David Poile was lauded this summer after the sneaky acquisitions he made. A big trade and several frugal free agent deals had the potential to pay dividends for his team. Though many didn't think it was going to be enough to push Nashville over the hump, 12 games into the season the Preds sport a 7-3-2 record and look like they could be a serious dark horse to challenge for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. *Knock on wood*
Ok, it's been far from perfect, and there is still a lot of work to be done between now and April. For the most part, though, these five players are making the few that were bullish on the Predators look like geniuses. Let's take a look.
Suspension aside, Volchenkov has been just about everything we expected him to be. He's third on the team in hits (22) and blocked shots (17) and has been a solid pairing with Seth Jones. They've been heavily relied on by Peter Laviolette to eat up time in the defensive zone. The pair was even getting more offensive zone starts before he was forced to take a seat, which could improve his underlying numbers.
For a player that wasn't going to be counted on to put up points, he had the potential to be the most underrated signing of the offseason. When you consider all the things he brings to the back end, as well as the fact that Jones looks lost without his Russian partner, that may very well be the case.
It's been a little bit of a rough season so far for Jokinen, as he's been putting the effort up but has nothing to show for it. Part of that has been the fact that his line mates haven't been very productive. In fact, the only time the third line scored all year was when Colin Wilson set up Taylor Beck for the game winner against Edmonton.
He hasn't been terrible, as plenty have pointed out how great his positioning is and that he really makes goaltenders work to make a save. But the Predators are bottom 10 in the league when it comes to total goals for and goals for per game. That isn't squarely on the shoulder of Jokinen, but it would be nice if he could get off the schneid, and help Nashville bring those numbers up. Secondary scoring is a great thing.
Speaking of which...
Roy has been part of the ever fluctuating second line. He started off hot, with four points in his first six games, but has now been held to only one in his last six, with nary a goal in sight. Again, no one expected him to wear out the red light, but a marker here and there is going to go a long way for the team this year. The good news for him (and Joker) is the sheer amount of games left to play. Depending on how much you expect them to contribute, there's plenty of time for them to join the scoring party. Just don't expect them to carry the load.
Even without the goals, his possession numbers are good, and the chemistry shown with Craig Smith and Matt Cullen (with the exception of Tuesday night) should result in a lot of positives.
This could possibly be the steal of the decade if Ribeiro continues on his current pace. It's likely he won't, as he's currently on pace for around 65 points, but north of 50 does not seem farfetched with how he's meshed with the team so far. Ribeiro has ten points as the pivot of the first line, which has been the most consistent all season. (Though that's very much helped by of the emergence of Filip Forsberg.) Sixty-three has assisted on three of Neal's goals and half of Filip Forsberg's four, while scoring three himself.
Ribeiro is taking advantage of the favorable zone starts he and his linemates are getting, which is just about all you can ask. Though he's taken the most draws on the team, (and only won 46.1% of them) he's never historically been a great face-off player. Still, the results speak for himself, and Ribeiro looks motivated to play the best hockey he's played in years. Let's hope that keeps up.
All of that for about $1 million.
It was a little tough to see Patric Hornqvist get off to such a torrid start while Neal took a few games to get going. However, now Preds fans are getting used to the type of goal scorer they've only seen on highlight reels. Neal's seven goals paces the club, and he's currently pumping 11.44 5v5 shots on goal every 60 minutes, the most on the team.
Even in those first few games he wasn't scoring, he was getting himself in the right areas and letting loose one of the best shots in hockey. It seemed like the flood gates were going to open sooner or later, and he delivered against the Chicago Blackhawks.
He and Ribeiro have given credence to the notion their slight familiarity would produce chemistry, and there's no reason to think that first line with Forsberg is going to be shaken up in the foreseeable future. In hindsight, that trade with the Penguins may possibly be one of the biggest win-win trades in recent history.
Nashville has gotten 26 points from their five newest players: a trade return, a defenseman, and three free agents. Two of those summer signings likely haven't even hit their stride this season. Even if they haven't, they certainly aren't bringing the team down.
It's only the beginning of November, so things have to be put in perspective: anything can happen between now and the end of the season. But for right now David Poile's New Player Soup is tasting pretty good.
Now if only those special teams could click...