The news yesterday that Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker is out for the year with a foot injury has Nashville's football fans in a funk (just check out the reaction at Music City Miracles), and I can't help but compare their situation with the angst surrounding the Nashville Predators these days. Pekka Rinne's infected hip has the team's goaltending situation in turmoil, as Carter Hutton has failed to impress, and the team now turns to 2012 6th-round pick Marek Mazanec, who makes his first NHL start against the New York Islanders tonight.
So which team has it worse? The Titans without Locker, or the Predators without Rinne?
|2013 - Jake Locker||7||86.7||111||183||60.7||1256||179.4||6.9||8||4||24||155||22.1||6.5||2||16||105|
This latest injury to Locker is especially frustrating given his generally strong play this season, which fed hopes that he was becoming the type of quarterback the Titans envisioned when they drafted him back in 2011. The hip injury he suffered against the New York Jets in Week 4 was a big enough setback, but this latest episode leaves Locker with a bit of a monkey on his back - he needs to prove that he's up to handling the long grind of an NFL season.
As for the team, Sunday's stinker against the Jacksonville Jaguars dropped them to 4-5, only one game out of the AFC Wildcard race, but Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't exactly inspired confidence stepping into Locker's role.
|2013 - Pekka Rinne||9||493||4||4||1||19||2.31||229||210||.917||0|
The Predators are built on the presumption that Rinne will handle 80-90% of the team's starts, and without his ability to freeze the puck consistently after enemy shots (either by making a glove save or preventing rebounds off pucks to his body), the team has a hard time setting up for defensive zone faceoffs featuring Paul Gaustad like they usually do. Add in Pekka's ability to make the odd highlight-reel save that bails his teammates out of a jam, and you see just how large a void Rinne leaves in the Nashville net.
Since he went on Injured Reserve on October 24th, the Preds have given up 29 goals in 7 games, a 4.14 goals-per-game clip that puts way too much burden on an offensively-challenged team to overcome consistently. Carter Hutton came into this season with but one game of NHL experience under his belt, with a pair of prospects (Magnus Hellberg and Marek Mazanec) below him on the depth chart.
While the team remains hopeful that Rinne will make a full recovery, the big question is whether that will happen in time to salvage the Preds' playoff hopes. While they are currently only 6 points out of the Western Conference wildcard chase, 2-4 weeks of subpar performance could drop the team 10-12 points out of the race by Christmas, which would be an awfully tough burden to overcome.
So I ask you, Nashville... who's got it worse these days, the Titans or the Preds?
More from On the Forecheck:
- Nashville Predators @ New York Islanders Preview: Sink or Swim
- Milwaukee Admirals Notebook: Filip Forsberg solid in 3-game weekend despite losing streak
- New Jersey Devils 5, Nashville Predators 0: They Left Their Goals in Colorado
- Pekka Rinne Injury: Team Provides Update on Infection Recovery
- Hockey Hall of Fame: Which Nashville Predators Player Will Make It Someday?