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Nashville Predators Stretch Run: Was It Worth It?

Nashville Predators front office and scouting staff stand with draftee Philip Tomasino at the 2019 NHL Draft

Nashville Predators Stretch Run: Was It Worth It?

Saturday, May 4th, 2023. One day after the NHL trade deadline. 

Over the prior week the Nashville Predators, outgoing GM David Poile and incoming GM Barry Trotz had decided to become a seller resulting in four lineup regulars being sent off to other teams. On top of the trades the Predators were dealing with injuries to Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Alex Carrier and Juuso Parssinen. Only Parssinen would play again before the regular season came to a close. That night the Predators took the ice versus the Chicago Blackhawks and came away with a 3-1 victory. Including that game Nashville would close the regular season with a 12-9-2 record after the trade deadline. The roster during this stretch run utilized a severely depleted roster manned by multiple AHL call-ups including prospects Luke Evangelista and Spencer Stastney The Predators would stay in the playoff race until the final week, ultimately missing the playoffs by a mere three points. The successes in the stretch run gave the city and fans meaningful and exciting hockey but also ensured the Predators would be in one of the bottom slots for the draft lottery with minimal to no chance at one of the top prospects in a stacked first round. So on the eve of the NHL draft lottery, was it worth it? Let’s dig in and break down why it was, and wasn’t, worth it for the Predators to stay in the playoff race. 

Not Worth It because of Lottery Potential

The 2023 NHL draft class has some of the best top end talent in recent memory including a consensus generational talent in center Connor Bedard. After Bedard players such as Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov, Leo Carlsson and Will Smith round out a top 5 of likely future all stars who could dramatically change their team’s fortunes. The rest of the likely top 10 also look like above average to star quality NHL players. Based on where the Predators were in the standings at the trade deadline, it’s unlikely that they would be able to crack the top 10 but every spot lower in the standings gives better odds in the lottery. As it stands, the Predators only have a 0.5% chance of winning the lottery and moving up the maximum 10 slots to 5th. With just three less wins, the Predators could have landed in the 12th spot instead of 15th and had a 2.5% chance of winning the lottery. Also, almost any move up from there gets into the top 10 prospects. Even if the Predators were to make the playoffs they would have been a significant underdog and the quality of the top 10 is too good to miss out. The Predators having every possible advantage to get there makes staying in the playoff chase not worth it. 

Worth It – Experience for the Top Prospects

The stretch run of the regular season saw a Predators top 6 forward group highlighted by Cody Glass, Tommy Novak, Luke Evangelista and Philip Tomasino. Defenseman Spencer Stastney also played a significant role on the blue line. All of them were called upon to deliver in crucial situations and on many occasions, they did. The forwards all scored game winning goals down the stretch and Stastney helped anchor the defense and contributed to a swarming penalty kill. After the trade deadline Novak, Tomasino and Evangelista were the top three scorers on the Predators roster. These skaters will be crucial for the near and long term future of the Predators and the experience gained by playing in those high pressure games will be invaluable as they graduate to full time NHL duty in the coming years. Additionally, while the top end of the draft class is made up of elite talent the chances of the Predators getting there via the lottery was never going to be very high. Since 2010, a team has moved up 6 or more spots only three times (not counting the goofy 2020 post-bubble draft). The combination of experience in meaningful games for multiple top prospects and the low likelihood of getting up to the top of the draft makes the Predators staying in the playoff chase worth it.

Final Verdict

I honestly don’t really like this argument. Whenever the comment of “the Predators should have gone for a higher pick” comes up, my initial reaction is “well, what else were they supposed to do?”. David Poile and Barry Trotz did their job as a selling GM by trading almost every available contract, including at least one most thought to be largely untradeable in Mikael Granlund. With where the Predators were in the standings at the deadline, even if they traded Juuse Saros there was no guarantee of a top 5 pick. In addition, none of the injured veteran players were rushed back to the ice to try and bolster the lineup in the last couple weeks of the season. So with a set roster, it was up to the coaches and players to determine where the Predators finish. The job of the coaching staff and players on the ice is to win hockey games, full stop. You can’t ask professional athletes and coaches to not try and win. In my opinion since the front office did their job to properly sell at the deadline and the team did their job to play to their best then in the end the chips fall where they may. So was it worth it? Yes, because everyone did what they were supposed to do and the future for the Nashville Predators is in a place to utilize growing, existing talent and add more talent to the overall pool. 

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