For all intents and purposes, the Nashville Predators‘ season is quickly coming to an end. They are still mathematically alive in the playoff race, but last night’s loss pushed them to eight points back of the final Wild Card spot. With four teams to jump over, they have less than a one percent chance of playing hockey in late April.
So now that the team is going to miss out on the postseason for the second year in a row, what’s next?
Well, for starters, the organization has a handful of promising forwards in the minor leagues who should get a look at the NHL level. Some like Taylor Beck, Simon Moser and Colton Sissons have seen limited time in Nashville this season. Those three have combined for 17 total games this year and seem to have at least some chance of making the club in the future. Getting them a few more games couldn’t hurt. Austin Watson hasn’t been called up this year, but he was another player mentioned by GM David Poile as a possible candidate. Watson played six games at the tail end of the 2013 season, scoring his first NHL goal.
Calle Jarnkrok, acquired from the Detroit Red Wings as part of the David Legwand trade, should be the first call-up, however. Whether the omnipresent rumors of him wanting to return to Sweden after this season are true or not, there is no reason not to play him (even for just a few games) this year. Poile has stated he feels no pressure to play him since he will no doubt compete for a roster spot next year, but giving him a look could do wonders for convincing him to stay. If the team brings both Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg up, they could give fans a taste of what the forward corps will look like in coming seasons.
It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to split time between goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Carter Hutton. Rinne has looked spectacular in the two games he’s played since returning from his injury. Any concerns about him not being completely healthy or that he’d be missing a step have been quashed. Even though he’s been their workhorse in the past, there is no need to ride him all the way to the finish line when the winners are already set. Whether Hutton as a backup is part of their long-term plan remains to be seen. (The Predators do have Magnus Hellberg and Marek Mazanec waiting, if they decide to go that rout.) Hutton was in over his head as a starter, but he hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do behind one of the best goaltenders in the world. Splitting starts would not only take a heavy load off of Rinne, but it would show whether Hutton is a viable backup for next year.
At this point, the organization needs to do anything and everything it can (short of a coaching change) to convince fans there are positives come soon. The candle is about to be snuffed out for the season, and the torches and pitchfork crews are ready to gather if things stay the same. It behooves the Predators to end the year doing something different than what’s been done all season — which is to say: not much.