Another fine FanPost here from late Friday night, so I've moved it to the cover for more exposure - Dirk
Grinding, physical, defensive hockey games has long been the agenda for the Nashville Predators. That hasn't always been a choice as early on in their existence some of the cheapest players they could claim were grinders and defensive aware players. Alas, times have changed in the Music City and they've changed in a lot of big ways. Nashville use to fear acquiring a big time scorer because they thought should a bigger club offer him a contract there would be no way we could match the money. And for the better part of fourteen years, that was correct... except for now.
This season has been filled with some very tough grind it out games for the Predators, tonight included. Outside of a 6-1 polishing of the Blues and a 4-3 OT win over Detroit the Predators have struggled to find points over the elite teams in the Western Conference. Tonight was a prime example, despite the fact the Predators have played some very tough, grinding defense they still had issues lighting the lamp. I'll agree that Bobby Lou played one of his better games tonight, but part of that has to fall on the Predators forwards. But is it necessarily all their fault? Not in my eyes.
I personally feel like the Predators have a very bad problem, they have 5 forwards who are exactly the same. Brandon Yip, Matt Halischuk, Nick Spaling, Rich Clune, and Paul Gaustad. Gaustad provides a very valuable service with his faceoffs, Spaling does well on the PK, and Clune has been a monster checking lately but Halischuk and Yip leave a lot to be desired. I feel this is part of the problem for Nashville, we have way too many defensive first forwards. While a lot can be said about Mike Fisher being a similar player, he at least contributes a lot more on offense than the others and is more of a two way forward. In terms of the others? They're grinders...straight grinders.
I love a good grinder, actually I love two good grinders...but they're really players meant for the fourth line and the PK. They're the energy guys who go out there and lay the hits, but don't really give you much offensively. Those type of guys serve a role in the NHL, but when you have two lines full of those guys you start to have issues in the NHL. We have been good at times, but we've been a lot more lucky than good this season. I feel we could clamp down teams with a fourth line of Clune/Gaustad/Spaling, which leaves Brandon Yip and Matt Halischuk out in the cold.
Some of you may be quick to say, why would we dump those two on their heads? And I agree, I love their hustle, their determination, and their commitment to the team. But in my opinion, the Predators can't keep grinding it out in the Western Conference. In a conference with the power of Anaheim, Vancouver, and Chicago you've got to have a way to score some goals. And I'll be honest, I love the Wilson/Legwand/Erat line as well as the Bourque/Fisher/Hornqvist line (even if I feel Bourque would be better served on the third line). I love the fact Wilson is finally stepping up, but the fact is being 29th in the NHL in goals scored isn't going to cut it anymore.
I'd love to say defense wins championships, because it can and it does. But to my knowledge there has been very few teams in the bottom five of goals scored that have made the playoffs. The Predators have been able to make the playoffs a lot the last 8 years. But they can't seem to get past the second round, and I believe it's due in part to the fact they don't have that clutch scorer. So where do they go from here? Do they call up Austin Watson and hope he provides a spark? Matt Halischuk is still on a two way deal, so sending him down isn't a huge deal, and Watson is tied for first in goals scored for the Admirals. Or do the Predators finally have to break down and make a trade?
I'm still very high on Stephen Weiss coming here, the Panthers are looking to firesale him to someone that has talented prospects and I believe Stephen Weiss is the type of player we could plug in and have instant success. But the Predators have to decide something, a 3-0 loss to the Blues, a 4-0 loss to the Red Wings, and now a 1-0 loss to the Canucks is showing our defense and goaltending is strong enough, but we can't keep on with the goose eggs. Even with the rising of Colin Wilson, something has to be done.
So what do you guys think? Do you think the Predators can keep grinding their way to the playoffs? Or do you feel it's time we get one more explosive forward who can put it home?