Predators Offseason Brought Much Needed Culture Change

In 2014, the Nashville Predators missed the playoffs for a second consecutive year, sparking changes to shake up the team. Head coach Barry Trotz was let go in favor of Peter Laviolette, and general manager David Poile landed forward James Neal in a blockbuster trade. Almost ten years later, Trotz is back in Nashville, and he’s shaking the very foundation of the organization in his way.

It didn’t take long for the deconstruction of the team, as Ryan Johansen was traded to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk, who eventually left in free agency. The buyout of Matt Duchene allowed for some cap flexibility, leaving the Predators with room to make their additions on July 1. The draft was also quite the success and an honorable send-off for Poile after spending nearly a quarter of a century with the club.

Related: Duchene Buyout Confirms Predators’ Exciting Change of Direction

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Trotz was busy on July 1, bringing in some new faces on multi-year contracts and changing how the team will look in the 2023-24 season. Amidst those changes is the big one behind the bench, bringing in Andrew Brunette to become the Predators’ fourth head coach in franchise history. Due to the shakeup in the locker room, one can expect that the culture shock will play a pivotal role in the Predators’ on-ice results, whether they are positive or negative.

O’Reilly & Nyqust Bring Stability Up Front

The biggest signing of July 1 for Nashville was bringing in Ryan O’Reilly, who departed from the Toronto Maple Leafs after recording nine points in 11 games and helping the team overcome their first-round curse. Bringing in O’Reilly is a net positive, as he brings Stanley Cup experience to the table and helps make up for the hole at centre after the departures of Duchene, Johansen, and Mikael Granlund. He’s recorded 20 goals or more in six of the last eight seasons, including three years with the Buffalo Sabres, and he’s no stranger to defensive play.

Ryan O'Reilly Toronto Maple Leafs
Ryan O’Reilly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Joining O’Reilly is Gustav Nyquist, a former Detroit Red Wing who has since dressed for three teams in the last five years. He’s recorded 50 points or more in three seasons and is a capable secondary scorer, but his experience will play a big part in the next two seasons. At 33, he provides plenty of experience to the forward crop that will help younger players like Cody Glass, who desperately needs veteran guidance on his wing. Denis Gurianov is also an excellent, cheap pickup at under $1 million and will look to relaunch his career at 26.

Schenn Has Inspiring Redemption Story

You won’t find a better redemption story in 2023 than Luke Schenn. After some success in Toronto, the former fifth-overall pick played alongside his brother, Brayden, for a few seasons before things took a turn for the worst. A trade to the Arizona Coyotes started his downfall, leading to him playing with the Anaheim Ducks in the 2018-19 season. Down in the American Hockey League (AHL) and faced with the uncertainty of his NHL career continuing, it was Dallas Eakins who picked up the pieces.

Providing the veteran with some uplifting advice, Schenn paid his dues with the San Diego Gulls and made a good enough impression to earn a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Back-to-back Stanley Cup championships aided the revival of his career, and his time in Vancouver proved he was back with a vengeance. Now in Nashville, he brings a surplus of knowledge and what it means to hit rock bottom and climb back up to the top.

What To Expect From Brunette’s Coaching Style

Andrew Brunette brings an offensive-mindedness that contrasts with the coaching style of John Hynes. As head coach of the Florida Panthers in the 2021-22 season, his focus on scoring and special teams became the catalyst to the team’s success as they captured the Presidents’ Trophy and out-scored everyone else in the league. His unceremonious firing following a second-round sweep left many scratching their heads, but his unwillingness to let it get the best of him led to further success as an associate coach with the New Jersey Devils.

Andrew Brunette New Jersey Devils
Andrew Brunette, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Brunette will have plenty of firepower with the Predators, and his addition to the team’s bench bodes well for an offensive youngster like Luke Evangelista, who prides himself on his scoring ability. Nashville’s additions in the offseason provide a more well-rounded team that can throw out line after line and pile up scoring chances. On the back end, the defense will also have more freedom to join the rush and play with the puck.

The one thing impacted most by Nashville’s sudden change, both on and off the ice, is the culture. O’Reilly is a capable leader with a proven track record, and the complementary players have something to prove. With Brunette at the helm and a refreshed roster, the Predators may be able to turn things around in the 2023-24 season and avoid missing the playoffs for the 10th time in franchise history.

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