The Nashville Predators are entering probably the most crucial part of their schedule, with a number of important road games ahead of them and the looming trade deadline. While we don’t yet know if the Preds are buyers or sellers (more on this below), the next few weeks could go a long way to determining their actions at the trade deadline.

And with the recent injury situation on the blueline, the Preds’ defensive depth is going to be tested more than it ever has before.

Ryan Ellis is out for an extended length of time with a probable concussion following the elbow from Corey Perry at the Winter Classic. We don’t know how long Ellis will be out. It could be weeks, it could be months.

This alone would be enough of a hit to the blueline. But then Dante Fabbro missed both games in California over the weekend, reportedly due to an upper body injury. He was not placed on injured reserve, which suggests he may be back on Tuesday against the Bruins (going on injured reserve guarantees missing at least three games).

So with Ellis and Fabbro, two key pieces to the Preds’ top four, both out, the coaching staff had to shuffle things around significantly. They called up Alexandre Carrier from Milwaukee and played Jarred Tinordi in both games over the weekend. This also meant that both Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber played increased minutes as well.

Taking out Ellis and Fabbro and inserting Carrier, Tinordi, Irwin, and Weber? That’s a very different looking defensive lineup.

“Different looking” is a euphemism of course for whatever more accurate term you want to use. Slower. Not as skilled. Much less threatening to opposing teams. Or maybe just “bad,” which is what it looked like in Sunday night’s shootout loss to the last place Anaheim Ducks.

However, in a strange way, maybe it will be a good thing. With this “different looking” blueline, David Poile will have plenty of time to see what this defense can actually do. He can probably more accurately determine if defensive help is needed (hint: it is) before the trade deadline hits in February. Without this test, he might go blindly into the Spring with a hidden (or maybe not so much) deficiency.

Maybe guys like Tinordi and Irwin, who are more like AHL players at this point in their careers, will surprise us with some spectacular defensive play. Maybe Yannick Weber will cease to become a complete defensive liability. Maybe Alexandre Carrier can make an unprecedented leap in his development at the NHL level.

Or maybe the Nashville Predators will learn their defensive depth isn’t what they think it is.

GIF Me That Good Stuff

Corey Perry was suspended five games for this hit. When I watch it again, I can’t believe the number of people defending his actions here. Completely unnecessary and very dangerous.

Preds Quote of the Week

“We’re in trouble right now.”

-Pekka Rinne, following the Nashville Predators’ 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars in the Winter Classic, their third loss in a row.

Get Them Digits

  • 43 — Roman Josi’s point total so far this season. He’s already eclipsed his season totals from his first three years in the league and is only six points from his total in 2016-17. He’s absolutely the team’s best player right now. If the team lost Josi for any length of time, you can kiss the rest of the season goodbye.
  • 10 — The number of consecutive games in which Roman Josi has at least one point. Again, if the team lost Josi, they would be absolutely screwed.
  • 1.07 — That’s how many FEWER shots per game Viktor Arvidsson is generating this season compared to last year (2.29 vs 3.36). He also has career lows in goals per game and points per game. The Preds need Arvidsson to get going, that’s for sure.
  • 8 — The number of goals for Craig Smith in his last nine games. All of a sudden, Smith is right back on his usual 20-goal pace, with 10 goals through the team’s first 41 games.

Let’s Do That Hockey

  • Tuesday, January 7th vs Boston Bruins (7:00 PM; FS-TN)
  • Thursday, January 9th @ Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 PM; FS-TN)
  • Sunday, January 12th @ Winnipeg Jets (1:00 PM; FS-TN)

Final Thought

Recently, David Poile said the team was starting to have internal discussions about the upcoming trade deadline. It sounded like Poile is still teetering between “buying” and “selling”, which frankly is a decision that seemed easy at the beginning of the season. Surely this playoff-ready team would be a buyer at the deadline, right? It would only be a matter of what they were looking for, right?

Wrong.

Halfway through the season, 41 games later, with the team well out of a playoff spot, it seems that being a “seller” isn’t so impossible to imagine. And there are some intriguing options, if they choose to go that route.

We talked earlier this season about the choice between paying Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund, since both will be unrestricted free agents this summer. If the team wants to sell, it seems like those two would be prime candidates. Both would fetch at least a couple draft picks, though I imagine Poile would probably want an NHL ready player in return as well.

Then there is the perennially trade-worthy Kyle Turris. He still doesn’t seem to be used the way he should be used. Do the Preds find someone to take his contract? Could they turn Turris’ $30 million into a decent defenseman or a up-and-coming playmaker?

Either way, if the Preds are sellers at the deadline, it would be a sharp contrast to the team’s last five years under Peter Laviolette. Even when the team seemed out of contention back in January 2017, the team went out and acquired Vernon Fiddler and P.A. Parenteau, though the returns on those trades were minimal. The team then went on an unprecedented run through the playoffs, capped off by a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

But this just feels different doesn’t it?

With all the roster tinkering that Poile has done over the last few years since the Cup Final, it doesn’t feel like this Nashville Predators team is one bottom pairing defenseman or one veteran forward away from being a complete team. They feel like they’ve lost their identity entirely.

Unfortunately for the Preds, you cannot acquire an identity at the trade deadline.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —


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