Sixteen games into the 2021 season and the Nashville Predators are giving the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres a run for their money for the best odds to land No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft.
You could make a list a mile long of all the Predators’ inadequacies this year — inconsistency, defensive miscommunication, poor goaltending, over-aggressiveness, lack of goal scoring, and so on.
But perhaps Nashville’s biggest issue this year was in the construction of the roster itself. The Predators are the only team in the NHL that hasn’t taken a lead into the third period of a game this year.
In fact, they’ve led into the second period only twice. The Predators are tied for the third-fewest goals (35) and allowed the sixth-most goals (55) in the league. But their issues run deeper than just the obvious numbers.
“Shots that are getting to the net need to be better,” Predators coach John Hynes said. “I think we have to get to the net front-in (offensive zone possession) areas more. Even I think when you look in the third period (Thursday night), we had some point-blank chances that missed the net. It’s good O-zone time. Guys are working in that area and we’re able to keep pucks alive. But then when it comes into getting some greasy goals where you’re getting screens and rebounds, we’re not doing well in that area.”
Added captain Roman Josi: “It’s all of us. I think the last couple of games…they weren’t good games. We didn’t play well, plain and simple…But I mean, we need to find a way to score some goals. We created chances tonight, but you’ve got to put them in. We’ve got to find a way to get it done. It’s every single guy…we all need to do our part.”
Based on pure statistics, this is the worst offensive team in franchise history — 2.19 goals per game. As it is the worst defensive team in franchise history as well — 3.44 goals against per game.
Yes, the Predators are playing without top center Ryan Johansen and top-four defenseman Mattias Ekholm, but that doesn’t fully explain Nashville’s ineptitude.
The goalie keeps rotating in every few games depending on who has the hot hand, or in this case who has the mildly warmer hand. The line combinations have been mixed and matched seemingly every time the opponent changes. And still, nobody seems to have any answers on how to fix the very broken Predators.
“You can’t let that frustration creep in. Because when that happens, you have a group of competitive guys that are wound up and that’s when things start turning ugly,” defenseman Mark Borowiecki said. “If you let that frustration creep in, it kind of pulls you apart as a group…I’ve played on some not particularly good hockey teams in my career unfortunately, and you’ve got to find that balance between being intense, competitive and pissed off but still having some positivity.”
Sitting at 6-10-0 and seventh place in the Central Division, the Predators rematch Columbus again on Saturday before two-game series against Detroit and Columbus again.
The Blue Jackets are one of two teams Nashville has multiple wins over and the Predators split their series with the Red Wings last week.
It’s reasonable to think if Nashville doesn’t come away with at least eight of 10 possible points over their next five games it might be time to finally hit the eject button on the season and start selling off pieces while they still can.
“It’s frustrating,” Josi said. “We all care a lot about this game and care a lot about winning. And we’re not winning right now. There’s a lot of things that we’ve got to get better at and we’re not doing those things. I think everybody is tired of talking about those things… We’ve got to be better. We need to go out there and change ourselves.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_