The Nashville Predators face an unprecedented season amid an unprecedented global pandemic and under unprecedented economic constraints.

Go ahead and raise your hand if you’re tired of hearing the word “unprecedented” these days.

But in reality, like all of us, that’s the situation for John Hynes and the Preds. He and his players have never faced a training camp like this, nor have they ever prepared for such a unique NHL season.

This can make preparing for games, like the home opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight, a bit of a challenge.

“A little bit of the unknown is the fact that there were no preseason games,” John Hynes said after the team’s final training camp practice on Wednesday. “So I think you have to kind of have the tendencies of what you believe of what they’ve done in the past, you know what [Head Coach John Tortorella] has and what Columbus is. You know, what type of team they are. What type of identity they are. There could be slight tweaks or changes to things that they do just because you haven’t had the opportunity to scout preseason games.”

Not having any preseason games is going to make it tough to analyze at least the first few games. But after a few weeks playing the Blue Jackets twice, the Hurricanes twice, the Stars twice, and the Blackhawks twice, the coaching staff and players should get very familiar with their opponents very quickly.

Hynes thinks this is something the team can take advantage of to gain a competitive advantage.

“To prepare for one opponent and know that you’re going to have lots of the same team for two games, I think preparation is a little bit more efficient than it is sometimes inside that 82 game schedule where you’re prepping for a team that you haven’t either seen or you haven’t seen them for like 25, 26, or 30 games. So this should be a good set up.”

Preds preparing “many short term goals”

Preparing for an 82-game season has its challenges. But in many ways, preparing for a 56-game schedule has even more.

Earlier in training camp, John Hynes talked about the team having “56 playoff games” ahead of them. The challenge with that set up is how to set realistic goals and in such a short amount of time.

As Colton Sissons points out, obviously they would love to be the top team at the end of the regular season. But he knows there’s a lot more to preparing for this kind of season.

“I mean, if we could decide today, we’d definitely take that #1 spot, I think that’s quite obvious. But we’re just worrying about our process here. We need to re-establish our identity of our team, starting with our coaches and down through the lineup.”

Sissons and John Hynes both mentioned frequently that the key to this season is going to be setting and securing several goals in the short term, rather than worrying about the long term goals.

“You can’t look too far down the line, here,” Sissons said on Wednesday. “Games are gonna be coming fast, and we will keep many, many short term goals here throughout the season and hopefully set us up into the playoffs for a nice run.”

This is a far cry from the Nashville Predators we saw in 2017 and 2018, where “push for the #1 overall spot” was their every day mantra. It’s even a departure from their 2019 and 2020 goals, where they just knew they needed to make the playoffs healthy and anything could happen.

This approach, according to Hynes and his players, is just about winning the day in front of you.

“We talk a lot about having a short term focus and really trying to control what we can control, which really is the day that’s in front of you,” Hynes said.

“And then it’s not thinking ahead two, three, four days, as group, as a mindset. Obviously as coaches, you need to plan ahead and prepare scouting and planning out a month in advance and things like that, but from a mindset wise, with our team is let’s just make sure we’re taking care of today. When we’re playing games, we’re taking care of that game and that game day and not worrying about the day before or the day after.”

For a team that has a lot of turnover, and is trying to work in a number of new players with much different skill sets, this short term approach to “winning the day” is probably the best solution.

“Whether you’re struggling a little bit, or whether you’re doing really well, it’s really keeping the focus on the process and making sure that we’re good everyday.”

— Featured Image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —
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