It's been delayed a bit, but I wanted to wrap up the early-season grades for the Nashville Predators by concluding with the forwards. If you want to read about the defense and goaltending, those posts went up last week.
Let's get on with it then, how have the Preds forwards done so far?
All the detailed stats are down at the bottom for those interested; I'll keep the analysis and grades up top. Starting with the top line guys and working our way down...
|2009 - Jason Arnott||9||3||2||5||0||2||1||0||0||0||34||8.8|
The season started off well for the team captain, as he potted a power play goal just two minutes into the first game, and appeared to have picked up right where he left off at the end of last season, when he carried the Preds offensively down the stretch. An arm injury cost him a few games, however, and he has yet to round back into top form since returning to the lineup last Tuesday in Anaheim. One encouraging sign is that Arnott has only taken one minor penalty to date; given the team's struggles to score goals, they need to tilt the special teams balance in their favor as much as possible.
Jason Arnott's grade: B
|2009 - J.P. Dumont||9||3||8||11||3||4||0||0||0||0||19||15.8|
When healthy, Dumont has been a dynamo, and despite missing a few games, leads the team in scoring. Some may point to his 5-point night in Ottawa as padding his stats, but since the Preds won that game 6-5 I'd say they needed every last contribution that J.P. provided. When he get knocked out of the opening game by Stephane Robidas, there was concern that Dumont might feel lingering effects for a long time, like last season when a similar in a game against Vancouver led to decreased production for weeks afterward. While a second injury has kept him out of recent games, the hope is that he returns to the lineup this week, when we can finally see the top line that was intended coming out of training camp.
J.P. Dumont's grade: A-
|2009 - Steve Sullivan||15||2||3||5||-4||2||0||0||0||0||25||8.0|
Without his linemates Dumont and Arnott, Sully has struggled mightily to produce consistently so far. Often he's felt the need to stick-handle the puck through multiple defenders to create a scoring chance, which rarely works for even the best of players. What's become apparent is that rather then driving the Nashville attack, what we can hope for with Sully is that he complements Dumont and Arnott well enough to fill out a top line.
Steve Sullivan's grade: C+
|2009 - Patric Hornqvist||15||3||5||8||3||8||0||0||2||0||55||5.5|
Hornqvist got off to a great start filling in for Dumont on the top line, but his production has dried up lately, with just 1 goal and no assists in his last 7 games. While he's tilting the ice in the right direction in terms of Shots For & Against, he needs to finish off his opportunities more often to stay in the lineup as injured players return. That 5.5% Shooting Percentage needs to be doubled if he wants to earn a job as a Top Six winger.
Patric Hornqvist's grade: B
|2009 - David Legwand||15||0||4||4||-6||8||0||0||0||0||22||0.0|
With 3 assists in his last 5 games, there's hope that Legwand is finally sparking to life, but it's been a very disappointing start so far. Which is worse; that Leggy is taking fewer shots per game than he ever has before, or the fact that not a single one of them has gone in the net? Often lauded as a two-way center, the offensive side of that description has dropped off the charts. He's had his power play time cut considerably, and probably the only portion of the game we can really give good credit for is on the penalty kill, where his results are decent enough.
For $5 million this year, however, Preds fans should expect much, much more. Even allowing for defensive responsibilities, Legwand should be able to produce at more than a 21-point pace.
David Legwand's Grade: D
|2009 - Martin Erat||12||1||2||3||-8||10||0||0||0||0||23||4.3|
If Legwand's start is mystifying, than Erat's has to be infuriating. His lone goal wasn't even intended to be a shot on net, it deflected in off a defenseman's skate. At $5.25 million this season, Preds fans should expect a whole lot more. For an exercise in anger, consult the tables below and try to determine whether you're more disappointed in his 5-on-5 or 5-on-4 work. And before we hear the excuse about his defensive assignments, just look at the disastrous Goals Against/60 below, especially when compared with Goals For.
Martin Erat's grade: D-
|2009 - Joel Ward||13||2||3||5||-1||4||1||0||1||0||21||9.5|
At least Joel Ward had a good reason for a slow start; groin trouble kept him out of much of training camp, and the first two games of the season. With 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games, Ward is asserting himself offensively recently; we'll need to see, however, if he keeps getting good PP time once Dumont & Wilson are back in the lineup.
On the downside, Ward is a key part of a penalty killing unit which has struggled so far. With the Preds destined to be a low-scoring team once again, they need the PK to rank among the NHL elite as they usually do.
Joel Ward's grade: C+
|2009 - Colin Wilson||10||1||1||2||-1||0||0||0||0||0||14||7.1|
While giving fans the occasional dazzling play, Wilson hasn't been able to translate those opportunities into goals quite yet. Expectations need to managed in his rookie season, however, as making the jump from the NCAA is especially difficult for a young player. I suspect that the best is yet to come, once the top line is reunited and Wilson can get more opportunistic matchups against 3rd- and 4th-line opponents.
Colin Wilson's grade: B
|2009 - Michael Santorelli||10||1||1||2||-3||4||0||0||0||0||22||4.5|
It's been hard to find the right spot for Santorelli within this lineup. Should he play on the wing, or at center? Can he round out a scoring line, or should he anchor a depth line instead? What the Preds are hoping is that don't have a "tweener" here, a guy who dominates the AHL but can't make an impact in the NHL. Despite having played only 4 games with Milwaukee this season, he's that team's leading goal scorer so far, but he can't seem to put the puck in the net for Nashville.
Mike Santorelli's grade: C-
|2009 - Dave Scatchard||8||0||2||2||2||4||0||0||0||0||14||0.0|
He generated considerable buzz alongside Colin Wilson and Patric Hornqvist for a few games, but his main contribution has been on the defensive side of the puck; his Goals Against/60 both in 5-on-5 and the PK are best on the team, and that kind of work will certainly keep him in the lineup.
Dave Scatchard's grade: B+
|2009 - Cal O`Reilly||6||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||0||0||5||0.0|
Unlike his opportunity last season, Cal just hasn't clicked in his limited NHL work so far this year. He's doing better down at Milwaukee, but is now looking up at both Santorelli and Wilson on the depth chart. Since he has a two-way contract this season, he might not be back up in Nashville for a while.
Cal O'Reilly's grade: C-
|2009 - Ryan Jones||8||0||0||0||-2||2||0||0||0||0||7||0.0|
8 games and 0 points for Nashville, 5 games and 0 points for Milwaukee. What a free-fall this is, considering he just signed a new two-year contract over the summer.
Ryan Jones' grade: E
|2009 - Jerred Smithson||15||3||0||3||3||18||0||2||1||0||11||27.3|
His game-winning goal against Minnesota is probably Nashville's highlight of the season so far, but to be fair we do need to ding him as the lead forward on what has been a lousy PK so far (24th in the NHL). I'll be OK with him not scoring another goal all year, if he can help lead this bunch back into the Top 10 in shorthanded play.
Jerred Smithson's grade: B-
|2009 - Marcel Goc||14||0||1||1||-2||4||0||0||0||0||17||0.0|
Goc is a really interesting case; a good skater, hard worker, and decent PK man, Marcel is also a reliable faceoff man, taking many late-game draws when Nashville holds a lead. He draws raves from observers for his hockey smarts, but in the end, he doesn't put up notable results. I guess it's a matter of expectations; if all you're looking for is a 4th-line guy who won't score but can help plug some of the holes that you don't want rookies like Wilson to fill, then Goc could serve a useful purpose on this team.
Marcel Goc's grade: C+
Here are the main numbers from Behind the Net, starting with 5-on-5 play:
|NAME||POS||GP||TOI/60||RATING||QUALCOMP||QUALTEAM||PTS/60||GFON/60||GAON/60||+/- per 60|
And on the power play (5-on-4 only), we have:
And lastly, the 4-on-5 Penalty Kill: