The defending Presidents’ Trophy winners took to 2018-2019 with designs on improving their position, but ultimately fell short. Despite cataloguing 100 points in the regular season, the Preds were third in the Western Conference behind the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames. In the playoffs, they were defeated by the Dallas Stars in the first round.
So, what went wrong?
The Predators finished the regular season with a 47-29-6, which put them six wins shy of their 2017-2018 record. They scored 240 goals, the second-lowest goal totals of all Western Conference playoff teams and 27 fewer goals than their previous season.
Nashville boasted three players with over 20 goals, including Craig Smith, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. The latter produced a career-high 34 goals, but he only managed 14 assists and actually put up lower point totals than the previous two seasons.
Ryan Johansen took the lead in points with 64, while defenceman Roman Josi put up 56 points. The blueliner had a career-high 274 shots on goal.
The Predators tried to add more offence with the trade deadline acquisition of Wayne Simmonds, who produced just one goal in 17 regular season games. He signed with the New Jersey Devils on July 1 of 2019.
Mikael Granlund was another addition, landing in Nashville on deadline day in exchange for Kevin Fiala. He, like Simmonds, produced just one goal in the regular season and came up with two points in the playoffs.
Defensively, the Preds were tight. They allowed just 214 goals against, making them the second stingiest team in the Western Conference next to the Stars. Even the eventual Cup-winning Blues allowed more goals against.
This was in large part due to the play of goalies Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. The former put together a season that was about on par with his typical results, with a .918 save percentage and a 2.42 goals against average.
Saros was good, too, picking up 17 wins in 27 starts. It was his most active season to date and he seems primed to rise to the challenge in Nashville.
Simplistically, it’s all about goal-scoring. As in, Nashville didn’t do enough of it in 2018-2019.
To address the shortfall, David Poile snagged Matt Duchene and signed him to a seven-year contract worth $56 million. The forward produced well last season, including a 10-point performance in 10 playoff games, and he adores Nashville.
Poile also traded defenceman P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils for some draft picks, a prospect and 24-year-old Steve Santini. That move came in large part to save salary, opening the door to sign Duchene.
The Nashville Predators are still a top-tier hockey club. They came up short during the 2018-2019 season and couldn’t squeeze past the Stars in the playoffs, but Poile and Co. have addressed some needs thus far this off-season. That should position them well in 2019-2020, putting them in line for another Presidents’ Trophy.
Photo credit: Keystone