by Forechecker on 11/24/08 at 07:22 PM ET
Expect your Nashville Predators to come home today with those 1st quarter report cards pinned to their shirts, please remember to read them and sign on the back before returning them to the teacher!
First, let’s take a look at the main numbers so far, with the Pace which each player is setting for the 82-game regular season, and a comparison against the Forecast which I made for each player at the beginning of the year:
|Shea Weber||20||10||11||21||68||41||45||86||279||15||24||39||225||The next great NHL defenseman has arrived A|
|J.P. Dumont||20||4||17||21||50||16||70||86||205||32||48||80||220||Keeps getting better every year A-|
|Jason Arnott||17||10||7||17||50||41||29||70||205||29||40||69||240||Flying under the radar, but very productive A-|
|Martin Erat||17||7||9||16||33||29||37||66||135||25||38||63||176||How do we get him to shoot more? B+|
|Ryan Suter||20||2||11||13||36||8||45||53||148||9||27||36||155||Tied w/Dion Phaneuf in scoring, easily overlooked B+|
|David Legwand||20||3||8||11||36||12||33||45||148||19||38||57||172||It always looks like he should score more B-|
|Patric Hornqvist||15||2||5||7||34||8||21||29||139||18||15||33||140||Firing pucks as expected, they just aren’t going in C|
|Ryan Jones||15||3||3||6||23||12||12||25||94||12||18||30||95||Getting outshot a ton, but drawing calls well B-|
|Scott Nichol||19||2||4||6||21||8||16||25||86||6||8||14||80||PK is coming around, any offense is a bonus B|
|Dan Hamhuis||20||1||5||6||30||4||21||25||123||7||25||32||140||Off to a very poor start in his own end D+|
|Radek Bonk||18||1||5||6||21||4||21||25||86||12||25||37||110||Only positive is 59.3% faceoff wins C-|
|Joel Ward||18||3||2||5||26||12||8||21||107||Surprise contributor has had gaffes of late C+|
|Rich Peverley||14||1||4||5||18||4||16||21||74||Having trouble cracking lineup regularly D+|
|Jordin Tootoo||20||3||1||4||35||12||4||16||144||16||20||36||130||Needs time with steady linemates C|
|Ville Koistinen||13||2||2||4||12||8||8||16||49||7||29||36||120||Soft as baby’s buns on D, not making up for it on O D+|
|Greg Zanon||20||1||3||4||13||4||12||16||53||3rd in NHL with 58 Blocked Shots C+|
|Vern Fiddler||17||2||1||3||30||8||4||12||123||8||20||28||80||Hasn’t stepped up as coaches hoped D|
|Jerred Smithson||20||1||2||3||9||4||8||12||37||3||5||8||35||Fulfilling role better than last year B|
|Kevin Klein||7||1||2||3||5||4||8||12||21||3||10||13||60||A press box regular lately C-|
|Greg De Vries||20||1||2||3||13||4||8||12||53||Early pairing with Hamhuis a disaster F|
|Nick Tarnasky||10||0||1||1||5||0||4||4||21||Zzzzzz… F|
|Antti Pihlstrom||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||4||6||25||Lighting it up in the AHL, now he gets an NHL chance|
|Jed Ortmeyer||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4||6||10||60||Should be ready for action any day now|
|Josh Gratton||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||2||2||20||Chin of Steel taking punches in Philly|
Basically, what we’re seeing here is the elite core of the team (Weber & Suter in back, Arnott, Dumont & Erat up front) carry the offensive load, while the rest of the team has struggled to consistently produce results. Reliable fillers for the 1st and 2nd lines have yet to be found, which begs the question as to whether the team might have been better off retaining Jan Hlavac, an affordable veteran who seemed to mesh well with Legwand and Erat in the final weeks of last season. He was allowed to head off to Sweden, in the hopes that Patric Hornqvist or Ryan Jones would lock down the 2nd line winger spot. That hasn’t happened yet, at least to the satisfaction of Barry Trotz and David Poile.
Defensively, strong team efforts have been few and far between. The penalty killing, however, has at least gotten some traction lately after a shaky start. Speaking of penalties, let’s take a look at overall performance in Penalty Plus/Minus:
|NSH #28 JONES||L||15||2||13|
|NSH #38 FIDDLER||C||9||3||6|
|NSH #39 ELLIS||G||4||0||4|
|NSH #12 NICHOL||C||10||8||2|
|NSH #29 WARD||R||6||4||2|
|NSH #71 DUMONT||R||6||4||2|
|NSH #27 HORNQVIST||R||8||6||2|
|NSH #2 HAMHUIS||D||9||8||1|
|NSH #14 BONK||C||4||3||1|
|NSH #74 TARNASKY||C||4||4||0|
|NSH #8 KLEIN||D||0||1||-1|
|NSH #19 ARNOTT||C||4||5||-1|
|NSH #35 RINNE||G||0||1||-1|
|NSH #22 TOOTOO||R||18||20||-2|
|NSH #11 LEGWAND||C||5||7||-2|
|NSH #20 SUTER||D||8||11||-3|
|NSH #10 ERAT||R||4||7||-3|
|NSH #4 KOISTINEN||D||0||3||-3|
|NSH #37 PEVERLEY||C||0||4||-4|
|NSH #7 DE VRIES||D||8||12||-4|
|NSH #25 SMITHSON||C||3||7||-4|
|NSH #5 ZANON||D||1||10||-9|
|NSH #6 WEBER||D||4||13||-9|
This isn’t a pretty picture. Other than Jones and Fiddler, nobody is faring particularly well here, A recurring theme we hear in pre-game interviews lately is that the Predators need to stop taking so many penalties, but so far, that message hasn’t sunk in. Yesterday against Carolina, the team took five minor penalties during the 1st period alone, and were it not for outstanding PK work (holding the Hurricanes 0-for-8), that game could have gotten out of hand early.
Over the weekend, much public noise was made about imminent lineup changes if various players didn’t step up to the challenges they’ve been given. The $64,000 Question is whether those will simply result from Jones, Hornqvist, and perhaps an additional callup from Milwaukee (like Antti Pihlstrom or Alexander Sulzer) arriving, or will a trade be made to bring in proven NHL talent? Now is the time of year when teams start to make deals, either to address injury concerns or to toss in the towel on a season that just never got started properly (I’m looking at you, St. Louis). The bottom line is that there should be options available to fine-tune this team for the road ahead.
Overall, the team should feel fortunate to be in 8th position in the West after their first 20 games. The early schedule has been heavy on road games (13-7), and this typically strong home team should make ground over the coming weeks. In addition, the train wreck that is the Dallas Stars has opened an additional Western Conference playoff spot that most observers assumed would be taken, and neither Columbus nor Phoenix has really taken off like many had expected. Despite all that’s happened over the last several months, this is still a playoff-caliber team, and if anything, the moaning and groaning from the fan base over their play so far should be taken as a sign of increased expectations in Music City.
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