It was bound to happen after years of underachieving.
But now the question at hand is how will the remaining members of the Nashville Predators core respond after losing four players that helped them get to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup Final in 2017?
“Yeah, it’s different,” captain Roman Josi said. “All those guys – Peks, Elly, Calle, Viktor, they’ve been here for so many years. Since I’ve been here, I’ve always played with those guys. It’s part of the business. And it happens almost every year. But you definitely miss seeing those guys.”
Of course the four players Josi was referring to are recently retired goaltender Pekka Rinne, former defense partner Ryan Ellis, and ex-forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Viktor Arvidsson.
Ellis was shipped to Philadelphia in a deal that brought back 24-year-old defenseman Phillipe Myers and center Nolan Patrick, who was immediately flipped to Vegas for former No. 6 overall pick Cody Glass.
Arvidsson was sent to Los Angeles for a package of draft picks, and Jarnkrok was snatched up by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.
The silver lining for Nashville, though, is the team’s pipeline is stocked with fresh, young talent champing at the bit to claim an open spot in the Predators’ lineup.
"We played with some guys that have moved on, and now it's about moving forward," center Ryan Johansen said. "It's about bringing the young kids in, bringing the new faces in, and starting to mesh with them right away and build chemistry and trust."
Losing all four players stings, sure, but as Predators General Manager David Poile has pointed out several times, not winning has consequences. After all, professional hockey is a business first and foremost, and Poile put the rest of his team on notice.
And while watching two positive locker room guys such as Arvidsson and Jarnkrok get jettisoned off without as much as a second thought, the players knew moves like this were coming.
“Losing (Jarnkrok) and (Arvidsson), those were two of my closest friends on the team,” center Matt Duchene said. “But you get used to it over the course of your career to losing friends and teammates and it’s just part of what it is. But we’re really happy to have the guys we have here now and we’re going to move forward. There’s nothing but excitement for the season.”
Call it a competitive rebuild or, heck, just call it a rebuild. Or perhaps refer to it as a reality check, because that’s what it is.
It’s clear that while the rest of the NHL gets reacquainted to life as normal again, the Predators are adapting to their “new normal.”