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Viktor Stalberg Season Preview: Drop the Clutch

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Stalberg has the potential to be pretty good with speed to burn. But his inability to finish up with goals is a cause for concern both on the score sheet and his contract.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

To drop the clutch means one of two things:

You either peel out and take off leaving a plume of white smoke from the tires...or you stall out, lurch forward and go nowhere. These are the two paths Viktor Stalberg can go down this season.

In the 2013-14 season, Stalberg was touted as being a scorer for a team yearning for more goals, the result was mixed to abysmal depending on which fan or hockey writer you follow. The speed and tenacity is there, but the problem comes down to finishing. Unfortunately, much like the Predators, Stalberg's finishing was the hot button topic in the off-season. Can Laviolette's new system salvage Stalberg's game or does he represent another speed bump in the road to seeing players like Forsberg, Sissons or Salomaki making the squad?

In Stalberg's defense, he was not utilized to his offensive strength in Trotz' system. Previous to his season with the Predators, Stalberg was deployed in the offensive zone for Chicago on average 63.8% of the time. He was also on the right side of 50% in finishing in the offensive zone. Last season, Stalberg was relegated to playing against the stiffest competition he had seen in his career while starting in the offensive zone 48.9% of the time. When Poile signed him last year for four years, all signs were pointing to Stalberg contributing to the score sheet in a big way but his misuse on the ice from the previous coaching staff was a huge hindrance to his game. The biggest question remains in how much impact a new system can have to take Stalberg's potential to a level comparable to his time in Chicago.

Best Case Scenario:

Stalberg finally gets the scoring shot he always needed playing on the third line with Jarnkrok and Forsberg/Bourque. This amazingly fast and skilled third line will take advantage of mismatches on other teams lines and provide the depth scoring the Predators need desperately.

Worst Case Scenario:

Continuing from last season, Stalberg excels at putting up a lackluster performance with single digit goal totals and appearances on the fourth line or worse yet: the press box.

Bold Prediction:

Stalberg becomes the savior of the Predators woeful shootout performances scoring on 55-65% of his opportunities. Alongside Smith and Ellis, the Predators get a few more wins through the skills competition and these extra points slide the Predators into the final playoff spot in the West.

Spirit Animal:

Ostrich. Amazingly fast bird without the ability to fly. When danger is near look for the ostrich to bury it's head in the sand (without burying the puck in the net).