The Predators are 6 games into the abbreviated 48 game NHL season, and many a Nashville Predators are less than enthused regarding the 1-2-3 record their team is boasting. Almost all the pieces that got them into the playoffs last season are still around, and those that were lost have been replaced (Ryan Suter by Roman Josi, Jordin Tootoo by Richard Clune). So if Nashville is fielding the same squad they were last year, what could the problem be?
The answer is simple…The Nashville Predators are haunted. And not by some random ghoul or goblin, they are being stalked by the 2003-2004 Nashville Predators Team. The Preds are confirming the usually baseless rumors that they indeed don’t have any offense. Anyone who was around last season knows just how false that statement is, considering how Nashville finished 10th in Goals scored and 1st on the power play. The pieces are all here, now its all about making them fit together again.
The Defense, as usual, is playing solid Predator hockey. Although it is custom to place blame on the entire team for a loss, slightly less blame should be put on the shoulders of Shea Weber and the gang. In the opening stanzas of this season, two players have really stuck out to me: Kevin Klein and Roman Josi. Last year everyone and their cousin saw The Manimal Kevin Klein smoke the Detroit Red Wings defense and then make a fool of Jimmy Howard. He has not yet disappointed. Klein has made several very solid defensive plays that could have well been goals, the best being the denial of Zach Parise on one of his fancy-dancy moves. Could this be the two-way defenseman the Barry Trotz has been trying so hard to make? Roman Josi has also performed beyond expectations, filling Ryan Suter’s shoes with relative ease. The sophomore is playing over 20 minutes a night with Weber , and he is doing so with minimal error. He also likes taking the puck down low and asserting his offensive capabilities, something Suter never really did. What Roman can’t do is pass to Weber on the power play. At only age 22, where is the limit for this potential super star?
Anyone who blames the Predator’s record on Pekka Rinne obviously doesn’t know how hockey works. Rinne came into this season playing more than well enough to win, and although he did get the assist in the Predator’s first goal, he can not score goals for this team. Rinne saved games for the team that probably shouldn’t have even gone to the shootout. After a two day rest, I would expect to see a refocused and re-primed Pekka Rinne itching to get his first win.
So if it isn’t defense or goaltending, logically the blame must lie with the offense…it does. If one stood on the Predator’s offense, you could see the curvature of the Earth. Most of the offensive pressure is now coming from the 3rd and 4th lines, and the 1st and 2nd lines have all but disappeared. Why? NO SHOTS! I lost count of the unnecessary passes that were made against The Phoenix Coyotes. What should have been a 2-2 game going into a third was already thrown away by those silly “perfect” passes. Enter the ghost of the 2003-2004 Nashville team. The team that would never shoot the puck. Luckily for Predators fans, Barry Trotz has seen this before, and he can and will fix it. The real question is whether or not he will have the offense shooting again before it’s too late.
Moral of the story is: don’t panic. Barry Trotz is a trained exorcist that will have the demonic presence of the 2003-2004 team out of our offense soon enough. In the meantime the defense needs to step up to fill the gaping hole in the shooting numbers. You can’t win games without goals.