After the moves that were made in the offseason and as we head into the preseason and regular season, there are still a lot of questions in Smashville. There were not a lot of big splashes in free agency, and while the focus of GM David Poile was to get younger, which they did, one of the other focuses was to remain competitive, which still remains to be seen.
However some of those questions: can they get more goals? Will the defense remain solid? Can Juuse Saros follow up the shortened season with a solid full season campaign?
Scoring: Can They Get More Goals?
So for the Predators, the one knock on them for quite some time is that they do not have a guy who is there to score goals. There were mentions of some available goal scorers who would have been an interesting fit for the Preds, such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Matthew Tkachuk, and Tomas Tatar. However, those options didn’t come into play at all, and while there is FIlip Forsberg, who is one of Poile’s priorities for a new deal has had some hot streaks which have been derailed by injuries over the past few years, Nashville hasn’t had many big time goal scorers.
Forsberg did share the single-season franchise goal record with Jason Arnott with 33 in 2015-16 before it was broken by the now-departed Viktor Arvidsson in 2018-19 with 34. With Arvidsson gone to Los Angeles, there’s opportunity for players to get more goals, as Nashville ranked 20th in goals scored last season (156) and was second worst in the Central Division to Detroit’s 127. It will be interesting to see who can be that guy going forward.
Nashville acquired Cody Glass in a trade this summer, and if he stays healthy, he can give this offense a big jolt. The sixth overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Glass only played 66 games in two seasons with Vegas, scoring nine goals and dishing out 13 assists. With the opportunity in a new place, and only 22 years old, there’s plenty to love and be optimistic about. They also extended Mikael Granlund with a four-year, $20 million contract after his solid play for the Preds over the past two seasons. After the development camp, the buzz is that Philip Tomasino had a great camp, and there’s definitely a lot to like surrounding him. You can’t mention forwards and goals without Eeli Tolvanen, who was a machine on the power play. If he can get the same energy while the Preds are on even strength, the sky is the limit.
Defense: Will They Remain Solid?
After the trade of Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers, it does take away some of the firepower that the Predators have from the point, but the Predators are still in solid shape here. They still have their captain, Roman Josi, along with the other priority for David Poile in terms of re-signing in Mattias Ekholm. Dante Fabbro also received his contract extension, solidifying his future for a couple more years in Smashville. Considering John Hynes is more of a defensive coach, not losing too much on defense. The Preds still have Mark Borowiecki and Matt Benning, both of who are on the final year of their two-year contracts.
There are some welcomed additions to the defense: David Farrance is going to be on the roster after being selected in the third round of the 2017 Draft and having a stellar career at Boston University. The Ellis trade brought in Philippe Myers from the Flyers, who was starting to come into form in the 2019-20 season for the Flyers before the pandemic ended the season. In 50 games, he had four goals and 12 assists. In 44 games this past season, the numbers didn’t really replicate, (1G, 10A) but he definitely will be great for the depth in this position. Add the rapid and continued development of Alexandre Carrier and Ben Harpur, two big parts of the second-half surge last season, the defense looks like they will be in great shape.
Can Juuse Saros Follow Up the Shortened Seasons With a Solid Full Season Campaign?
In the last two seasons since Juuse Saros started the transition to becoming the full-time starter, there have been a couple of obvious things: 1) he does not have a good first half to the season; 2) he has a stellar second half to the season. And that is not entirely on him though, as last season, our Predators coverage really focused on the anemic offense and lack of special teams that really hindered Saros from having a good start to the season. But in the latter half of the 2019-20 season before the pandemic suspended the season, Saros was figuring it out. And last season, he was one of the best goalies in the second half of the year, giving him All Star votes, Vezina Trophy votes for Best Goaltender, and even a place in the Hart Memorial Trophy votes for the Most Valuable Player. All of that work ended up giving him a four-year, $20 million contract.
Saros will have the help from the defensemen, I know he took all of the knowledge and teachings that Pekka Rinne taught him before retiring and if anybody is the right guy for the Preds for the post-Rinne era (and maybe the pre-Askarov era), it’s this guy. He has to have a lot of confidence going into knowing that he’s the top guy in a place that he’s comfortable in and he won’t have to worry about looking over his shoulder for at least a few years. Should the Predators get some offense at the start of the season and be consistent throughout, they could definitely have the potential to stay competitive in this process as they look to get younger and better.
Overall, Nashville did some things that do not seem like it’s a lot, but they may have brought in more quality than quantity. They didn’t get worse off, but they’re not a whole lot better, just a little better. But games are played on the ice, and in October, after the preseason and roster moves and cuts, we’ll see what they truly have and maybe revisit this.
Questions or comments, comment below, or find me on Twitter @ddunhamjr!
Nashville Predators writer. Graduate of North Carolina A&T State University and Northeastern University. Been into hockey since NHL 94 and not knowing what I was doing to having a pretty good idea of how to play. Based in Nashville since 2015. Sharks fan.