While the Nashville Predators surprised most outside observers by reaching the 100-point plateau and qualifying for the playoffs last year, there is certainly work to be done to build upon that success and take the franchise to new heights.
The question before you today, Preds fans, is which single statistical area is most important to improving the team? Follow after the jump for a few suggestions, but feel free to make your own case in the comments if you have another area for consideration...
Complaining about power play performance is a long-standing tradition in Nashville, but in the 2009-10 season the Preds' PP sank to new depths. Whether measured by the traditional PP percentage (which has its flaws) or by the 5-on-4 goal-scoring rate from Behind the Net, the power play hasn't exactly been something to fear from the Predators over the last three seasons. We look here only at 5-on-4 goal scoring because other situations (5-on-3, 4-on-3) reflect a tiny minority of PP ice time (less than 10%). A more typical GF/60 rate (around 6.0, for example) would have yielded 7-8 more goals over the course of a season.
|Nashville Predators Power Play|
|PP %||14.8 (27th)||15.7 (26th)||16.4 (24th)|
|5-on-4 GF/60||5.2 (23rd)||4.9 (28th)||5.0 (29th)|
What are the prospects looking ahead here? Jason Arnott was one of the few effective PP scorers, and will likely be replaced by a stronger role for Colin Wilson, along with the newly acquired Matt Lombardi.
Normally a "core competence" of the Nashville Predators, the penalty kill took an unexpected dive last season. That 8.2 GA/60 rate, if brought to the league average of around 6.0, would have saved about 13 goals.
|Nashville Predators Penalty Kill|
|PK %||85.4 (3rd)||82.5 (10th)||77.1 (28th)|
|4-on-5 GA/60||4.6 (2nd)||5.1 (3rd)||8.2 (27th)|
The pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Klein took the brunt of the damage here, so will the departure of Hammer actually lead to an improved PK? I doubt it, as he was a big part of the successful units in prior years as well. Lombardi played a supporting role on the PK in Phoenix, and handled himself well, but it remains to be seen how the Preds will re-establish their dominance here.
As I chronicled in nauseating detail a few weeks ago, the faceoff-winning performance of the Predators varied widely last season. The basic FO% stat on NHL.com doesn't reflect the fact that teams on the power play win about 55% of their faceoffs, and PK'ers (naturally) about 45%, and an imbalance in workload, either at the individual or team level, can skew the results.
It looks like Jerred Smithson and Marcel Goc were the standout performers for Nashville, but the question becomes, do you want to give them an expanded role merely to take advantage of their ability to win draws? Or do you target them for especially important ones, i.e. defensive and offensive zone, but not so much at center ice?