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Preds Face Important Summer

April 19, 2023, 7:17 PM ET [6 Comments]
Clay Brewer
Nashville Predators Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Twitter: @ClayBrewer10

Although not entirely unexpected, the Preds missing the playoffs for the first time in nine years is a tough realization. Even the lopsided matchup last season and frustrations with the playoff result brought some type of happiness knowing that that first week of playoff hockey, I’d be able to tune in, grab a beer, and watch this team compete. Game 4 in Nashville was a blast. There’s something about having your feet to the fire in that relegation-type mentality regardless of the expected result. On a positive note, I may err on the side of missing the playoffs this year as opposed to waking up in Toronto this morning (though they’re still my pick to find a way here). But I digress . . .
Mid-April has come and playoff hockey is here. Two nights in and we’ve had some incredible hockey thus far. I’ve been discussing in this blog for some time about my fear of management being convinced that nothing should change because we continue to sneak into the playoffs. I’m very impressed with Poile’s decision to offload talent at the deadline even though a theoretical playoff hope remained. Trotz stated in his presser that this was Poile’s move, not his. Whether you want to believe that is up to you.

It’s bitter sweet to see the young guys step up after the deadline and through the injuries to Josi, Johansen, Forsberg, Duchene, Carrier, etc. to make a last second playoff push because a true tank would find the same result with potential lottery chances. I was genuinely excited to watch the last month or so of Preds hockey due to the competitiveness and potential that was demonstrated, but the team will have its typical middle of the pack draft pick. So we must turn to free agency, depth, and the Milwaukee pipeline as we have always done. And we know Trotz is no fan of putting raw talent into the show too quickly. He’d rather overcook talent in the AHL as opposed to exposing raw talent to the NHL and risking breaking him forever.

Trotz has been and will continue to be the main topic of discussion as he is the de facto general manager and will become general manager de jure on June 30. Regardless of official title, the official changing of the guard took place during the season-ending press conference on April 17, 2023, where David Poile shook Trotz’s hand and handed him the mic to speak.

From Trotz’s statements, there were 3 distinct items that will define the Preds not only this summer but into the foreseeable future.

(1) Hynes is under contract for another year, but that’s not a commitment;

(2) We need to get stronger and have more speed and skill (Johansen was a specifically mentioned player where he’s “already chasing the train.” Doesn’t mean he can’t catch it, but he needs to have a hell of a summer and demonstrate where he sees himself on this team going forward). When the Preds were playing games against teams where the game also mattered for the opponent (e.g. Jets, Stars, Avs), the team clearly struggled; AND

(3) The young players were not part of Poile’s plan, but untimely injuries led to their opportunities that now make for potentially difficult decisions come next fall. This is both a blessing to expose these young guys and also somewhat of an indictment. Of whom? Well, I’ll let you be the judge.

Highlights of the Last Month

There’s hope upon the horizon. The young guys played well and showed management and Smashville that there is something to be optimistic about. This has been missing for a long time. However, they were playing with little pressure in the final stretch of this season. Consistency is everything in this league and expecting a bunch of 20-year-olds to be able to take on a league so quickly and fill top roles is not a realistic outcome come October. Some of them will likely make the team out of camp. Someone like Novak is a player I’ve repeatedly stated in this article I thought should have made the team both of the last two seasons out of camp. Others such as Evangelista (as Trotz mentioned) will need to have a good AHL playoff and development summer to stake their claim in the 23.

It goes without saying that seeing these young players perform down the stretch was fun to watch, but these players are not going to be put in a position to fail or lose confidence. For example, when everyone that has been injured returns to full health, you do not want an Evangelista on the 4th line. This is why this summer is critical for both the youth movement and for the established players. The established players are in need of a strong, strong summer (both physically and mentally) to come into camp in the best shape of their lives in order to make a difference going forward. It needs to be a requirement, not a hope. Next year will be placed upon their shoulders.

Decisions to be Made

What direction does the team want to go should be the first question answered on day 1. As I have mentioned relentlessly on this blog, the team (from an outsider’s perspective) has lacked a clear direction since the 2017 Cup run. Chasing what was instead of developing what should be; this should be the first monumental change made at 500 Broadway.

The NHL has changed dramatically, even in the last 5-10 years. The speed and skill in combination with the athleticism is off the charts for these athletes. The Cup is the hardest trophy to win in sports for a reason. It’s an undeniable fact.

A large part of this will be conditional upon the decision to be made, but it is clear to all (especially Trotz) that size, speed, and skill are weaknesses on the current roster. The team needs a top center with some size and skill, a bigger skilled d-man who can make solid first passes out of the zone, and then some bottom 6 depth to replace the likes of a Jeannot-type player.

Where we’re "good"

Goaltending: Saros, Lankinen
Top 4 D: Josi, McDonagh, Barrie
Top 6 Forwards: Forsberg, Duchene, Parssinen, (maybe Johansen, Tomasino, Novak, Glass can float into this group but we need more)


Above all else, the Preds number one need is a first line center. It’s even questionable whether there is a bona fide second line center even though I’m a big Glass and Novak fan. It’s possible one of these are able to fill that second line role. It’s also obvious that Johansen’s role will shift going forward. It’s up to him to demonstrate what this new role will be. I still think he has a lot to offer. But it won’t be what’s been offered in the past.

Top 6 Forward, especially top line center
Top 4 D
Bottom 6 Forward Depth
Bottom 3 D Depth


Again, which direction do we want to go? Trotz and Hynes have similar strategies in building from the back out. The first question is whether Hynes will even be back. It doesn’t make much sense to let him continue coaching only to plan to get rid of him next summer. Best to do it now and start fresh all around if that’s even in the back of mind.

We have strong goaltending both on the big roster and within Milwaukee. Will this be a defensive team as Trotz is known for from his coaching days, having an Islanders type mentality of heavy shot blocking and grinding out games with top talent buying into the system? Or will Trotz take a different perspective now that he’s no longer behind the bench but instead watching from the box above Section 314?

Additional Notes

I’ll be the first to let you know when I’m wrong and boy has the last couple of seasons proven me wrong on Saros. For me to have claimed he was not starting goalie material following Pekka’s retirement is most certainly one of my dumber moments. I’ll gladly take the cake on my face with that one. Dude is a stud and should have a Vezina notched on his belt here soon. Maybe we can ride him out and have a nice Bruins-esque tandem with Saros and Askarov in a few years. I remain a huge Lankinen fan though. He did exactly what he was asked to do this season. I think he has an improved year next season.

As mentioned above, the Preds are back in a similar spot as they were when the Jones-Johansen trade was made. That was a great trade in my opinion because up to that point the team had never come close to having a true number one center. Johansen is no longer that player, but he was for a few years. If he did not get injured in the conference finals against Anaheim, the Preds would have won the Cup that year. I stand by that statement as well and hard as he played. But that’s the past and this is now. A top line center should be the Preds number one priority this summer. Whether that will be a reality is unclear and that will all be determined on the direction that is chosen. But there are currently, in my opinion, no prospective number one guys in the pipeline either.

It’ll be a bit of a dull period in Nashville during the playoffs but there are a few key things to keep an eye on. Reviews are underway and I would imagine that we will know by the end of May whether or not Hynes will be behind the bench come October.

Milwaukee is in the playoff stretch with all the young guns we witnessed this year (e.g., Tomasino, Stastney, Sherwood, Jankowski, Evangelista, and Afansyev) continuing their play in the hopes of lifting the Calder Cup. They take on the Manitoba Moose in the Central Division Semifinals in a best of 5 beginning April 28. Much of Preds fandom will not only be watching the players during this playoff run, but also Admirals’ head coach Karl Taylor. A fan favorite to take a leap to the NHL sooner rather than later. If he and the Admirals lift the Calder Cup, that would most certainly be an interesting topic to revisit.

Last but not least, it will be quite the sending off for David Poile and the welcoming of Barry Trotz as Bridgestone will host the NHL Awards June 26 with the 2023 NHL Draft to follow June 27-28.
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