As 2019 comes to a close, it’s time for obligatory reminiscence, where we look back at the previous year and the decade that was for the Nashville Predators. On the latest episode of the Preds NashCast, Link and I did just that, looking at the “best & worst” moments of the past year for the Preds.
Looking further back, with the success the franchise saw in the 2010s, there’s plenty to be pleased with. Anytime your team wins a major league trophy, goes to the Cup Final, and has a player win the top prize for his position in the same decade, it’s safe to call it an overall success.
But what might the next decade hold for the Nashville Predators? What could we be talking about in 2029 as we reminisce about the 2020’s?
Here are some bold (and not so bold) predictions for the next ten years.
Pekka Rinne will retire from hockey
This is obviously one of the not so bold takes on this list.
The 2020’s will see the retirement of Pekka Rinne from hockey, hopefully as a member of the Nashville Predators. At 37 years old and on the decline, it seems almost impossible to imagine he would last another ten years in the league.
Rinne currently has one more year on his contract with the Predators. I suppose it’s possible that he could sign another contract at age 38, but it’s hard to imagine many teams wanting to pay much money for an aging backup. Perhaps he could land a nice backup role on a Stanley Cup bound team? Or maybe he calls it quits in 2021 and takes a job in coaching?
Either way, the Nashville Predators’ greatest player will retire at some point. He has well over 350 wins at this point, and might close in on 400 by the time it’s all over. No doubt that when he retires, Preds fans will relish in what was an extraordinary career in Nashville.
Filip Forsberg will become the Preds’ all-time goals leader
This may be more bold than Rinne retiring, but it still seems inevitable.
Filip Forsberg still continues to be the Preds’ most prolific scorer. He’s put up five 20-goal seasons in a row, including two 30-goal seasons back in 2015 and 2016. No Predators player had yet accomplished this feat and Forsberg shows no signs of slowing down.
Even with some injuries along the way, Forsberg’s goal scoring pace still puts him on track to pass David Legwand’s career mark of 210 goals. With two years left on his contract after this season, Forsberg is currently only 51 goals behind Legwand.
Scoring 51 goals in two and a half seasons? Piece of cake for Forsberg.
Of course, this is all assuming he stays healthy. He does have a bit of an injury history recently, missing games in each of the last three seasons. However, he has not yet seen a drop in his goal production when coming back from injury. In fact, his goals per game pace has been steadily going up since he arrived as a full-time player in 2014.
- 2014-15: 0.32
- 2015-16: 0.40
- 2016-17: 0.38
- 2017-18: 0.39
- 2018-19: 0.44
- 2019-20: 0.45
Incidentally, David Legwand never had a goals per game rate over .35 in his career, averaging just .22 in his Preds career. Unlike Forsberg, Legwand was a volume guy, playing 956 games in Nashville as more of a two-way centerman. He was never really seen as a goal-scorer primarily, he just accumulated a lot by playing a lot of games.
At his current pace, Forsberg should finish this season with around 32 goals, which would put him just about 35 goals behind Legwand with two seasons left on his contract. With even a below average season for him, Forsberg should pass Legwand by 2020 or 2021.
A new Preds rivalry will emerge
With the likely arrival of a Seattle franchise in 2021, the NHL has dropped several hints at a conference realignment in the West. These suggested moves indicate that the Arizona Coyotes would move to the Central division by 2021, despite the geographic silliness of putting two states 1,500 miles apart in the same division.
But I think this could be a great rivalry for the Preds.
First of all, these teams already have some history, including an eventful second round playoff matchup back in 2012. The Preds and Coyotes almost always play in tight contests, with several memorable overtime games and last minute goals. Head to head, the Preds have a 38-29-2-6 record in 75 games against Arizona/Phoenix, though the Coyotes have made that record closer in recent years.
The other thing to consider is the Coyotes’ youth movement and what that means for the next ten years. Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Jakob Chychrun, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Christian Dvorak are all good, young players in the Coyotes’ core moving forward.
Oh, and they just acquired Taylor Hall from the Devils. Though they have yet to sign him to a contract, it seems likely that they intend to do so.
So for the next decade, the Preds might now have one of the best young teams in the league to face half a dozen times a season. Something to look forward to?
The Preds will face a money crunch
While there aren’t any immediate signs of a cap crunch, it happens about once every eight to ten years for an NHL franchise. The last time it happened for the Predators was 2012, back when they had both Ryan Suter and Shea Weber to handle. Before that, it happened in 2007-2008, when they had to trade Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen or risk losing them for nothing.
Considering it’s been well over a decade since the Preds have had salary cap problems, you have to think one is on the horizon. Especially with all the big money contracts David Poile has signed.
The past couple years has seen an sharp increase in high value contracts for Poile. He has signed four players to contracts worth north of $50 million in a little over one year. And pretty soon, he’ll have to make decisions on some very important players like Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Mattias Ekholm, and Juuse Saros. At least three of those could easily be worth north of $50 million as well.
While Poile has a decent track record of maintaining an efficient salary cap with the Preds, it’s only a matter of time before he has a serious problem on his hands. It could come as early 2022, when Poile will have to figure out what to do about Forsberg, Ekholm, and Jarnkrok in the same summer.
Of course, it might not be Poile making those decisions at all.
A new coach & GM will be in charge
Let’s face it. By the end of the 2020’s it is very likely that both David Poile and Peter Laviolette are no longer a part of the Nashville Predators franchise.
No, I’m not making this prediction based on any inside information. It’s just a safe bet. Based on the history of the league and the amount of time that both Poile and Laviolette have been in Nashville, it would be hard to see both of them lasting another ten years.
While the jury is out on whether Peter Laviolette’s departure will be via termination or not, I think it’s more than likely David Poile will retire sometime in the next ten years. Probably even the next five years.
And whenever David Poile leaves, it stands to reason the new GM will want his own coach. Even if the new GM is Brian Poile, who has already taken over a large portion of the front office duties. New general managers and new coaches just seem to go together.
There will certainly be some people thrilled about the Nashville Predators finally moving on from Poile and Laviolette, whenever it happens. But it would be a mistake to ignore the impact that both, especially Poile, had on Nashville sports in general. The success that the Predators have had in this past decade is due in large part to Poile and Laviolette, even if these two people will likely not be around by the end of the next decade.
The end of one era and the beginning of the next one.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —