Saturday night’s 5-2 loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals extended the Nashville Predators’ losing streak to five games. It was their second consecutive defeat by that same score. Here’s a tip - teams that lose games 5-2 aren’t outcoached; they are beaten by teams that are better than they are.
But that fact has not calmed those calling for head coach Barry Trotz’s job. All too often, the coach is the one who pays when a team struggles, when in reality, the coach is really at the mercy of the players given to him.
Has a two-time Jack Adams Award finalist suddenly forgotten how to coach?
The cold reality is that the lovechild of Toe Blake and Scotty Bowman could not have done a better job of coaching this team.
Trotz can’t go out and put the puck in the other team’s net and he can’t prevent it from going in the net at the other end.
As assembled, the team’s roster is, at best, mediocre and no one should think that they can or will compete for a playoff spot this season. The forwards aren’t great, the defense is decent but playing just okay, and the goaltending is a product of an unfortunate injury and an offseason roll of the dice that went south very quickly.
Simply put, the Predators have a roster full of forwards who would be in the bottom six of just about every other team in the league. Patric Hornqvist is the only forward who would stand a chance of playing on the top two lines elsewhere in the NHL. Colin Wilson and Craig Smith have the ability to do so, but their lack of consistency means they wouldn’t. It could be worth arguing that with a better supporting cast their consistency would stabilize, but that’s for another day.
The corps of forwards brought in on free agency’s first day raised a collective eyebrow in bewilderment due to the length and dollar amounts of those deals given to players who lack the track record for scoring goals, something the Predators desperately needed. Among that group, Eric Nystrom has been the pleasant surprise. His five goals are just two off the team lead. Hopefully he can keep that up as he is signed through the 2016-17 season.
Yes, Trotz has his favorites and there are some healthy scratches that seem odd. But he has been this way since day one. His players know what is expected of them, so when they don’t deliver, they sit.
The blue line is the strength of this team, but they are not overachieving. Shea Weber has been good, but a scary eye injury took him out of the lineup for three games; all Predator losses. Roman Josi was concussed in the second game of the season and has returned to play well. As expected, Kevin Klein has been consistent. Seth Jones has come in and looked like anything but a 19-year-old rookie. The third pairing has been average, with the triumvirate of Ryan Ellis, Victor Bartley, and Mattias Ekholm seeing very protected minutes.
Early this season, Pekka Rinne was sidelined by an infection in the same hip he had surgically repaired at the start of the offseason. He has yet to return and will not begin strenuous rehab for another couple of weeks, so he will not likely return to game action until at least January it would appear.
Even with Rinne coming off of a serious surgery, and the Predators looking to reduce his workload anyway, the team decided to go with the unproven Carter Hutton as the backup to the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist.
Hutton struggled and now finds himself buried on the bench behind rookie Marek Mazanec. After flashes of strong play that earned him the NHL’s Rookie of the Month award for November, Mazanec has reverted to the mean recently and is not giving the team the saves they need to have a chance to win. Now they are in a big time jam without a goaltender who can make a timely save.
Things are probably going to get worse before they get better. With their current contracts, the 2014-15 version of the Predators is going to look a lot like this season’s team.
Trades? Highly unlikely. The only players other teams would want are the few that the Predators can’t afford to ship elsewhere. They are stuck with the underachievers, because no one in their right mind would take on some of the contracts management has gifted to these players.
And don’t look for help from the team’s prospects either. That pipeline is rather dry too. We’ve seen that the young goaltenders are not ready to handle the demands of playing in the NHL yet. This team has always struggled at drafting and developing forwards that can score at the NHL level, so don’t look for a savior coming up from the minors.
Going forward, whether or not Trotz is the man leading this team will not have any impact on where they finish in the standings. They were bad last season. They are bad this season. And they are probably going to be bad going forward.
If they want to change coaches for the sake of doing something, do it, that’s fine. Don’t worry about Trotz because he will be unemployed about as long as he wants to be.
Firing him won’t fix this team though.