Here was a headline that caught me somewhere uncomfortable the other day:
“Ryan Johansen’s Blockbuster Deal Could Set Up Predators Dynasty”
Ambitious stuff for a team that’s been past the second round exactly once, don’t you think? Look, I get it. Best top four on the blue line in the league, arguably. A raft of fast, young forwards not bereft of skill. A pretty good coach, though has a track record of flaming out quickly in places. A rabid fanbase and unique (whether you think it’s good or bad) atmosphere that tends to cloud the judgement of neutral observers (don’t tell me that doesn’t happen). A division where everyone appears to be standing still at best, if not falling backwards. Really, who else in the Central has an upward trajectory at the moment? So it’s easy to fall in love with Nashville.
But let’s take a look, shall we?
First, Johansen himself. 61 points last year. Certainly not terrible. Broken 70 once, three years ago in Columbus. Ok, that’s nice. 25 now, could be hitting his prime. The Preds had better hope so, because here’s a list of teams since the Great Lockout of ’05 that have won the Cup without a 70+ point player:
*the ’15 Blackhawks didn’t either, except Kane had 66 points through 61 games before getting hurt and missing the rest of the regular season. Feel like he might have found four points in 21 games to get there.
The 2011 Bruins are the only one to manage it, and they had a Vezina winning goalie who threw a .940 in the playoffs. So it would behoove everyone involved if Johansen turned into that guy, because he’s basically the only capable on the roster. Unless they’re counting on a Vezina and .940 playoff performance from Rinne. Which would be… curious.
Which brings us to our next point. Pekka Rinne. Marvelous last spring… for three rounds. Then he basically shit it in Pittsburgh, and though the Predators were the better team in that Final, they get the silver medal. Here’s some numbers for you:
Those are Rinne’s career playoff save-percentages by year. Two good ones out of six. Now, if you were looking at this in a vacuum, and you were told that this player was going to be 35 when next spring rolls around, which way would you wager? Would you wager that “he’s figured something out” at 34? Or would you back the trend that he’s shown more often? It’s ok, I know what you’re going to say. I’ll be right here.
Speaking of goalie ageism, I’m curious: How many goalies have won a Cup as the starter over 35 since that lockout? Why it’s Tim Thomas again! He of the Vezina and .940 in the playoffs. Seems pretty stratospheric, no? Also Chris Osgood, who got to play behind a team that carried a 59% Corsi-rating for a season. 59%!
Ah, but the Preds have Juuse Saros, you say. Goalie of the future. Put up a .923 in limited action last year. At times it was even thought he should replace Rinne. Ok, fair enough. Here’s something, though. Saros is listed at 5-11. Let’s see how many goalies below six feet registered in the top 20 in save percentage last year:
Well, that’s strange. How about the year before that?
18. Jaroslav Halak
Hey, there’s one! How about the year before that?
Hmm. It’s not that you can’t be really good under six feet. It’s just that given the way the game is played today and all the traffic one has to deal with and keep out of the crease, it’s really hard.
Ok, I know what’s next. You’re going to say that the Preds will be such a possession-dominant team that they can take the goalie out of the equation. Much like those ’08 Red Wings did or the ’10 Blackhawks. Problem is, those kinds of teams broke 55%, and sometimes by a lot. The Preds were only around 52%, and other than teams like Boston and LA that kind of get artificially inflated totals by having simply nothing ever happen on the ice, I doubt we’ll see any team come anywhere close to that 55% threshold again. The Preds are a high-event team. So they’re not getting there. Which means the margins are smaller. Which means they need good goaltending. Look what happened when they didn’t get it for just two or three games last year in the Final. Donezo. And again, Rinne is going to be 35.
I’m reminded of another Laviolette team, one that was also coming off a loss in the Final. The ’11 Flyers. Really loaded up front with Giroux, Richards, Carter, a young JVR, Hartnell, Briere. Blue line had a still useful Timmonen, Pronger, Coburn, Carle. They tore through the NHL for a half-season. Looked like an utter machine.
Then what happened? Bobrovsky and Boucher each took turns shitting on themselves and the other one in the playoffs. Lost to an unimpressive Devils team. Have they been heard from again?
Sure, the Preds are a touch younger than that bunch. And Poile isn’t likely to lose his mind and start shipping off pieces when it doesn’t go well in the spring, should that happen. But still, let’s hang back on tossing around the word, “dynasty,” shall we?