The end of summer is near as the Nashville Predators kick off training camp for the 2019-20 season this weekend. Everything got started today with a team meeting and media availability for select players, including Ryan Johansen, Roman Josi, Pekka Rinne, Filip Forsberg, and Rocco Grimaldi.
While there were the usual answers from each player about their summer training habits and their “escape from hockey” routines, there was a sense of focus about the team. All the players that spoke were returners from last year’s squad that saw a disappointing 1st round exit in the playoffs.
You could tell. It seems as if they haven’t forgotten that disappointment and are ready to get back on the ice.
“I’m really excited about this team,” Roman Josi said. “I’m excited to see how training camp goes and the start of the season.”
Josi also added, along with several others, that the expectations for this team have never been higher. One veteran member of the Preds was rather effusive about his excitement for the offseason changes and his anticipation about the upcoming season.
“Our expectations as a group are extremely high and we all know that,” Ryan Johansen said. “And we all believe we are a team that can compete for a Stanley Cup.
“When you’re not getting the results that you feel like you should, you know, you try to make adjustments, try and find ways to become a better team,” Johansen added. “We’re all very excited about having Matt [Duchene]. We’ll obviously be missing [P.K. Subban] and what he brought to us, but, you know, it’s a fresh start for everyone, which started today.”
Ryan Johansen on Matt Duchene
The addition of Matt Duchene was a common theme today, as you might expect. David Poile traded P.K. Subban and his $9 million salary cap hit away in order to sign Duchene to a seven-year, $56 million deal this summer.
Though some might wonder how Ryan Johansen, the Preds’ top center for the last three seasons, would react to the arrival of another top center to the team, Johansen is as excited as anyone about having Duchene in Nashville.
“Very, very excited,” Johansen said about Duchene. “You know, with me, [Viktor Arvidsson] and [Filip Forsberg] and what we brought to the table, we were matched up a lot of the times against the best defensive pairings and the best forward lines. That’s what the other teams would match up against us.”
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“Bringing in Matt now and what he’s done in this league over his career, it’s definitely another big threat. We feel like we’re gonna have two first lines. Time will tell how all that unfolds. Definitely expecting it to be a lot of fun and to be having a lot of success.”
The logic makes perfect sense. Matt Duchene is a .75 points per game top line center in the NHL, just a few ticks above Ryan Johansen’s .69 points per game. With Duchene in the lineup, teams can’t just throw their top defensive pairing and forward line at the “JOFA” line all night. They have to account for the speed and offensive prowess of Matt Duchene as well.
And if opponents put all their best coverage on Matt Duchene and his line? Then they will leave their 2nd best forwards and defensemen to cover one of the best lines in the NHL over the last few seasons.
But Will The Preds Be Better?
We still won’t know for a while how the defense will look without former Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban in the lineup. In all likelihood, it won’t be nearly as prolific or reliable on a nightly basis.
But an emphasis on improving the team’s offense this summer is an admirable chess move by David Poile this summer. You can’t fault Poile for making this kind of a move when it became clear that last year’s team needed a shake up.
“We didn’t want it to end like it did, but you’ve got to make the best out of it,” Filip Forsberg said, adding that the additions in the offseason hopefully make the Preds a better team.
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“Obviously we’re gonna miss [P.K. Subban], but that opened up an opportunity to get Matt [Duchene] here and I’m excited to see what he can bring to the table. Obviously a player that we’ve been fighting against on other teams and just a really really good player like I’m really looking forward to playing with.”
Forsberg also knows, like Johansen, that Duchene is a guy that will help balance out the offense for the team overall.
“We’ve got tons of players that can chip in, but [Duchene’s] gonna be one of those players that we definitely rely on and he’s proven himself on every team he’s been on.”
— Featured image via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports —