This week marks the end of the summer for hockey players. Rookies report to camp on Thursday, and before you know if the veteran players will join them, preseason games will start, and the puck will be dropped to start the season.
Today is the first of a regular feature we'll be doing on the site, which will be centered around answering questions you send us. We'll put out a call for questions and the OTF Staff will take turns sharing our thoughts and opinions, while dropping knowledge bombs all over the place.
Since most hockey fans are still awakening from their summer hibernation, we elected to push the proverbial snowball down the hill for OTF Q&A's pilot episode. The format will be adjusted accordingly, but for now we wanted all available writers weigh in. We're saving the biggest questions for the upcoming SB Nation NHL preview, (which will be glorious) but there are still mountains of inquiries to sort through as the preseason starts.
Brace yourselves for a long one...
Which of David Poile's UFA signings has the highest potential to pay off? What about highest potential to fail?
Jon: I want to say Anton Volchenkov, but his contributions likely won't be seen on the score sheet. The easy answer here is Ribeiro, given his talent and his apparently sincere desire to start fresh and prove he can still contribute. He also has the most raw talent of anyone signed.
The easy answer for failure is also Ribeiro, because of... well, you know. So I'll say Olli Jokinen. At his age and the miles he's put on his odometer, it could just be a matter of time before the engine stops for good.
Jason: Ribeiro, without question. For the failure part, I guess Derek Roy, but all these guys got so little money and 1-year deals, so it's no big loss if they don't pan out.
George: Mike Ribeiro is the answer to both. As James Neal's likely center, Ribeiro can make or break Nashville's new #1 line.
Dan: Mike Ribeiro has the highest potential for success. He's playing beside James Friggin' Neal. He'll be on a power play unit with two of the best offensive defensemen in the league. He'll be given every chance to succeed.
In my little dream world, Derek Roy might be the one who encounters the most struggle. He's not as versatile as Olli or as offensively gifted as Ribeiro, so it may be a case of "where do we put this guy?". Derek Roy might not let Derek Roy down either, it may be his wingers (if Craig Smith isn't on his line) that let him down.
Anish: I think it has to be Mike Ribeiro. He is going to be playing on the top line with some heavy hitters (James Neal and Shea Weber). We should see him take full advantage of that fact and excel in his role.
As far as biggest potential to fail, I have to go with Olli Jokinen. It will be interesting to see how much he has left in the tank this season. Injuries may just catch up to him this year, and, let's be honest, he won't be able to recover nearly as quickly at his age.
Jeremy: Ribeiro would be the easy one, but in my heart of hearts I'll go with Olli Jokinen. His veteran presence will be the lynch pin in molding the younger players into the potential top line forwards this team desperately needs. Plus I have a feeling his power play prowess will come in quite handy for a team that has excelled on the PP for the last few years.
Roy set off a few red flags for me when Poile signed him. I hope he has a rejuvenation on this team and the new system but once again my gut says otherwise. Roy might just be our next Stalberg (who I also don't believe will breakout this season either).
Alex: Mike Ribeiro will be a steal. He could be a 50 point player at only $1 million. I love cheap contracts, and his will pay off more than the others. Highest potential to fail will be Roy... As we get closer to October, I see less of a reason for him to be on the roster. Why not just use Sissons? Or Beck? I don't see a logical place for Roy on this roster.
Nick: Ribeiro for both. In Washington, Ribeiro's productions took a dip and last year was a lot of the same. At 34 years old this is either the end of the line for Ribeiro or a way to salvage one or two more contracts before he calls it a day. Ribeiro has been resilient before and has had a strong showings after bad years in the past. However, I'd be surprised if it went anywhere north of 50 points.
Zeke: Just to be arbitrary I WONT go with Ribeiro. I'll say Derek Roy has the highest ceiling simply because so little is expected of him. A veteran player who takes advantage of Fisher's absence and shows he still has enough left in the tank to dish out buckets of assists to Nashville's young winger's and becomes the 'really smart and thrifty David Poil move' we are talking about later this season. As for potential to bust its hard to argue with Ribiero, but Ill go with Jokinen, by the halfway point he'll be playing limited fourth line minutes to make room for our surging young players.
Braden: Derek Roy has the highest potential to pay off. He has better Fenwick numbers than Ribeiro, is three years younger, and has the lowest expectations of the group (minus Volchenkov). On the other hand, I think Jokinen has the highest potential to fail. His possession numbers have been ok the last few years, but at 35, he is well past his prime and making the most of any of the UFA signings ($2.5 million).
Who will lead the Predators in points this year?
Jon: See Neal score. Score Neal, score!
Jason: Keeping my fingers crossed for somebody who isn't a defenseman, because it's just too sad. James Neal seems to be the logical pick.
George: James Neal
Dan: Roman Josi #HOTSPORTSTAKE.
Anish: Shea Weber. Can anyone say #RealLifeFultonReed
Jeremy: James Neal will have the kind of season the fans have yet to see since Kariya donned the Blue and Gold.
Alex: James Neal. And by a lot.
Nick: Craig Smith. He had the most goals and was third in points last year and only four behind Weber. Smith is 25 today (if this goes up Friday Sept 5th) and could benefit greatly from Laviolette's system as he tries to take another step forward.
Zeke: Collin Wilson will have the breakout year we have all been waiting for!!!! (And Neal will still rack up enough assists and nifty goals to lead the team in points)
Braden: James Neal. Really can't see anyone else unless there are injury issues.
How many games will Pekka Rinne Play this year?
Jon: Given Carter Hutton's emergence last year, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get 25-30 starts. That still leaves room for Pekka to get 50+ games, which is about what he should do.
Jason: Good grief, I hope somewhere in the 60 range. Or if not, a change in the free frosty policy to allow goals against to count.
Dan: 58. Unlike his predecessor, Lavy actually plays his backup goaltender.
Anish: I say in the mid 50's range. I think Carter Hutton will be able to take off some of the pressure, and give Rinne some rest during the season.
Jeremy: 60-65 games. That was his pace with a whopping 73 games in 2011-12. Hopefully with some more offense the Predators won't have to ride Rinne so much but look for him to carry a Kiprusoff-esque workload this season if 100% healthy.
Alex: Pekka returns to work-horse mode. 68-70 games
Nick: 55 games. He will start slowly and practically become a brick wall just after mid-season.
Zeke: Even with a little more confidence in Carter Hutton I still see Pekka playing 50+ games and being back to the every-night workhorse by the end of the season.
Braden: 55-60. From 2008-2012, Rinne averaged over 61 games played per season. I expect a number in that area.
Will Ryan Ellis be a Predator by the end of the season?
Jon: Unless Volchenkov totally blows a wheel, Ellis won't be seeing as much time with Jones as he did toward the end of last year. I have a feeling the contact situation gets resolved just before the season, then Poile swaps him for some useful assets for the Predators' playoff push.
George: The question we should be asking at this point is "Will Ryan Ellis be a Predator at the beginning of the season?"
Dan: Nah, he's smart enough to see the writing on the wall that he'll be on the third pairing for his tenure in Nashville. He's a good second pairing guy. He'd be smarter to stay an extra year or two in Nashville to pad his stats and earn a bigger payday, but athletes like to bet on themselves so he's angling for a payday or a trade now.
Anish: I don't think so. There will be a team out there looking for some added defensive depth at the trade deadline. Ryan Ellis would easily be trade bait. Especially if he picks up where he left off at the end of last year.
Jeremy: Doubtful. If the Predators didn't have such a logjam on defense he would be awesome to keep. But having that much talent and what will be a decent price tag is too much for the Predators to hold on and he'll be moved at the trade deadline for picks.
Alex: No and I'd be surprised if we got a lot for him. He doesn't seem to be a high priority and his value is questionable, so he gets traded.
Nick: No. He’s falling down the depth chart. Ekholm will take his top-six spot and prove to be a better long term option. Question is, will they trade him during the season? That all depends on Volchenkov’s health and Bartley’s development.
Zeke: He has enough offensive punch in his game that I'll wait to see how he produces with limited minutes in the new system, but when it comes down to it I just don't see him plummeting just as fast, and as hard as everyone seems to think right now. Yes he will.
Braden: I doubt it. The Predators' defense is sneaky deep, and he can be useful to a team looking to increase their defensive scoring. Moved for assets closer to the deadline.
Who are the best wingers to play on a line with Calle Jarnkrok this year?
Jon: My ideal third line is Jokinen/Jarnkrok/Forsberg. The two rookies have showed they have chemistry together down in Milwaukee, and Joker can be the guiding hand to help Jarnkrok develop his game into that of a great playmaker. Putting two young kids together may be a little problematic at first, but could allow Forsberg to shine and finally show the world why he's such a highly touted prospect.
Jason: I reserve the right to form an opinion on this after camp. ICMYI, there are lots of new players on this team, and we don't totally know what we're getting from Jarnkrok...although we like what we've seen so far.
George: I'm guessing Jarnkrok will spend more time on the wing himself this year, as opposed to on the pivot. He's pretty small as NHL centers go, especially when you have Jokinen, Ribeiro, Smith, Gaustad, Fisher, Wilson, Roy, and anyone else with both actual NHL experience and size. That said, I would expect to see him on one of the top two lines with Hornqvist out of the way on the depth chart.
Dan: I agree with Jokinen and Forsberg. If Olli develops chemistry with Derek Roy, I would like to see Stalberg and Bourque both take turns with Jarnkrok and Forsberg. If the team is wanting to build around these guys, I'm all for letting them get some chemistry going and playing some protected minutes. As Chip Kelly of the Eagles says "[censored] score points... that's my plan."
Anish: I don't think he will play the full season at center. I think he moves to the wing once Mike Fisher comes back from injury. I don't want to sound like a broken record, but Jokinen and Forsberg seem like the best fits for him while he plays center. Jarnkrok and Forsberg have some chemistry from last season, and adding a veteran guy like Jokinen to that mix can't hurt things. This seems like the best potential lineup for Jarnkrok.
Jeremy: If Jarnkrok plays pivot on the third line, a great energy line with scoring threats would be Bourque/Jarnkrok/Forsberg. Bourque and Jokinen could be interchangeable but Bourque brings more speed and a nose for the net that Forsberg and Jarnkrok could imitate.
Alex: I like the idea of pairing him with Jokinen, but a Jarnkrok/Forsberg/Bourque line? That could be seriously jaw-dropping. Jarnkrok will need a veteran out there with him for while, but Lavy shouldn't hesitate to surround him with more youth and watch the sparks fly.
Nick: Jarnkrok spent the most time with Craig Smith and had great success. However, a lot of that could be due to Craig Smith being really good. Unless Jarnkrok makes an unlikely run at the 1C position, I think it will more likely be Bourque, Stalberg, or even Colin Wilson on the wing if he hasn’t gotten any better at face-offs.
Zeke: With more veteran and proven centers signed, I'd say he'll probably play mostly on the wing baring injuries, I see him with Wilson and Stalberg, but I think his early season play will determine just where he ends up.
Braden: I think Jarnkrok and Forsberg would be a fun and effective line, assuming Forsberg makes the opening roster. Any of Jokinen, Roy, or Stalberg would fit in nicely to form a rather dangerous third line. I would really like to see Jarnkrok and Forsberg given a chance in the top 6 if they perform well though.
Where should Filip Forsberg play the majority of this season?
Jon: The NHL, but I'd be fine if he started the season in Milwaukee, just to prove he has nothing left to prove. At some point you have to let the kid be a hockey player, and let him play games with similarly skilled linemates.
Jason: He should've played here last year. The team was going nowhere, and he needs to play sometime. Alas, it was not to be because Not Veteran Enough. Water under the bridge.
George: Forsberg, if he has a good camp, should start the season in Nashville. People often say Forsberg didn't get a shot under Trotz, and to an extent, that's true. To another extent, Forsberg, for all his natural skill, looks like he's trying to solve a trigonometry puzzle when he has the puck. He clearly has great vision and creativity, but he's out-thinking himself as a rookie. He should've gotten most of that out of his system in Milwaukee, and if he has, he needs to be in Nashville to develop confidence at this pace, strength, and skill level. If he hasn't, I have no problem sticking him back in Milwaukee, and even using him as trade bait.
Dan: Nashville. After camp breaks, I would be mildly shocked and amused if we didn't see some type of roster clearing trade. That would allow the Preds to create some ice time for players who are NHL ready, and not let the fruit spoil on the vine like so many times before.
Anish: In Smashville for sure. I think once camps are done with, coach Laviolette will see the talent and potential there, and find a spot for him on the NHL roster. Even if he doesn't start with the Predators in Nashville, I don't expect him to be in Milwaukee for more than a month.
Jeremy: Forsberg still needs some extra conditioning in Milwaukee for 10-15 games. Then when injuries hit (which they always do) Forsberg will be the first call up and keep the starting gig in Nashville. A great camp will decide whether he stays up from the beginning or not.
Alex: Forsberg should play in Nashville. He can't gain anything more from being in Milwaukee and there is room on the roster for him here. Same thing with Jarnkrok. Both of these guys are ready to play at this level. Please don't make me watch a Clune/Nystrom/Stalberg line while Forsberg is in an Admirals jersey.
Nick: Top-nine minutes. With the new UFA additions there are now players who can get Forsberg the puck and let him do what he does best. Finally Nashville has depth and that allows room for error in Forsber’s development. But I think he will fit right in on a wing centered by Colin Wilson or Derek Roy.
Zeke: IN NASHVILLE. I know he looked lost and confused at times last season, but if he isnt ready to produce yet (and i want to see an extended trial period before I believe he isnt) then I'm not apposed to trading him, either way I want to see early and often where he is as a player.
What do you think?
Have a question you want answered? Send them to us through email, Facebook, Twitter, or any other means of communication. Maybe you'll see your question in the next installment. Be sure to tag #OTFQandA on the social media fronts.