Kukla's Korner

Nashville Predators 1st Quarter Report: the skaters

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!

Doris Day in Techers' Pet

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:

 ActualPaceForecast 
 PlayerGPGAPtsShotsGAPtsShotsGAPtsShots Comment
 Shea Weber2010112168414586279152439225 The next great NHL defenseman has arrived A
 J.P. Dumont204172150167086205324880220 Keeps getting better every year A-
 Jason Arnott171071750412970205294069240 Flying under the radar, but very productive A-
 Martin Erat17791633293766135253863176 How do we get him to shoot more? B+
Ryan Suter2021113368455314892736155 Tied w/Dion Phaneuf in scoring, easily overlooked B+
 David Legwand20381136123345148193857172 It always looks like he should score more B-
 Patric Hornqvist152573482129139181533140 Firing pucks as expected, they just aren’t going in C
 Ryan Jones15336231212259412183095 Getting outshot a ton, but drawing calls well B-
 Scott Nichol19246218162586681480 PK is coming around, any offense is a bonus B
 Dan Hamhuis20156304212512372532140 Off to a very poor start in his own end D+
 Radek Bonk18156214212586122537110 Only positive is 59.3% faceoff wins C-
 Joel Ward183252612821107     Surprise contributor has had gaffes of late C+
 Rich Peverley14145184162174     Having trouble cracking lineup regularly D+
 Jordin Tootoo203143512416144162036130 Needs time with steady linemates C
 Ville Koistinen13 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 Zanon20 1 3 4 13 4 12 16 53     3rd in NHL with 58 Blocked Shots C+
 Vern Fiddler17 2 1 3 30 8 4 12 123 8 20 28 80 Hasn’t stepped up as coaches hoped D
 Jerred Smithson20 1 2 3 9 4 8 12 37 3 5 8 35 Fulfilling role better than last year B
 Kevin Klein7 1 2 3 5 4 8 12 21 3 10 13 60 A press box regular lately C-
 Greg De Vries20 1 2 3 13 4 8 12 53     Early pairing with Hamhuis a disaster F
 Nick Tarnasky10 0 1 1 5 0 4 4 21     Zzzzzz… F
 Antti Pihlstrom0 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 Ortmeyer0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 6 10 60 Should be ready for action any day now
 Josh Gratton0 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:

 PlayerPosDrawsFoulsPen +/-
 NSH #28 JONESL15213
 NSH #38 FIDDLERC936
 NSH #39 ELLISG404
 NSH #12 NICHOLC1082
 NSH #29 WARDR642
 NSH #71 DUMONTR642
 NSH #27 HORNQVISTR862
 NSH #2 HAMHUISD981
 NSH #14 BONKC431
 NSH #74 TARNASKYC440
 NSH #8 KLEIND01-1
 NSH #19 ARNOTTC45-1
 NSH #35 RINNEG01-1
 NSH #22 TOOTOOR1820-2
 NSH #11 LEGWANDC57-2
 NSH #20 SUTERD811-3
 NSH #10 ERATR47-3
 NSH #4 KOISTINEND03-3
 NSH #37 PEVERLEYC04-4
 NSH #7 DE VRIESD812-4
 NSH #25 SMITHSONC37-4
 NSH #5 ZANOND110-9
 NSH #6 WEBERD413-9

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.

Filed in: Nashville Predators, NHL Statistical Analysis, | On the Forecheck | Permalink
 

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