We've Crossed the First Threshold.

There are two simple rules that I follow early in each and ever NHL season. The first that the standings are pretty meaningless until (American) Thanksgiving. This is the time of year with bizarre stat leaders, neck in neck races between future champions and lottery winners, and the Ottawa Senators not thinking that they are going to be spending the second half of the season hanging out with the Blue Jackets in their mom's basement listening to Jawbreaker and watching The Kids In The Hall DVDs. I know, doesn't sound like the worst Friday night, but it certainly isn't how you want to spend the second half of your hockey season. My second rule is that I start to evaluate a team's performance until they've struck the ten game mark. While teams continue to go through changes, work around injuries, and have mid-season surges, I think that you can get a solid feel for the look and feel of the team.

That brings us to the Nashville Predators. At the start of last week I would say that I wasn't anticipating sitting down and writing this little piece. Sure, when I'm ranting and going off the deep end I'm far more entertaining, but it would still mean the Preds were playing like utter crap and that I was twitchy from people jumping ship, calling for Trotz's/Poile's head/blood, and declaring war on the color gold. Fortunately for my mental health things have settled down from that point and the team finds itself right in the thick of the Western Conference and only three points from the Central Division leading Blackhawks. So, with all those positive thoughts in mind let's actually take a look at the team.

A lot of the team's early problems were a lack of drive. The team just didn't seem to have the fire and grit that carries them through season after season. The other major issue have been shots. Any hockey fan knows that the Predators are not known for their scoring, but the boys in gold can't even shoot pucks. Last night was the first time this season that the Preds have out shot their opponents. If they can't manage to do that on a consistent basis they aren't going to make the playoffs no matter how good Pekka Rinne plays. Granted the team's defensive play has begun to return to form which means they can get back to scraping out narrow margin victories. With Craig Smith and Hornqvist leading the way with shots fans may see the scales tip back in the Preds' favor, but the team needs to make sure they aren't just trying to bruise goalie sternums.

So lets look at the the players after 10 (give or take a concussion)


Pekka is Pekka. He's been handling the easy shots with ease and the impossible shots with his combination of astounding skill and fierce competitiveness. Some have said that he's the most expendable of the big three of him, Suter, and Weber, but I think the team as a whole would miss his attitude and esilience.

In over six hundred minutes of game play Anders has played forty of them. He played well in the time he was given and continues to demonstrate that his impressive ability to step into a situation cold and still perform.


Suter and Weber have been pretty much their normal selves outside of Shea's penalty buffet. both of them are a plus four and have five points a piece. A little slow maybe, but they've been trying to shore up the Predators' shaky defensive zone play

Mr. Blum hasn't looked like superman this year, and I think that is pretty understandable. His biggest contribution this year is block all those shots. In fact he's tied for third in the league with 32 shots blocked.

Kevin Klein has been having a hell of a season so far. He's doing all the right things in the defensive zone as well as stolen the fans' favorite scapegoat.

Its hard to get a read on Bouillon, but he seems to providing that veteran presence and physicality that was lacking in the third pairing.

Hillen has been better than Laakso and the now transatlantic Ekholm. I don't think about him all that much, which I'll interpret meaning that he's doing just fine.


Zac Stortini got turned into Brian McGrattan and fans responded with mixtures of confusion and apathy. and That's all there is to say about that.

Cal O'Reilly varied between being 'there' and being bad for the first few games of the season and the emergence of Craig Smith along with the return of Mike Fisher finally made the skilled playmaker redundant. Poile did well to turn the oft injured Irishman into a 4th round draft pick.

Since there are piles of forwards we're going to hit this fast

Craig "Honey Badger" Smith has performed beyond my expectations. Even when he isn't scoring he is still driving the net, taking shots, beating the opposing D with his speed, and generally outwork everyone else on the ice with the exception of Pekka Rinne.

Colin Wilson has been better. He still needs to stop trying to be so cute, he can get laid off the ice and after the game.

Jerred Smithson is Jerred Smithson. Preds fans love him, he's tons of fun, and he does his job.

David Legwand isn't leading the league in points anymore, but the youth around him is inspiring the veteran to improve his play. He's also making Trotz look silly for insisting on playing Erat along side of him for so many years.

Mike Fisher looked like the skilled forward and leader the team needs him to be. He's scored, he's checked, he's won face offs. If his shoulder injury is going to force him to miss playing time the Preds are going to find themselves in a scary place again.

Kostitsyn continues to be the player we all know and love. He doesn't shoot enough, but he does a lot more right and it shows. He's got 3 goals and 8 points already. Remember, last season he had a steep learning curve before taking off and becoming one the team's best scorers. Having Tits already clicking bodes well for the Predators

Black Geoffrion is being the type of player fans expected him to be last season. He checks, he hustles, and he's scrappy to the core. The best question lies in his ability to contribute offensively, and this is the area where he would receive the greatest benefit from playing time with the Milwaukee Admirals.

Nick Spaling is his normal defensive self. What I love about Spaling is that you can always count on him jumping in on the counter attack and going to the net. His on ice responsibilities limit his ability to do that, but he sure puts forward the effort

Martin Erat has only played two games, but its always in his absence that we see what his presence means for the Preds

The new Jordin Tootoo continues to be a major asset. In the offensive zone he is a living terror and draws more than his fair share of penalties. My one big knock against him is that he struggles to get the puck out of his defensive zone. There were several sequences over the last ten games where he would steal the puck, turn it over, and then repeat that series three more times before chipping the puck out.

Bergwho? With O'Reilly gone and if Fisher is injured he might get another chance to prove his value

Matt Halischuk brings no surprises to the table. He turns the puck over more than I'd like, mostly due to getting checked off the puck, but he always puts in the effort.

Now that Hornqvist is at full health he's been back to the player that inspired me to get a shersey and jersey. He's scoring goals, he's camped out in front of the net, and he's constantly working. The Swede has also added skilled shot blocker to his resume and making himself that much more valuable of a hockey player.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

A great thanks for that run down. I can't see many of the games from here so it's great to get an idea on how they are shaping up this year and I love your humor added in. Always a great read.