Kukla's Korner

Sulzer’s shoulder separated

From the Tennessean:

Predators defenseman Alexander Sulzer has a separated left shoulder and is expected to be out three to four weeks, according to coach Barry Trotz.

Sulzer was playing in only his 2nd NHL game last night in Vancouver, when former Pred Darcy Hordichuk hit him along the boards early in the 1st period.  While Greg de Vries appears to be about ready to rejoin the lineup, this will likely put a damper on some of the trade speculation that’s been bandied about wherein Nashville would part with a defenseman in order to bolster the offensive attack up front.

Filed in: Nashville Predators, | On the Forecheck | Permalink

Don’t Touch That Dial

For the hometown fans catching the Predators/Canucks game late Wednesday night, Nashville gave every reason to turn the TV off and head to bed early in the 2nd period.  After taking a 1-0 lead late in the 1st, the Preds allowed Vancouver to answer back with 3 straight goals, and things were looking hopeless.  This time, however, Barry Trotz tried something different to “change the luck”.  Instead of yanking the starting goalie, he called a timeout and spoke to the team.

I’m sure Pekka Rinne appreciated that move, as it’s not the way Dan Ellis has been treated lately.  Even though at least one of the Vancouver goals (by Burrows) was probably a soft one to give up, Rinne took charge from then on.  His teammates answered back with a few goals of their own, including 3 straight Power Play goals (yes, Nashville scored 3 PP goals!) to take a 5-3 win on the road.  In the final minutes of the 3rd, it was the Vancouver fans booing their team, a pleasant reversal for a Nashville team that got booed at home in a 7-2 loss to Atlanta earlier this month.

Seeing some of the goal-challenged forwards like J.P. Dumont, Jason Arnott, and Joel Ward score is hopefully a sign that all those shots being fired will result in steady goal-scoring.  One game is hardly enough to turn things around, but this Western Canadian swing (which leads next to Calgary Friday night) is certainly off to a good start.

Filed in: Nashville Predators, | On the Forecheck | Permalink

Rinne reigns

Barry Trotz refuses to say as much, but his actions appear to indicate that Pekka Rinne has assumed the starter’s role in the Nashville net these days, as he’s been tabbed to start tonight’s game in Vancouver.  The worries of some of the Preds’ fans seem to be coming true in terms of how Dan Ellis is getting handled, but some of his poor starts lately may have put the team’s season on the brink of ruin.

So, for your Predators Question of the Week, I ask you: Who should be Nashville’s #1 Goaltender?

It’s pretty clear what the coach thinks, if you take a look at recent work trends…

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Filed in: Nashville Predators, | On the Forecheck | Permalink

Riding to the rescue

Quoth John Glennon at the Tennessean:

The Predators will be looking to both the past and the future as they seek to rediscover their long-lost offense following the NHL All-Star break.

In practice Monday, their first after six off days, the Predators reunited one of the more successful lines in franchise history -

Yes folks, you know what that means…

J.P. Dumont, Jason Arnott, and Steve Sullivan of the Nashville Predators

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

Is a missing Scooter Nashville’s problem?

While pondering the possible solutions to the Nashville Predators’ offensive woes today, I was trying to decide on which angle to evaluate when @pwnicholson Twittered the following...

Can you run a comparison of the Preds w/ & w/o Nichol in the lineup? I’ve seen stuff in the past showing how ‘vital’ he is.

This issue had been bouncing around inside my head for a few days now, and was brought up again in this morning’s update in the Tennessean about Jones & Sulzer getting recalled from Milwaukee.  While Greg de Vries will go along on the road trip through Western Canada that begins Wednesday night in Vancouver, Scott Nichol is still “sidelined indefinitely” with the concussion he suffered December 9 on a hit by Rob Davison.

Now, nobody’s going to confuse Scott Nichol with a top-line center, but how big a hole is left in the Nashville lineup without him?

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

How to sell the Coolest Game on Earth

Have you ever found yourself at a loss for words to describe just what is so great about hockey to some unfortunate unbeliever? Take a cue from Guy Kawaski, a venture capitalist in high tech and a self-described hockey addict to boot.  This comes from an interview he did a couple years ago, but was passed around this morning by @Hate_Your_Team on Twitter:

Q: We’re both big hockey fans, does that increase my chances or raising money from Garage Technologies? No, I’m kidding. Can you tell the readers why hockey is so great?

A: Hockey is a great sport because it combines the physicality of football, the team play of basketball, the poetry of ballet, the complexity of mathematics, and the aerobics of soccer. There is only one activity that is more physically, emotionally, and intellectually captivating than hockey, and it’s not blogging.

Well said… for more, check out this Kawasaki interview with Risto Pakarinen over at his NHL.com blog in 2006, which includes Guy’s self-appraisal as a rec league player: “Slow and chippy, but I can shoot.


Filed in: NHL Commentary, | On the Forecheck | Permalink

Jones & Sulzer recalled to Nashville

From the Tennessean:

Nashville has recalled forward Ryan Jones and defenseman Alexander Sulzer from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League as the Preds prepare to make a three-game road trip through western Canada.

Jones has notched eight points (four goals, four assists) in 21 games during previous stints with the Predators this season, while Sulzer has played one NHL game – earlier this month in Montreal.

This move brings the Predators’ roster back up to 22 active players, GM David Poile’s preferred number.  While none of the Predators rookies have lit up the scoreboard in various stints at the NHL level, Jones at least has been able to create power play opportunities at a rate among the NHL’s best.

Filed in: Nashville Predators, | On the Forecheck | Permalink

How are the goalies holding up?

The burden of NHL travel has been a hot topic in recent weeks, with Vancouver’s GM Mike Gillis petitioning the league for a less stressful schedule next season, and the question being raised as to how many one-game trips various teams have to make.  While it is assumed that factors like back-to-back games are a drag on player performance, what we don’t know at this point is how much of an influence they have, and whether certain players are affected more than others.

Over at Brodeur is a Fraud, however, the Contrarian Goaltender digs into the details to try and determine how various goalies have held up in recent years, focusing specifically on their numbers from back-to-back games:

I took a sample of the top 10 goalies in games played since the lockout, and compared how they did in the first game vs. the second game of all of their back-to-backs over the last 3 seasons. What I found, somewhat surprisingly, was that the numbers were pretty much identical in both halves of the back-to-backs.

Read on for an interesting analysis of this issue; I think the jury is still out, but this piece certainly helps to inform the discussion.

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

Shea Weber’s road to NHL stardom

James Mirtle gives us the background story on Shea Weber, the Nashville Predators phenom who has joined the ranks of the NHL’s elite defensemen this season:

Seven years ago, Shea Weber was about as far from being in this photo [at the All-Star Game] as you can get.

Undersized. Undrafted by the WHL. Playing in Junior B in his hometown of Sicamous, B.C., two levels below major junior hockey and about as removed from the spotlight as possible. He was only 16, but by then, most future Norris Trophy winners are earning accolades, being scouted by NHL teams and playing with the national team.

Weber was just hoping to get taller.

It’s a dynamite article about a relatively unheralded star, and especially for Nashville fans, it’s a welcome step forward from the “he was injured last year, now he’s great” articles that we usually see from the MSM.


Filed in: Nashville Predators, | On the Forecheck | Permalink

Hockey ain’t baseball: no kidding!

The ascent of sabermetrics in Major League Baseball sparked a confrontation between the new-fangled math geeks with their correlation studies and algorithms, and the old-school empiricists, the traditional scouts who relied upon observation and experience to build winning organizations (as told in Moneyball, for example).  While the progress of advanced statistical analysis in hockey has lagged well behind that of baseball, the opinions expressed in various forums (mostly blogs) built upon measures like Corsi Numbers, Shot Quality (PDF) and On/Off Ice +/- have been enough to create a threat in the minds of some, who fear an overthrow of the established understanding of the game.

A good example of someone reacting to that perceived threat comes today from Jason Gregor over at OilersNation.com:

Sabremetrics[sic] and Moneyball have worked in baseball, but would the same work in hockey?

To me the sports are just too different to allow statistical data to overtake live scouting.

Sigh… I cruise a lot of the statistically-oriented hockey sites, and I’ve yet to ever read anyone even remotely suggesting that statistical analysis could ever replace or overtake live scouting. Yet here we have another stirring defense against that imaginary foe…

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

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