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Learning from the Predators

The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Nashville Predators have a lot in common. Both have young stud Captain defensemen who play a similar game. Both have good goaltending. Both are strong on the backend. And both have a core of forwards that isn’t deep with offensive talent.

But the Nashville Predators are better.

You can thank Barry Trotz for that (the fact that he has not yet won the Jack Adams trophy is criminal). Every year sports journalists write off the Predators, and every year around February the same sports journalists churn out a string of articles about how the Predators keep on proving their doubters wrong.

The journalists aren’t just bandwagon jumpers. In fact, they are right. On paper, the Predators had no business making the playoffs 4 out of the last 5 years; after the 2006-2007 season, the Predators should have finished out of the top 8 in the Western Conference every single season. On paper.

8 games into the season, their top point getters are Steve Sullivan and Cal O’Reilly with 6 points (no where near the league lead in points). Yet somehow Nashville sits in 1st place in the West with 13 points as of today. Granted they likely won’t hold down that spot in the standings. But as the season runs its course, the Predators will once again be in the playoff picture, and their top scorer will, more than likely, have less than 70 points.

That is the amazing thing about the Predators: they are always greater than the sum of their parts. Guys like Wilson, Ward, Dumont, Franson, Weber, Legwand, Suter, Goc and Sullivan (the list keeps going) all fulfill their role optimally. No, not optimally. Robotically. Surgically. Trotz assigns them a role and they flourish in it like clockwork.

The Maple Leafs are no different. In fact, the Leafs are better endowed. We have a potential 40 (maybe even 50) goal scorer in Kessel. Our secondary scoring is just as good, if not better. Our D core has more depth and talent than the Predators. And our starting netminder has the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup his resume.

Again, however. All of this is on paper. 7 games into the season, the Leafs have proven they have a tough time doing what the Predators do night in and night out: sticking to a system consistently and sustaining a high level of team play.

It’s more of a Jekyll and Hyde act that the Leafs have going. Flip flopping between being a solid two-way playoff team and a borderline out-of-the-playoff-picture club.

But flip flopping doesn’t get you into the playoffs. Flip flopping doesn’t make you better than you are on paper.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Members Blog | Permalink
  Tags: barry+trotz


inferno31's avatar

Good team to compare them to, both have been written off yearly since the lockout. If we can get their kind of goaltending who knows whats possible. Haven’t seen many people compare the Leafs to the Preds, as most of Toronto’s media won’t watch games past 9 pm.

Posted by inferno31 on 10/26/10 at 05:05 AM ET


I would say that Pekka Rinne (over the past couple of years anyways) is a more proven goaltender than Giguere but the point is well taken. Who knows what the Leafs will look like in January while they are still implementing all the new pieces. It’s safe to say that this is the first time in a while Leafs Nation has reason for some optimism.

Posted by slapshot on 10/27/10 at 12:05 AM ET

SuperMario's avatar

@ Inferno31 - I don’t think most of hockey media anywhere watch the Predators enough. It’s part of the reason Shea Weber remained one of the best kept secrets in hockey till the Olympics this year, despite the fact that he has been playing at the same level for years now.

@slapshot - I would definitely agree, Rinne has the better resume over the past couple of years. But I think GIguere was not his usual self in that span and is finally regaining form this season.

Posted by SuperMario from Toronto on 10/27/10 at 12:26 AM ET

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