In the 10 weeks or so until training camp begins, first-year Nashville Predators head coach Andrew Brunette will occupy his time with film study, talent evaluation and studying the intricacies of the holdover players from last year’s team as he begins to piece together his blueprint for the 2023 season.
While he mulls over his new-look roster — complete with three new forwards, a new defenseman, and a handful of promising young guns eager to prove they’re NHL ready — Brunette’s first order of business is simple: get to know his players.
“For me, it’s about coming in with a clean slate, finding out what they do well and trying to put them in position that they’re able to succeed,” Brunette told 102.5 The Game during the draft. “…Today’s game is just more about connection and can you connect with the players and put them in positions to succeed?”
With eight players from last year’s opening-night roster no longer on the team, including two-thirds of the top six and one-third of the blue line, Brunette is seemingly working with a mostly blank canvas.
With the style Brunette likes to play with — a fast-paced, possession-driving attack built on controlled zone entries and offensive pressure — Predators general manager Barry Trotz has acquired a few new faces (Ryan O’Reilly, Luke Schenn, Gustav Nyquist, Denis Gurianov) to help bring his vision to life.
“I do have a style of play I like to play,” Brunette continued. “Is it different than any other team? That’s probably secretive in its own way. … I like to play fast and I think we can play a lot faster than we had. Now, that’s personnel driven, of course, but I’d like to play a little bit more up-tempo, a little bit more, I guess you could say, offensive — trying to push the pace, trying to take time and space away, trying to pressure the puck.”
With a roster turnover of nearly 40 percent, Brunette has a lot of deck shuffling to do as he implements his new up-tempo offensive system and begins to tinker with line combinations and special teams units.
“I think it’s hard right now to really kind of pencil in (guys to spots),” Brunette said. “I kind of look at more of a top-nine, top-12 kind of thing. The top six sometimes gets a little overrated in a lot of different ways, especially with the way that I like to move lines around.”
Brunette’s system is predicated on a multitude of skillsets working together in harmony. Fortunately for him, he has several a la carte options to choose from as he constructs his optimal lineup.
“You’ve got the kids coming up and they’re going to get some opportunities,” Brunette added. “…Parssinen, I think the way he played in the second half of the year, I see him sliding in there and I’m excited to get to know his game a little better. Colton Sissons is the perfect flex guy where he can move up and be a top-six forward, he can be a shutdown fourth liner or on the third line, the checking line.”
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