the postseason. Once most everybody on the back end came back, he was finished. Hopefully, his role for the team increases next season.
Overall grade: B-
The only acceptable way to cap off these report cards is with Pekka Rinne. The big Finnish netminder has been the backbone of Predators teams through the years, but we saw his second straight season of being the backup to Juuse Saros. However, unlike his last season, Rinne played at a solid level for a backup. He posted a .907 save percentage (SV%), and even though goals saved above expected (GSAx) wasn’t kind to him, as he tallied a minus-10, I think he was better than that number suggests. Of course, with age comes decline, and he has hit that point, but if he chooses to stay one more season, I don’t think many would be opposed.
Rinne had to watch from the bench as his heir apparent got the starts in the postseason. The possible last game of his career was a 5-0 shutout of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Overall grade: B
That’s officially the end of the 2020-21 season report cards for the Predators. The support on these is always appreciated, and I enjoyed reviewing each player’s season. There were many exciting storylines and statistics in both the regular season and playoffs, which is fitting considering what everyone has had to go through.
Jeff is a consistent source for Predators and Red Wings content here at The Hockey Writers. He enjoys watching all sorts of hockey from juniors to the pros and playing for his high school and local teams in Nashville. He’s a big proponent of hockey analytics, and you’ll often see him using lots of statistics and data to back up his main talking points. You can find his work here, or check out his contributions on his own Substack, or at Last Word on Hockey and On the Forecheck. Lastly, you can listen to him on the Youth Movement Podcast presented by On the Forecheck or the Triple Shift Podcast. For any inquiries about interviews or questions about statistics, analytics, or just general hockey opinions you can message his Twitter, @jjmid04.