Hockey

If you feel like the Predators acquire a tweener center every season — one who’s not quite a #1 but can be more than a #2 pivot — you’re not alone. Three years ago it was Ryan Johansen. Two years ago it was Kyle Turris. Now it’s Matt Duchene, whom they got because they weren’t sure what they had in more in the second one of those. Or maybe they realized Johansen isn’t what they claimed either. Maybe it’s both. Or maybe it’s the Preds just have to have all the lightning quick forwards with faces you want to turn into ground chuck. It’s a rich elixir.

The Preds were always rumored to be after Duchene, and he them, for years. So that signing might have happened no matter what kind of year Turris had last season. It gained more urgency when Turris played most of the year as if he was hit by a bus. When he wasn’t injured, he was terrible.

Turris only put together 23 points in the 55 games he claimed he was upright for, and missed the rest. The two points in the Predators’ playoff loss didn’t really do much to put any kind of gleam to it, either. Digging deeper, the look only gets worse.

Hockey doesn’t have a “chances created” category really yet, like soccer does. So it’s hard to suss out how far Turris’s passing game went into the toilet. We can fairly assess how much his scoring became El Disparu. His goals/60 was a career-low 0.17. His individual expected-goals per 60 was also a career low 0.37. Scoring chances, shots, attempts, whatever you want to look at were all the worst marks of his career.

On the flip side, the team’s overall numbers with him on the ice weren’t staggeringly bad. So Turris was either still doing some of his old work, or his teammates were carrying him around like a pool noodle.

No question Turris struggled with injuries. He had two separate stints on the IL to total those 27 missed games, both to his legs. Perhaps he just couldn’t get around the ice as well as he would normally.

Things have turned around of Turris this year, though. His goals/60 so far in 11 games is the highest of his career, though that has a little to do with the highest shooting-percentage at evens and overall of his career as well. But his individual expected goals is back to where it was in his halcyon days in Ottawa (if such a thing can exist in Ottawa), and his individual attempts are the highest he’s managed as well. Turris has never been a great sniper, as his career 10.9 S% would show you. So the volume of attempts and chances has to go up for him to score.

Health is certainly part of it, as thanks to the Preds’ first-round hairball against Dallas he had plenty of time to heal whatever fell off of him last year. It could be linemates as well. Last year, Turris spent most of his time with Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala. Smith is a fine player but something of a battering ram, and Fiala sucks and you know he sucks because he ended up in Minnesota. This season, Turris is playing between Mikael Granlund and Rocco Grimaldi. Grandlund has by far more verve and dash to his game, which means Turris doesn’t have to do all of the creating. Grimaldi’s speed, when not carrying his cross around to wave in everyone’s face, opens up more space than Smith and Fiala could have managed.

Maybe it’s also getting to slot behind Johansen and Duchene, when Duchene plays center at least. All of it must be a relief to the Preds, who watched Turris eat it in the first year of his $6M-a-year extension. Turris was, and might still be in the near future, looking at being a cap casualty. The Preds have $22M in space next year but they also have Roman Josi to sign, and he’s going to be looking for quite the raise from his current $4.5M hit that gave the Preds one of the biggest bargains in the league for years. They’ll have some holes at forward as well to fix with the rest of it.

At worst, if Turris plays himself into a useful trade piece, that’s probably enough for the Preds, who can roll with Johansen and Duchene 1-2 from here. Which makes it seem like this has to be the year for Nashville, or it’s never going to happen.

Everything Else

It was all lined up for the Preds last year. Coming off their first Final appearance, and after a big trade that supposedly landed them the #2 center they’ve always needed (even though they don’t really have a #1), and a career-season out of Pekka Rinne at 35, this was their moment.

And they fluffed their lines.

They ran into a team that did what they did but better. They ran into a team with four genuine centers and two that could claim to be #1s. Rinne looked his age. Sure, it took to a Game 7, but the Preds only got to that by having to revert from their style and basically trap the Jets. It could only work for so long, because Pekka Rinne for his whole career save one playoff run has been just good enough to get you beat. And so it proved.

Oh, and the summer had yet another Predator proving to be nothing more than a shitbag, which of course they’ll welcome back with open arms because that’s what they do in Music City. AW HERE IN THE SOUTH WE THINK HITTIN’ YOUR WOMAN IS A SIGN OF LOVE. YOU YANKS JUST WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND WITH YOUR FANCY COMPASSION.

Anyway, the Preds are just going to roll it back, with essentially the same team and Rinne another year older. Funny thing though, the Jets haven’t gone anywhere, the Blues suddenly look a little spiky, and the Sharks await whoever survives this cage match. The Preds very well may have missed their boat.

2017-2018: 53-18-11 117 points  267 GF 211 GA  51.5 CF% 50.9 xGF% 8.1 SH% .935 SV%

Goalies: This could be the start of something big. And by “big” I mean a controversy. The Preds have seemingly wanted to hand the job to Juuse Saros for a while now. But they watched Rinne have a renaissance starting in the ’17 playoffs and all through last season. They can’t exactly just dislodge him due to policy.

And yet he’s turning 36 in a month. He has the Game 7 full-body dry heave during the Preds’ best chance for a Cup hanging over him. It won’t take much for their to be a whiff of a switch. They nearly did it two seasons ago before Rinne discovered Ponce De Leon’s secret.

Which in one sense is great for the Preds. Saros has been excellent whenever called upon, even though he’s small and small goalies really struggle in today’s league. If Rinne stumbles, their season won’t be torpedoed.

On the other hand, you’re talking about an organizational legend, the longest-tenured Pred by some distance, and a fan favorite. A team leader, and there’s no telling what kind of effect turning things over to Saros could have. This seems to be a team that has cohesion, but you’ve seen it rip teams apart before. It’s one fissure everyone has to keep an eye on.

Most likely, Rinne is just good enough during the season to keep these questions at bay. But in the spring if something should go haywire, it’ll take quite the tap-dance for Peter Laviolette to negotiate.

Defense: Well, they had the best defense in the league, so no reason to not return with it. Or they did until the Sharks traded for Erik Karlsson. But this is still the strength of the team. They added Dan Hamhuis again to fill out the third pairing, and even though he’s a million years old now he can probably take 12-15 minutes a night and do it well. It’s still the top four that’s the envy of most of the league.

It’s actually only middling defensively, as they give up an average amount of attempts and chances. But with Ellis, Josi, Subban, and Ekholm, they create far more than they surrender. You can’t find a team that has more players that get the team up the ice from the back themselves. Ellis is here for the full run this time, which will help them stay at the top of the division. Sure, they need some bailing out from their goalie at times, but they also keep the Preds on the right side of the ice enough.

Forwards: We’re the only ones who think this, and no matter how much we shout it from the rooftops no one seems to listen. When Ryan Johansen is not playing for a contract, he’s playing for a lava cake. As I said in the Preds’ eulogy, he had the same amount of points as Jonathan Toews last year and everyone tells me Toews is clinically dead. Mark Scheifele kicked his ass up and down the ice in that series last year, mostly because RyJo was still digesting the family size bag of M&Ms he ate at intermission. There’s no reason to think that won’t continue.

The Preds backed that up by acquiring Kyle Turris, whom reports suggest did play in last year’s playoffs. I’m not sure where there’s evidence of that. Maybe I need decoder glasses for it or something.

Turris and Johansen will do enough in the regular season to make you think the Preds are strong down the middle. And then they’ll run up against the Jets or Sharks or Blues, who actually have real center-depth, and the Preds will have a real damn problem.

Other than that, it’s still the same crop of quick forwards who never stop working and basically run most teams out of the building most nights. They’re probably looking for more from Kevin Fiala this term, who had something of a breakout with 23 goals last year. If they get it they’re more than fine. If they don’t, they’re just a touch short on scoring.

Outlook: Here’s another thing to watch with the Preds this year. Lavvy is almost certainly past his sell-by date. He wore out his act in Carolina and Philly well before this, and his intense ways can grind on players. If things go just a little sideways early in the season, they could pull the rip-chord on him. The goalie situation won’t help.

But other than those two maybes, there’s a lot more certainties with Nashville. One of the best blue lines in the league. Two good goalies. Maybe not the forward corps most people think, but certainly one good enough to cash in on the puck-movers they have at the back. They’ll be at the top of the division and conference again.

But there’s also no reason to think that an encounter with Winnipeg will go that much differently. If they survive that, there’s still San Jose, who won’t be nearly as tested in the Pacific, likely. It looks like it’ll be too much for Treat Boy and the gang to overcome.

 

Everything Else

One of the bigger trades in recent season’s took place early this one. It involved three teams, which rarely happens in the NHL. The Senators punted Kyle Turris to Nashville after he made it clear he wasn’t sticking around Ottawa long-term, and received Matt Duchene in return. The Sens didn’t get anything else.

On the surface, it makes sense. The Senators saw they were going to lose their #1 center, Duchene was another nominal #1 center on the market, and made the switch. They thought there was a better chance Duchene would want to stick around past his contract, though we won’t know that until July when he can be signed to an extension. And of course, this deal took place when the Senators hadn’t completely seen their intestines fall into their legs. There was still a lot of “this season” in the trade.

Still, you have to wonder if the Senators would do that deal again.

Duchene is better as a winger than he is a center, and as a center he’s almost certainly a #2. That’s where he was best in Colorado, letting MacKinnon doing the heavy-lifting or riding shotgun with him on a wing.

And Duchene is just not all that good, his Team Canada pedigree aside. He’s topped 70 points once, and 30 goals once, though he scored at that pace in the lockout-shortened season-in-a-can. His scoring would make for one of the best second-liners in the league, and a first-liner if you squint. But that is not what gets you closer to a Cup.

Now Duchene has to wonder if he wants to stick around for a rebuild, and that’s the reason he asked out of Colorado. Except this summer he’ll only have one year left on his deal and his value won’t be as high as it was in November when he was traded the first time. The Senators very well may have acquired something for a dollar that they’ll have to sell for 75 cents or less.

Duchene turns 28 next season, so if the Senators are about to embark on a plan that’s going to take two or three years to come to fruition, he’s going to be past his peak. And considering that all of Hoffman, Stone, and especially Karlsson are all being put in the shop window, three years might be conservative. You don’t build around players that are going to be over 30 when you’re going to be good again.

If the Sens are doing the full-blow up they might as well see what’s out there for Duchene. The Bruins could use another forward, and the Penguins were in on him the first time. The Send don’t have a surefire #1 center or d-man in the system, though Aaron Luchuk and Logan Brown look like they could be something in a couple years.

This is why decisions shouldn’t be made off one playoff run. The Sens got to a the Eastern Final last year on the back of Anderson and Karlsson, but anyone looking at this roster could have easily told you it was too goalie-dependent to expect anything near a repeat. And Anderson’s up-and-down career was another red flag. Turris heading into free agency was another.

The Sens could have gotten a future piece or two for Turris. Look what the Avs got for Duchene. But focused on the now has put them back two or three seasons.

Game #61 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

You’ll have to excuse JR a bit. Apparently down in Nash-Vegas, he hosts an enormous Royal Rumble party every year. When we sent this to him, he wasn’t sure who he was and definitely didn’t know how his arms worked. We thank him for playing hurt. 

 

Game #50 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We don’t know where exactly we found @Brian5or6. That’s the case with most of our friends. We just ended up this way. Anyway, you can read his stuff at Brian5or6.com. 

 

Game #42 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 at 

Game Time: 7:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBCSN National, WGN-AM 720
Fuck David Poile: On The Forecheck

With the next stop on this Freakout Hell Bus Ride of 5 games in 7 nights for the Hawks, they find themselves once again in Nash Vegas, where they’ll take on the league’s secret scumbag team masquerading as its sweetheart, the Predators, who somehow once again look different than the last time the Hawks saw them.

Everything Else

Hayley is a contributor to OnTheForecheck.com. You can follow her on Twitter @ItsHalesYeah.

6-1 since the Kyle Turris acquisition. Clearly it’s all systems go for the Predators. What’s been the biggest difference he has provided?
The Preds offense has lacked center depth for so long, finally acquiring a 2C out of a guy Ottawa was running as a 1C is huge for this team. He was a renewed confidence boost they needed badly before the trade. Any time a new guy comes in and shakes things up I think it helps the guys who have struggled, work out whatever issues they’ve been having, and get back to playing their game. Turris has definitely taken some pressure off of Ryan Johansen, who was slow to start this year. Knowing that he has some depth behind him now should keep this team rolling deep into the post season again.
If there’s any concern, Juuse Saros has struggled in limited appearances. Is there a fear that Pekka Rinne might have to play too many games if Saros can’t turn it around?
Saros is young and talented, but spending too much time on the bench isn’t good for anyone. He could benefit from spending a few short trips to the AHL to get some playing time in. As for Rinne, he’s been a workhorse for this team for the past few seasons. It’s a role he’s comfortable with and thrives on. My faith in Rinne has not faltered, despite all the backlash he’s gotten the past few seasons. His play during last year’s playoff run and this season has shown he has one goal and that’s to win the cup before he retires. For the first time in a few seasons, Rinne is the least of Nashville’s concerns. 
Truly scary that Ryan Ellis has yet to suit up this season. When he returns do you see Peter Laviolette keeping the top two pairs as is and having Ellis on the third?
Being without Ellis has hindered the defense significantly this season. While Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, and Mattias Ekholm can hold their own, it’s left an odd rotation to the top pairs. Matt Irwin is a solid anchor for the third line but isn’t really a top pairing kind of defensemen. Guys like Yannick Weber and Alexei Emelin have not been great this season either, keeping either one of them on the top lines probably wouldn’t work out for long. As long as Ellis is healthy he easily slides back into the top two pairings as he should. I can’t see any reason why Laviolette would do anything differently. 
A strange aspect to the Preds so far is that while they’ve been consistently one of the better analytic/sabermetric teams over the years, this year they’re not creating as many “good” chances as years past. Obviously this hasn’t been a problem in actually scoring goals, especially of late, but is this something you see?
The start of this season was not the best showing for the Preds. While they’re not creating as many good chances, they’ve also missed a lot of chances as well. I think the addition of Turris and guys like Scott Hartnell and Ryan Ellis getting healthy will help the Preds create better chances and finish them. 
Now that we’re more than a quarter into this season, does it feel even more like Cup Or Bust for the Predators than it did before the season?
This is such a young team, I think they’ll be Cup contenders for a while. That being said the city of Nashville is ready for a Stanley Cup winning team, and if any Preds team can get it done, it’s this one. 
Everything Else

 at 

Game Time: 6:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Justin Trudeau Is A Fucking Con Man: Silver Seven

Given that the Hawks have been hockey monarchy for going on a decade now, with President/Cardinal John McDonough fancying himself its emperor, it’s probably best that they missed being on the Senate Floor in Kanata on the Ides of March by a day. Either way, the Hawks make their way further due southwest along the St. Lawrence seaway to the “capital” of the “nation” of Canada to take on a Sens squad that shockingly still has plenty to play for.

Everything Else

AltLogo at senator clay-davis-sheeeiiiit

Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
House of Representin’: Silver Seven Sens

With no time whatsoever to dwell on last night’s steaming turd squeezed out on the shores of the Charles River (debatable whether or not that’d be an improvement), the Hawks stay within the Flortheast division with a trip up to Canada’s capital. No, not Toronto, Rand McNally. They’ll be in Ottawa to face off against the Senators, whose issues this season made whatever difficulties the Hawks had with the Bruins last night seem meager by comparison.