Would you look at that, we're just 22 days away from the start of Predators training camp.
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.
1. Irish 180 asks, via the comments section, who do you think would get more starts as Pekka’s backup? Or would they give both Saros and Maz roughly the same number, depending on who wins the job? Seems that Saros has the higher upside and Pekka doesn’t need to play 70 games this year.
Mark: This is an extremely interesting question that I hadn’t really even thought of before you asked. I think regardless of who the No. 2 guy is, the best case scenario would be that Pekka Rinne and Marek Mazanec/Juuse Saros form an equal tandem where Rinne gets somewhere around 55 starts during the regular season (he made 66 a year ago) while the backup gets the nod around 27 times during the campaign. Saros made 38 starts for the Admirals last season while Mazanec made 39 starts.
I don’t think asking either of the two to make 25+ starts next season would be too much from a work standpoint, but that’s best case scenario that one of the two show they are ready to play at the NHL level at a consistent level. You can’t play one of the two backups just to give Rinne rest if said backup is struggling to win games, obviously.
Marya: I think the optimal number of games for the backup would depend on which one of them ultimately gets the job. Marek Mazanec should get the more traditional number of starts for a backup, whereas Juuse Saros needs more games to fully develop. If Saros does manage to grab hold of the job, I would hope it would be closer to a tandem.
2. TheFink502 asks, via the comments section, What young gun on the Preds offense will have the best season, play wise (as in not just point production)
Mark: We decided to exclude Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen from the list of ‘young guns’ and with Marya already going with Calle Jarnkrok and you asking for hot takes, I’ll go with Kevin Fiala.
No, I don’t think he makes the roster out of training camp but he is going to get his shot this season and whenever that time comes I think he’s going to show us all that he’s ready to be a regular in the NHL. I say he has at least a 10 goal season next year with the Preds.
Marya: You asked for hot takes, so let's see. I'm betting Jarnkrok solidifies himself as a Marcus Kruger on a reasonable contract type of player, but that isn't flashy enough. Going big, I'll say that Viktor Arvidsson will prove that his overtime winner was no fluke and that he's spent the summer working on his shot, preparing himself for a 15 goal season next to Mike Fisher. Just going by his stats from last year, that's not even too big of a bet. I guess if you need hot takes, you'll have to ask about my opinions on Canada's defense for the World Cup of Hockey.
3. Boyd_1212 asks, Chances Fiala claims the 1LW slot? If so, will he garner any Calder consideration?
Mark: He is going to get his shot at the first-line left-wing spot at some point of the season, but as far as ‘claiming’ the spot and not letting it go from the moment after he grabs it? I’ll go with 26.2 percent. And, about Calder considerations, that trophy will be in Toronto with Auston Matthews.
Marya: Twenty-five percent? The opportunity is there, but I'm not counting on him getting that spot, although I would like him to show that he's ready. The chance of him getting any Calder consideration is basically nil, though: both Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine are going to own the media narrative unless someone else manages to take it from them.
4. Aschlemp asks, can Fiala and Arvidsson coexist on a 12 man forward lineup?
Mark: Absolutely. Kevin Fiala is best suited in the top-six while Arvidsson is better suited for the third-line with a showcase on the second-line here and there. Fiala is a playmaker while Arvidsson isn’t. Arvidsson shoots the puck and will be seen in font of the net causing havoc.
Marya: Yes, they're best utilized in different roles. Kevin Fiala is more of a top-six-or-bust, playmaking winger. Viktor Arvidsson's strength is shooting everything he sees, but he doesn't have what it takes to maintain a top line position. I see him more as perpetually bouncing between the second and third lines as the roster dictates.
5. WBgravey asks, the Preds’ defense totaled 203 pts las year. Would you take over/under 215 points this year?
Mark: I’ll take the under, but just slightly. In case you missed it, Shea Weber had 20 goals and 51 points last season. P.K. Subban can match that mark or even pass it, or the wealth can be spread throughout the defensive group. I think they will pass that 203 point mark and settle around 210 points.
Marya: I'd take the over on 203, but I'm more hesitant to predict a huge jump. Shea Weber was no offensive slouch, and I'm taking a very wait-and-see approach on how the addition of P.K. Subban will affect offensive production, system-wise. We should be better. Twenty points from the blue line better? I doubt it.
6. The_Snyd_ asks, what seems like the most likely shake up in the composition of the forward lines?
Mark: Ryan Johansen will be the No. 1 center with James Neal on his wing and we’ll likely see Colton Sissons man the middle on the fourth-line, but outside of those players there is a lot of uncertainty. Sure, Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith will be top-six wingers, but on the first or second-line? Calle Jarnkrok can play anywhere, but where will he fit in best? Mike Ribeiro is a huge question mark. I think he’ll get off to a fine start, but fatigue may become a factor down the stretch.
If I have to predict the biggest shakeup? I’ll say Jarnkrok solidifies himself as the second-line center at some point.
Marya: I don't know what to expect as a shakeup, since I really have no idea what the lines are going to look like. Ryan Johansen plugs in as the number one center, and Sissons fits in at number four, but between Mike Ribeiro, Mike Fisher, and Calle Jarnkrok, I really don't know where everyone is going to slot. Will Ribeiro manage to settle in at the second line position, with Fisher taking more limited and specialized minutes behind him at number three? Does Jarnkrok regain his position beside Johansen and James Neal, or does he fit somewhere on the third line? There are so many moving pieces.
7. BrandoWriter asks, Which Central foe scares you the most right now? Which foe is so pitiful, it just makes you laugh?
Mark: Dallas is loaded, at least upfront. Nashville has the personnel to match up with anyone in the league including Dallas, but the Stars could erupt one night and hang seven goals on any defense and netminder on even an average night.
I’m not sure anyone knows what is going on in Colorado, so they’re a team, at least for the time being, that doesn’t seem to be a real threat.
Marya: Dallas scares me, not because I think they're threatening for the title, but their system is almost custom-made to make Nashville's system look silly. I also just really hate watching them play. On the other side of the coin, I can't find it in me to be even a little intimidated by the Minnesota Wild. At least Colorado has noted Preds killer Jarome Iginla; Eric Staal's goal this year is achieving mediocrity.
8. George_Woodard asks, if Arvy can't find a home in top 9 this year, could he take a 4th line wing spot? Shooters are helpful there.
Mark: I don’t see that happening, no. Arvidsson doesn’t have that skill set to be a shutdown guy on the fourth-line. He has the ability to frustrate the opposition, but he’s at his best with a player with a real offensive upside.
Marya: Laviolette ran a very specialized fourth-line, in a way in which Arvidsson would not be very useful. I'm not sure if that was purely a matter of personnel, or if that's how he prefers to deploy his lines, but Arvidsson isn't suited to being a Lilliputian shutdown winger beside Colton Sissons and Austin Watson.