Sure, I'm running a couple days late here, but it's time to take a look at the first half of the Nashville Predators' season and hand out grades to various players. Keep in mind that in each case, I'm assigning these grades relative to the expectations for that player, i.e. a member of the Wagon Line is not expected to be a leading scorer.
Let's begin with the Centers of attention. In each case below, the first line shows the basic stats, while the second line shows 5-on-5 numbers sourced from Behind the Net.
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Cullen has fit in much like we expected, as a secondary offensive center with fairly decent playmaking capabilities. He does a good job protecting the puck in the offensive end and is a pretty creative passer, but is prone to disappearing from the score sheet for two or three weeks at a time. His possession numbers (Corsi) are actually the highest among the players considered here. Somewhat surprisingly, he has taken more penalties than he's drawn from opponents so far this season.
His current scoring pace has him on track for his lowest total in a full season (32) since 1998-99. As I wrote the day the Preds signed him as a free agent, expecting anything close to his production from last season was folly.
If it wasn't for his recent scoring streak (10 points in 5 games) we'd be talking about a horrible season for Fish. Instead, over the last week he's looked like the #1 center the Predators have sorely needed for years - but how long will it last?
Fisher does get credit for playing prominent roles in all phases of the game, and seems likely to be the face of the franchise for the next couple seasons.
The first thing many people think of with Gaustad is faceoff wins, and his 5th-place ranking there vindicates that reputation. He also plays the primary role on the penalty kill, and in even strength situations gets an extra-healthy dose of defensive zone faceoffs, which excuses a decent portion of that god-awful Corsi number.
For what Gaustad does, he does it very, very well. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll remind you that it's worth nowhere near what his contract says, but that's no knock on Goose.
Leggy remains Nashville's leading scorer among forwards, thanks in large part to his production on the power play. With Fisher having taken over the leading role up front, Leggy makes his contributions in his more typically understated manner - he won't dazzle you with highlight-reel plays or by throwing a big hit, but in the end, he's right there among the Preds' leaders year after year.
Even though he's played more on the wing I included Spaling here because he's stepped into a center spot whenever injury has struck one of the four above, and it's his versatility to fill multiple roles that makes up much of his value to the team. For someone with a reputation for defensive responsibility, his possession numbers are absolutely lousy (even though he gets the benefit of offensive zone starts), and he doesn't shoot the puck very much, but he does chip in on the penalty kill and somehow his offensive numbers are on track for a career best.
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