The Nashville Predators sit near the bottom of the NHL standings, but that’s only one of the painful things fans are dealing with this season.
The Nashville Predators were widely believed to be legitimate Cup contenders moving into the 2016-17 season, and now the hockey world seems to be sharply recoiling its positive energy towards the team. It’s much to early to chalk up the season as anything definitive, but the negative backlash has sadly been well deserved thus far.
Through eight games the Nashville Predators stand at 2-5-1. That’s good for 5 points, the second lowest total in the NHL. Only the Arizona Coyotes come in below Smashville, and both teams share a -9 team plus/minus with the Toronto Maple Leafs, creating a three-way tie for the worst goal differential in the league.
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Perhaps more concerning than the standings, however, is the difficulty for finding anything positive about the Preds play. The dynamic forward corps Nashville carried into the season has gone MIA, with Filip Forsberg, James Neal, and Ryan Johansen combining for one solitary goal on the year- and that came in the form of a Neal deflection in San Jose after the team was already down 3-0.
Pekka Rinne has seemingly read each and every review of his play in recent years and decided that the word ‘inconsistent’ hadn’t appeared enough, doubling down on his efforts to be just that this season. Rinne has looked both brilliant and entirely absent from the net at times (literally)- occasionally running the gamut within a single game.
Each 42-save effort is immediately undermined by a number of softballs finding their way into the net. Rinne, traditionally an elite puck-handling goaltender, has also developed a penchant for wandering well away from his goal to mishandle a puck, allowing a scoring opportunity into a wholly vacated net. Calls for young goalie Juuse Saros have been frequent and forward, but are unlikely to go acknowledged with the expansion draft on the horizon.
The sole bright spot seems to be 23-year-old winger Viktor Arvidsson. After the undersized winger stole the hearts of Smashville with a brilliant backhander to steal an overtime playoff contest last season, he’s off to a great start this year, leading the Nashville Predators with 6 points and 4 goals.
With all due respect to Arvidsson, this in itself is not a great sign for Smashville. Not only does it point to a lack of production from the elite-skill and elite-ly paid players on the roster, but nearly all mock expansion drafts left Arvidsson both unprotected and undrafted at the end of this season. The situation currently appears like it may require reconsideration from all parties.
Throw into the pain party the thing nobody in Nashville wants to talk about- early returns on the P.K. Subban/Shea Weber trade. While Subban sits with a respectable 5 points, his presence has been a far cry from the fireworks most expected. The former Preds Captain, meanwhile, has doubled all of Subban’s scoring categories with 10 points, 4 goals, and 6 assists. Weber also currently leads the NHL with a +12 plus/minus.
Had enough yet? No? Well, you remember that kid that spurned the Nashville Predators, drawing some harsh words from GM David Poile? Of course you do. His name is Jimmy Vesey, and he currently has 5 goals and 6 points in his rookie campaign with the New York Rangers.
With all this turmoil, it’s important to remember that the Nashville Predators hit some rough spots last season and were able to turn the campaign into the longest in franchise history. The team is finally through its brutal schedule against last year’s postseason contenders, and will be looking to gain some momentum and points moving forward. Nobody’s year has ever been decided by the first eight games, and neither will Smashville’s.