How to solve a problem like the Nashville Predators offense

Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95). Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Nashville Predators center Matt Duchene (95). Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

We’ve been here before with the Nashville Predators, haven’t we?

It seems to be a common theme that no matter the abundance of riches they have at their disposal, the Nashville Predators can’t seem to become the offensive juggernaut they should be given the weapons they are in possession of, and we’re seeing the exact same situation unfold in the opening weeks of the 2020-21 NHL season.

Through seven games the Predators are 4-3-0 but they rank 26th in Goals For Per Game (2.29), in addition to ranking 29th on the power play (7.1). That just isn’t going to get the job done and it is somewhat baffling that this team struggles to light the lamp as much as it does given that it has the firepower to sink a small fleet of battleships.

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For instance, they could only beat a rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks team in a Shootout on Wednesday, and that’s despite boasting the likes of Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Mikael Granlund and Viktor Arvidsson on the roster. However, their entire offense has looked anything but dynamic in the opening seven games of the season and General Manager David Poile must be wondering what else he can do after firing Head Coach Peter Laviolette midway through last season and replacing him with John Hynes.

While there were subtle signs of improvement under Hynes down the stretch in 2019-20, the Predators have regressed once again this year and you can put that down to the fact that some of their big guns just aren’t pulling their weight. For example, Duchene has just three points in seven games and has yet to light the lamp this season, Johansen has just two assists and Forsberg has four goals but he has yet to record an assist through seven games.

The Nashville Predators need to solve their one huge fatal flaw

Basically, despite Poile consistently adding high-end picks to this offense in order to spark into life and extend the win-now window, while paying both Johansen and Duchene both $8 million per year, this team just looks cooked and they lack any real creativity or punch in the offensive zone. What is especially worrying is the fact that Duchene, who was meant to be the spearhead of this team, hasn’t looked the same player in Smashville and his sluggish start this year should be cause for concern.

It gets worst, however, when you start to delve into some of the underlying metrics and I also stumbled upon this little nugget that the Nashville Predators are the only team in the National Hockey League this season not to record a single shorthanded shot on goal, which does seem slightly concerning if not alarming.

Nashville’s team Shooting Percentage is currently at 6.9%, way below the league average of 9.8%, so not only are they struggling to take shots but, when they do, they can’t finish their chances which is a deadly combination when it comes to why this team is struggling. They have an Expected Goals For of 3.6 and an Expected Goals Against of 9.7, which is just an absolute recipe for disaster.

And it continues. They have created nine High-Danger scoring chances, which is way below the league’s average of 21, while they are currently allowing 19 High Danger chances against. And this is where the rubber meets the road. Not only is it a problem that the Predators can’t score, but the less they light the lamp the more pressure it puts on their defense and on their goalies and, as we’ve seen through the first couple of weeks of the season, they are just holding on and are cracking under the strain on some nights.

Filip Forsberg (9)
Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

How can you solve a talent-laden offense that just can’t score? It isn’t an easy answer because when you have the likes of Matt Duchene, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen on the roster, then this shouldn’t even be a conversation. First and foremost, David Poile went out and added considerable depth to this team during the offseason in order to try and take some of the pressure off his big guns, including acquiring the likes of Brad Richardson, Luke Kunin and Erik Haula.

However, it goes without saying that if the Predators are to find their scoring groove then it has to come from the top and players in the ilk of Duchene and Johansen will not only need to figure out their current struggles, but they will also need to add consistency to their game and deliver on a regular basis. That would obviously go a hell of a long way to ensuring that the Preds rediscover their mojo and, after all, Duchene, Johansen and Forsberg are being paid the big bucks to deliver goals and assists and plenty of them, and they all have the natural talent to be in the top 15 point scorers in the NHL.

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Overall, we’ve been here before and it seems that every single season the same old problem rears its ugly head for the Nashville Predators who, despite chucking plenty of cash at it and adding a lot more depth this offseason, just can’t seem to solve their woes in the offensive zone. Are they cursed? Maybe, maybe not, but this is a fatal flaw that extends well beyond the opening two weeks of the 2020-21 NHL season and it will be up to Head Coach John Hynes and General Manager David Poile to try and figure it out with this talented but flawed group and squeeze every ounce of potential out of them or, otherwise, sweeping changes could soon descend upon this franchise that has punched well below its weight ever since making the Stanley Cup Final in 2016-17.