The NHL has greenlit a new divisional alignment for the upcoming 2021 season, putting the Columbus Blue Jackets in a Central Division with some new - and old - friends. In this series, we'll familiarize (or in some cases, refamiliarize) ourselves with the Central Division foes. Today, we're taking a look at the Nashville Predators.
- All-Time Regular Season Record vs. NSH: 87 GP, 27-59-1 (W-L-OTL)
- All-Time Playoff Record vs. NSH: The Blue Jackets and the Predators have not met in the postseason.
- Last Season vs. NSH: 0-0-1
Last Season Skinny
The Predators didn't have a great season last year, finishing 35-26-8, which was good enough for fifth in the Central Division. On January 6th, with a record of 19-15-7, they fired head coach Peter Laviolette and named John Hynes coach the next day.
They made it to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, but they lost in four games to Arizona. Led by Norris Trophy winner Roman Josi, the Predators relied on a strong blue line. Consistent goaltending was tough to find, as Pekka Rinne had a down year and Juuse Saros was only incrementally better.
Their scoring depth was solid. The Predators had ten players score ten goals or more, led by Filip Forsberg (21), Nick Bonino (18), Craig Smith (18), Mikael Granlund (17), and Josi (16). Old friend Ryan Johansen registered 14-22-36, while our other old pal Matt Duchene notched 13-29-42.
The Predators stocked up on defensive depth, adding free agents Mark Borowiecki and Matt Benning. They also swapped centers, sending Bonino, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Minnesota Wild in return for Luke Kunin and a 2020 fourth-round pick. Erik Haula was a good pick-up in free agency.
- D Matt Benning (Free agent, formerly with EDM)
- D Mark Borowiecki (Free agent, formerly with OTT)
- C Nick Cousins (Free agent, formerly with VGK)
- C Luke Kunin (Trade with MIN)
- C Erik Haula (Free agent, formerly with Florida)
- D Dan Hamhuis (Retired)
- C Kyle Turris (Waived)
- C Nick Bonino (Trade with MIN)
- C Craig Smith (Signed with BOS)
The Predators have the talent to compete in the Central Division, but goaltending will likely determine how far they can go. Their offensive and defensive depth are good enough, but can the Saros/Rinne tandem find a way to deliver consistency?
Bonino and Smith were leaders, and it's tough to replace a locker room presence. In John Hynes' first full season with the team, developing chemistry and consistent lines and pairings will be key. There is a surplus of talent, but it'll have to be arranged the right way.
To put it bluntly, the Predators are clearly better than the Blackhawks and Red Wings. They're probably better than Florida. It's tough to say who comes on on top between the Predators, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets, and it'll likely be those three teams vying for two playoff spots behind the Lightning and the Stars. The Predators have the roster of a playoff team, but it comes down to execution.