As the NHL trade deadline approaches quickly, it is important to know where all of your division rivals stand. As Editor of Bleedin’ Blue, I reached out to the editors of our fellow Fansided NHL networks within the Central Division to get their input on where their teams stand. Third in our installment is the Nashville Predators thanks to Jason Kirk at Predlines.
The Nashville Predators have not had the season that many expected them to have. With the deadline quickly approaching, do you think that the Preds will be buyers to try and make a run for the cup, or will they be sellers and begin a slight rebuild?
It’s still up in the air right now. David Poile was recently quoted as asking the team to make him a buyer at the deadline and not a seller. He has a history of making those kinds of moves in the past (Peter Forsberg, Mike Fisher, Hal Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn) so if the team moved closer to contention and he found a good one, he might pull the trigger.
But right now the roster is in too transitional a state to quickly and easily build a Cup contender with just one trade. If they lose too often over the next two weeks or so, it isn’t hard to imagine that Poile might sell off a few parts for draft picks. I don’t think we’re going to see any blockbuster moves, though. There’s just not enough strength to deal from.
What are the biggest holes you see in their roster that need to be filled at the trade deadline in order to make the playoffs?
They need a veteran puck-moving defenseman to play alongside Shea Weber, but those don’t grow on trees. Scoring is a consistent issue, too. But in a lot of ways that’s tied to the lack of the 2D to make good first passes.
Who on the Preds roster is on their way out of Nashville? Has anyone worn out their welcome?
Among the fan base there is a lot of frustration with some of the veteran players. Last year’s leading scorer Martin Erat is third on the team in points but hasn’t scored a goal in nearly a month and a half. David Legwand has disappointed on offense, which is often expected around here, and has been uncharacteristically lacking on defense this season to boot. But Erat has a no-movement clause and Legwand has a no-trade, so it’s unlikely either is going anywhere.
Who are the untouchables on the Predators roster in your point-of-view?
The Big Two, obviously, but beyond them it’s most of the blue-chip talent they picked up in the draft a few years back. Colin Wilson has really come into his own, and Barry Trotz says Roman Josi is better at his age than Ryan Suter was. I’d like to think Ryan Ellis is untouchable, too, since he’s looked pretty good in his 16:16 per night.
Do you think the Preds can turn around their season and make the playoffs in a tightly contested Western Conference, or will they miss the playoffs this season?
I think they absolutely have it in them to make the playoffs, mostly because the point spread between playoff teams and draft lottery teams is going to be so slim. But the Preds’ defense is among the best in the league, and even a small uptick in offense over another 22 games could be enough to settle them into a 7th- or 8th-seed.
If you had to place the blame for the lack of success in Nashville this season, who would it land on? Is David Poile to blame for letting Ryan Suter walk? Is it Shea Weber because his contract limits the moves the team can make? Is it longtime coach Barry Trotz?
There’s definitely been some grumbling among fans about Trotz and Poile this season. I think Trotz is mostly making the best of what he’s been given, which is his M.O. Poile is more deserving of the blame. After all, he’s the one who’s gone “all-in” with his moves two years running to build playoff teams that fell short, especially last year’s disappointing meltdown in the Conference Semifinal.
As for the Suter debacle, it really shouldn’t factor in. A lot of people feel that Suter knew what he was going to do the whole time, which probably isn’t too far from the truth. Poile certainly seemed shocked when Suter opted for Minnesota. It’s hard to think he would get so emotional if he didn’t really expect Suter to come back to Nashville.
Do you think that the Nashville Predators are going to shake up their management staff at all in the near future?
If things go south this season, I think it ownership will mostly write it off as a product of constant injury to top players (Patric Hornqvist, Colin Wilson) and the lockout-shortened schedule. This franchise has never been one to make rash decisions and I don’t think having a middling team after a 48-game schedule is going to change that. If next year saw similar results over a full season schedule, though, talk of making a change would certainly intensify.
As a Nashville fan, what is your impression of this year’s St. Louis Blues?
I really expected them to be quite a bit better over the first half of the season, especially after their strong start. (Losing Jaroslav Halak didn’t help matters, I know.) Right now it looks like they’re getting back toward being the kind of team I thought they could be, especially since Jake Allen stepped up. Vladimir Tarasenko was exciting to watch in the three games with the Preds; I’m sure you’ll all be glad when he returns to full strength.
Next season will be a much different story than this shortened year; who, if any, of the Predators prospects could make the team next season? Are there any names we should know?
Most of the young guys the Preds will be depending on in the near future are already with the team: Colin Wilson, Craig Smith, Roman Josi, and Ryan Ellis. The most promising players in Milwaukee probably at least a year or two from being asked to step in at the NHL level – again, part of that whole “patient front office” M.O. the Preds have. But within two years I wouldn’t be surprised to see some or all of Austin Watson, Taylor Beck, Mattias Ekholm, and Michael Latta putting in some time with the big club.
I want to thank Jason for his time and information for this segment and welcome everyone to check out his work over at Predlines. Also check out our pieces on the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks for more information and stayed tuned for the next post on the Columbus Blue Jackets.
LET’S GO BLUES!