Martel Mailbag – Roster Shake-ups, Watson, and the Hynes factor

I love answering questions from my readers, so much so that I started a few years ago doing a mailbag. Thankfully, my last name starts with an M, so the Martel Mailbag was born.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to pop out a mailbag, so I’m excited to bring it back here at Broadway Sports. This week, we’ll consider this the pre-playoffs version of the mailbag. I know we’ll have some crazy questions come next week!

As always, if you have a question, email me at kmartel.sports@gmail.com or just hit me up on Twitter at @kmartel_sports.

What do we see in this weird playoffs that the NHL adopts in the future? – @Boyd_1212

To be fair, it’s really going to all depend on any on-ice changes that the league installs during this remote version of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And I don’t see anything being changed, frankly.

The NHL prides itself on its consistency for rules and how those change only during the off-season and, usually, after they’ve seen a detailed example of said change in a lower league like the AHL. They’re not very hasty about it.

For all intents and purposes, expect this to be like any other postseason except without fans in the stands — something the NHL will most definitely bring back as soon as they can.

Are there any bourbon drinkers on the team? – @Predkelly

You know, I really need to find this out. I know there are a lot of players who enjoy wine, however I’ve yet to find out if any of them are true bourbonites.

I promise, when things settle down and get back to some relative normality, we’ll get a better answer to this question.

Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll sit down with a couple over a glass of some of the rarer items I’m trying to accumulate in my collection. Granted, I’m sure someone who is a professional athlete can stumble upon rare bourbons and such much easier than I can!

Other than a potential Kyle Turris buyout, what is the biggest potential roster shakeup due to the cap remaining flat next year? – Alex Herrin, @aherrin89

First off, I highly doubt Turris will be bought out. My feeling is that he’s going to come back into his own under Hynes, so expect him to be part of the Predators offense going forward.

As for your question, one of Mikael Granlund or Craig Smith. I don’t think both will be back.

You would think the odds-on favorite is Smith, as he’s been statistically consistent during his career — every single game played with the Predators. He’s met both 20 goals and assists in four of the last seven seasons, hitting the 20 goal mark in five of the last seven, and was only two goals short of that this year before the lockdown.

But he’s 30 years old. Granlund is two years his younger and can boast better overall statistics as well, yet a million and a half more expensive in his expiring contract.

Whatever happens during the off-season, Nashville has a choice to make. My hope is they find a way to keep both, but I think one will be lining up for a new team next season as the Predators have to save money and open a spot to some of the younger, developing players.

If the Preds only make it out of the qualifying round, or fail to advance past it, how does that make the coaching change look? Do you think it was time for [Peter Laviolette] to go? Or is this more a player issue? – Michael Johansen, @mjohansen34

I don’t think anyone should look too hard into this season’s playoff experience, as it just as easily could be a quick week as opposed to a long couple of months.

When Laviolette was fired, I argued on my radio show (The Neutral Zone on 104.5 The Zone) that it was past time for that move to have happened and that it was in the best interest for the team as a whole to have a new voice and new direction.

Did I think that both of those would come in the way of John Hynes? Nope, I certainly did not. 

Do I think that Hynes is the right coach for the job? So far, he’s adequately proven himself capable giving this team the confidence it needs.

This qualifying round will be a good test of how Hynes handles starting up after a long stretch of inactivity — much like the first month in a new season. It will also test how he handles high pressure situations with Nashville, including mid-playoff round coaching changes.

Hynes has one NHL postseason victory to his name, coming with the New Jersey Devils three seasons ago. The question, though, is can he get 19 of them here soon?

Thoughts about Rem Pitlick not making the roster? After a great pre-season and not making the team, how high should expectations be for him moving forward? (Trevor Patterson, @imraiv)

Pitlick not making the final bubble roster for Nashville didn’t come as quite a shock to me. I assumed he, along with a few other prospects, wouldn’t be making the trip to Edmonton. That isn’t a slight in his talent progression or where he’s at in the organizational picture, either.

He’s going to be a great player for the Predators in the years to come. I think he’s a star on the rise. Pitlick has a fantastic shot, he’s quick on both ends of the ice, and has an impressive hockey IQ.

Fans will see him gracing the ice in Bridgestone Arena sooner than later.

Should or Shouldn’t Austin Watson be in the Preds lineup Game 1? (Kristofer Garrett, @kitcopeland51)

Regardless of how people feel about Watson, I’m going to make this as clear as I possibly can: he’s going to play. 

It’s no secret that Watson hasn’t had as much of an impact on the ice as he did a couple of seasons ago. Obviously this is my opinion, but the year Nashville went to the Stanley Cup Final and the subsequent season were Watson’s two best years with the team.

Since then, he’s been largely average at best. Serviceable for a bottom-six winger. That may not be what you’re looking for when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the big advantage that Watson has where other players may not is his 41 games of playoff experience with the Predators.

That’s hard to replace when it comes to rounding out your roster. When you’re fighting for the Cup, that experience is invaluable.

Dark horse for the Preds in the playoffs? Who’s gonna step up? (Teemu Koivula, @Junnuuh)

I wrote about this the other day here at Broadway Sports. Personally, I believe a couple of players are going to need to step up, but there were two in particular that I had in mind as true x-factors for the team.

Give it a read!

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