With the season now over, it's time to take a look back and examine each player's individual performance. We'll briefly break it down, and then offer a letter grade for the year. It's report cards, Nashville Predators-style, from Blum to Wilson. Next up: Nick Spaling.
#13 / Center / Nashville Predators
Sep 19, 1988
|2010 - Nick Spaling||74||8||6||14||-10||20||1||0||2||75||10.7|
Today's report card is by Patten Fuqua, of Section303.com and "We Are Nashville" fame. When he's not espousing the virtues of Mr. $paling on Twitter (where you can find him as @smashville), he can be found pretty much everywhere but Hendersonville, for some reason.
The Skinny: A second round pick in 2007, Nick Spaling played 28 games of spot duty in the 2009-10 season where he racked up all of 3 very, very, very quiet assists. Blink and you might have missed them - they were all at home against Eastern Conference opponents. In 28 games, Spals did not register a single goal. However, in those 28 games, Spaling began to establish himself as a specialist (he was on the same team as Dan Ellis, after all) and averaged 1:43 a game in shorthanded time, 4th among forwards on the team. While going up-and-down a few times, he appeared to have the makings of a Vernon Fiddler 2.0.
The Performance: Despite the strides he made in his brief stints in Nashville in 2009-10, Spals managed to miss the Preds roster coming out of camp. He went from averaging 7-8 minutes in the playoffs to not even being on the NHL roster the following season. In a word: ouch. There was an odd man out and Spals was as odd as his jersey number. However, it took him a whopping 4 games in Milwaukee until injuries to Matthew Lombardi and Marcel Goc forced the Preds to recall him. They never sent him back.
Playing a solid role as a defensive forward, Spals averaged 2:40 per game in shorthanded time, good enough to be the #2 forward on the team in that category. Of the 41 power play goals scored against the Predators in the regular season, only 15 were scored while Nick Spaling was on the ice. To put that in perspective, Jerred Smithson played an average of 4 seconds more per game shorthanded, but was on the ice for 8 more goals. During the playoffs, he became Barry Trotz's most reliable penalty killer, topping all Preds forwards with 2:23 per game of shorthanded ice time while being on the ice for 5 ofthe 12 power play goals the team allowed.
In terms of the score sheet... while Spals isn't Wade Belak, he isn't exactly Mario Lemieux either. In his 50th NHL game, Spaling finally scored his first career NHL goal during a rare power play opportunity, beating the Islanders' Dwayne Roloson. It only took him 9 games from there to score his second, passing Chris Mason on the Preds' all time goal scoring list. On the entire season, he scored 8 total goals (including a 2 goal explosion against Minnesota) and 6 assists for a grand total of 14 points.
When it came to the faceoff circle, he wasn't a slouch either. With a 50.9% faceoff percentage during the regular season, he and Jerred Smithson (57.4%) were the only two Predators with faceoff percentages above 50%. That percentage increased to 53.2% for the playoffs.
Of course, you can't forget Spals-to-the-Wall's performance at the end of the Anaheim series. In Game 5, Shea Weber tied the game in the closing moments to send it to overtime. At 1:57 of the overtime, coming towards the end of his shift, Spals moved the puck along the boards to Jordin Tootoo, who put it on Jerred Smithson's stick in front of the net. The first overtime game winner in franchise history was generated by a Nick Spaling pass. In Game 6, Nick Spaling played the game of his life, scoring two goals, including the eventual game winner. The first series winning goal in franchise history was on the stick of Nick Spaling.
Finally, in a testament to the kind of player that Nick Spaling is, he played all of game 6 in the Vancouver series with a shoulder injury that would require surgery as soon as the season ended.
The Rating: "Solid". "Reliable". "Dependable". "Workhorse". "Warrior". When people describe a player with words like that, it generally means that a player is doing his job. At no point this season did Nick Spaling look like a first year player. For a player who many expected to rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles between Nashville and Milwaukee at the beginning of the season, he exceeded any and all expectations. A.