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Nick Spaling Season Preview: Utility, or Futility?

The gentleman pictured above isn't Nashville Predators forward Nick Spaling, but if Spals plays his cards right, he could enjoy a long respectable career just like Tom Brookens did.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I grew up a Detroit Tigers fan, and Tom Brookens (shown above, now a 3rd base coach with the Tigers) was a fixture year after year in Motown despite the fact that he never hit over .275, never socked more than 13 home runs, and didn't set the base paths on fire, either. Every spring training, a hot prospect would come along who was supposed to take over third base, but usually around Memorial Day the kid would already be shipped back to the minors, and the steady, reliable Brookens would hold down the job for the rest of the year, also filling in at shortstop or second as needed. In total he played 12 Major League seasons, and remains beloved by Tigers fans for being the consummate utility guy, putting stars like Alan Trammel & Lou Whitaker in position to succeed.

If Nick Spaling plays his cards right, he could create a similar career for himself in the NHL with the Nashville Predators. It won't be easy, however...

Nick Spaling

#13 / Left Wing / Nashville Predators



Sep 19, 1988

2012 - Nick Spaling 47 9 4 13 -10 18 1 0 2 57 15.8

Fancy Stats

Season GP 5on5 TOI/Gm 5on5 Pts/60 Corsi Rel On-Ice Sht % On-Ice Sv% PDO Pen Take Pen Drawn OZ Strt% Shots/60
2013 47 13.13 0.97 -10.2 6.7 905 972 0.8 0.6 45.0 5.06
2012 77 13.33 1.23 -4.0 7.8 918 996 0.4 0.8 43.7 6.08
2011 74 10.98 0.89 -9.2 6.1 924 985 0.7 0.7 42.9 4.87
2010 28 9.18 0.70 -10.6 5.3 969 1022 0.0 0.7 51.4 5.14

Spals enjoyed a bit of good fortune in terms of goal scoring last season, which, along with a healthy amount of penalty killing, were his main contributions to the team. The challenge, however, lies with his typically underwhelming puck possession results, and the fact that so many other forwards could potentially take away his PK ice time (both Eric Nystrom and Matt Hendricks took on a decent amount of penalty killing work with their former teams).

While it's hard to point out a single element of the game which Spaling excels in, his ability to line up at any forward spot and deliver at least a basic level of performance provides value over the course of a long season. If an injury were to strike pretty much anywhere among the forward ranks, Spaling can be part of the solution, either by directly filling that role or back-filling for someone else getting bumped up.

Having signed a one-year contract this summer with the Preds for $1.5 million, he will be a restricted free agent again next summer. Will Spals earn a longer-term deal with his work this season, or will he be pushed out of the way by one of the kids climbing the organizational ladder like Austin Watson, who can also play center or wing, and plays a responsible defensive game?

We know how Tom Brookens used to fare in those battles for a roster spot, so it will be interesting to see whether Spaling is up to the task as well.

Stats Table Explanation

  • GP: Games Played
  • 5on5 TOI/Gm: Ice Time per game in 5-on-5 play
  • 5on5 Pts/60: Points earned (goals & assists) per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play
  • Corsi Rel: The shift in the balance of Total Shots For & Against when that player is on the ice during 5-on-5 play, as opposed to when he is on the bench. Total Shots = Shots on Goal + Missed Shots + Blocked Shots. Represents an individual's influence on the flow of play.
  • On-Ice Sht %: The team's shooting percentage when that individual is on the ice during 5-on-5 play. Generally, individuals have little to no influence on this number, which can bounce around randomly from season to season.
  • On-Ice Sv%: The team's save percentage while that individual is on the ice in 5-no-5 play. Again, individual's usually have very little influence on this number.
  • PDO: The sum of On-Ice Sht% and On-Ice Sv%, this trends very strongly to 1000 over the long run for almost all players. High values indicate fortunate "puck luck", low values the opposite.
  • Pen Take: Penalties committed by that player per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time.
  • Pen Drawn: Penalties committed by opponents, but drawn by that player (creating power plays for him team) per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time.
  • OZ Strt%: Offensive Zone Start %, the percentage of non-neutral zone faceoffs that player is on the ice for which are in the offensive zone. A measure of how a player is deployed by his coach.
  • Shots/60: Shots on goal taken by that player per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time.

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