We're 36 days away from the start of Nashville Predators training camp. So close yet so, so far.
Mark and Marya will answer questions in the mailbag each week discussing the Predators while trying to deliver hot takes at just the right temperature.
TitansPredsGrizzBulls asks, via the comments section, what should we expect from Johansen this year? Over-under for me is something like 25-40—65.
Mark: I think 65 points is a great number to sit on for Ryan Johansen, but he only had 14 goals in 80 games (38 with Columbus, 42 with Nashville) so the 25 goal mark may be the one number in that line to be in ‘question’ but is without question doable. My prediction is 20-23 goals and 42-45 helpers. Regardless, if he posts a 65 point season in any fashion, the Preds should be in great shape.
Marya: Last year, he was 14-46--60, and he should improve on those numbers, since he'll be in better shape and more accustomed to his linemates. Just glancing over his past few seasons, taking the over on that is easy money. I'm conservative, though, so betting too much over 70 points gives me superstitious hives.
@Wannabe21 asks, do you think the Preds have what it takes to win the cup this year? Thoughts on the team?
Mark: Sure, if key players play up to the level needed, but that is the same theme for just about every team in the NHL. The biggest question mark is Pekka Rinne and the question mark just behind him is secondary scoring particularly from the two Mikes; Ribeiro (especially) and Fisher. They have to have Filip Forsberg be Filip Forsberg, Johansen to consistently find the score sheet and Rinne to steal games when not all is clicking. That P.K. Subban guy is going to have to have a good year as well, obviously, as does, well, the entire blue line.
Marya: This is the coldest take possible, but there's no way to know. Will any of the forwards not named Forsberg perform to our potential? Sure the defense is gaudy, but what if they're all offense and no defense? Will Nashville’s goaltending be worth a damn? If everything comes together, they have a shot. They were pretty close last year.
@18from71 asks, since Subban plays a different style than Shea Weber, how do you see the power play changing this year?
Mark: It is going to be extremely interesting to see all the shuffle in the roles on the blue line. Sure, Subban could slot into Weber’s spot both during even strength play and on the man advantage, but we could also see a big shuffle.
Weber led the team with 14 goals (the team had 51 total) on the power play last season, so the Preds will be looking to get those 14 or more goals from someone else. I think the power play goals will be more spread out among the team with Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and Subban of course firing slap shots from the blue line but seeing more frequent scoring chances from the slot and other areas via cycling will be something to keep an eye on as Marya points out as well.
Marya: Roles are going to move around a lot. Maybe with Josi and Subban fully utilized on separate units, they may be able to cycle the puck more effectively and score from more areas. I think the biggest question mark in the powerplay is Mike Ribeiro, however.
@WBgravey asks, why are the Titans trying to ruin Marcus Mariota's career and why is P.K. Subban so amazing? (WBgravey on Twitter)
Mark: Titans fans, keep your heads up, they’re sure to top their 3-13 record from a year ago. Mariota’s Titans should easily reach the four win mark this season. No, in all seriousness, just sit tight...or walk across the bridge to Bridgestone Arena.
Marya: Can Mariota skate? 501 Broadway would treat him right. He and Subban could have their own sitcom. Mariota could model Subban's line of suits. It would be great.
@Winn3317 asks, with Pekka Rinne turning 34 in November, can we reasonably expect to see Mazanec for more than the 17 games Hutton played last year?
Mark: Yes, I see a backup playing more than 17 games. It would be nice to see that number around 30, but Rinne played 66 games a season ago; it’s tough to imagine him playing 14 or so fewer game than that.
Marya: Assuming the coaching staff is reasonable, sure. I'm afraid they won't be. Best case scenario, Marek Mazanec or Juuse Saros suit up for 30 or so games for good reasons.
@BeetleBrowMan asks, how do you feel about our assistant coaches? What are your concerns, if any?
Mark: It’s tough to grade them based on anything other than special team’s play seeing as we don’t really know everything that goes on behind the scenes. The power play was 10th in the league but certainly had it’s struggles last season and the penalty kill finished 16th. It would be nice to see that number creep closer to No. 10 or better of course. There are no real “concerns”, but that could of course change during the course of the season.
Marya: I don't think we know enough about the mechanics of what they do behind the scenes to give them a real grade. I do know that special teams were horrible last year, though, which as far as I'm aware belongs to them. Those have to improve. Whether it's a matter of personnel or strategy, they're out of excuses.
@GoonerBorusse asks, Is Ryan Ellis going to replace Shea Weber on the first PP unit? I think he could be the guy releasing bombs from the point this year?
Mark: We of course won’t know anything until training camp and the season begins, but I think Ellis could certainly be given a bigger role on the power play. The Preds are in great shape in the sense that one game or during one stretch a power play d-man may not be clicking with the other and swapping one player for another is an actual option they have. Ellis is going to get his share, Subban, Josi, Ekholm of course and even Yannick Weber could see time on the point.
Marya: We'll probably see a complete retooling of the power play, which is a good thing. While Montreal is probably going to start construction on a shrine to Weber's slapshot in 2018, Nashville has enough skill on its power play units to have more of a strategy than "pass it to the point". Ellis should get more of an opportunity to show off his shot, but the entire blueline will be loaded with guys who can do something special on the man advantage.