Would you look at that, we're just 15 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.
BrandonWriter asks, Paul Gaustad is retiring - what should we best remember about his career?
Mark: It has to be the game seven game winner against Anaheim last season, right? In terms of just general rememberings, he’ll be remembered for face off duties and blocking shots on the penalty kill. He had a pretty good tilt with Vernon Fiddler back in February that immediately came to mind.
Marya: I never saw Gaustad in Buffalo, just Trotz's last hurrah and Laviolette's uptempo system, so I have no idea what to say about his career as a whole. In Nashville, he worked every night and blocked shots like a machine. He scored the first ever game seven game winning goal in franchise history, which is pretty cool. I hope he enjoys his retirement, which I assume will be spent in player development in Portland.
CapStoneIII asks, what is the weakness in Subban's game that could hinder his ability to come in and mesh with the current Preds roster?
Mark: It’s so hard to really name a weakness of his game because a ‘weakness’ that was exposed during his time in Montreal may not be exposed with the Predators. He likes to jump into the zone a lot and take risks during those times of pinch or not to pinch, but then again his defensive partner regardless who it is can skate with anyone in the NHL and Andrei Markov couldn’t the past few seasons.
Marya: How much of his "do it alone" reputation is deserved, and how much of it is due to trying to excel in a terrible system? Will his risk taking system have enough reward to offset any goals given up? I want to see how he meshes and who he plays with. It's going to be a very different team that steps on the ice next month.
Mike_Habs asks, what’s it like having the best looking duo on the blue line in Subban and Josi?
Mark: Everyone here at OTF is very pleased with Nashville’s handsomeness/60 not only between P.K. Subban and Roman Josi but for the entire roster. Is it the best in the Central Division ahead of Dallas? Does Pekka Rinne give Nashville the edge?
Marya: Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm aren't too shabby looking either. Overall, I am very satisfied with the handsomeness/60 that our team brings to the ice every night.
Betaset asks, does Forsberg shift to center this year?
Mark: I wouldn’t mind seeing Filip Forsberg given a shot if Mike Ribeiro struggles up the middle on the second-line just to see if something clicks in a major way. With that being said, I don’t necessarily see that happening. I think his 127 points in 164 games over the past two regular seasons shows he’s kind of good out there on the wing.
Marya: I doubt it, but I'd like to see it once or twice at least. I think he has the ability, but he'll have to settle for topping out as an elite Selke-caliber winger like Marian Hossa.
Musamonster asks, while we might pencil in Ribiero as 2C, with maybe Fisher an option or even Forsberg if the coaches get a wild idea, who is our 2C next year (17-18)? Does Poile bring in someone, do they try Forsberg, or will Kamenev be ready by then?
Mark: This may be an unpopular opinion, but I believe that the second-line center spot is Mike Ribeiro’s to lose. Whether it’s his to lose during training camp or his to lose if he struggles down the stretch again like he did last season, that’s the unknown. Mike Fisher will most definitely spend time as the No. 2 center, but can he play that role for a majority of the season while also killing penalties headed into the playoffs? Vladislav Kamenev will get his cup of coffee in Nashville this season barring injuries or just a mid to late season call up. He’s next.
Marya: Ribeiro will get his shot to regain the 2C position in camp, but I don't know how long of a leash Laviolette and Poile will give him. I think Fisher will spend some time at 2C as injury dictates, but he's probably not up to those kind of demands for a full season. Forsberg is a sad no, and I think Kamenev gets a call up in either December or January. It will be on him to follow the Jarnkrok model of taking his spot.
Iamkanysouth asks, are there any plausible scenarios where Ribiero is not in a Predators jersey this season?
Mark: The only way he’s not in a Preds sweater this season is if he’s in the press box as a healthy scratch or Nashville implodes and is so far out of a playoff race come the trade deadline a team wants to add him for a Cup run and Nashville trades him for a draft pick.
Marya: Not really. Who would take him? He has a terrible reputation and despite his point totals over the last season, he was a ghost in the second half before getting healthy scratched in the playoffs. I'll set the over/under for scratches this upcoming season at five, since I'm conservative about those things.
Iamkanyesouth also asks, is getting a Central Division banner a reasonable expectation for this season?
Mark: Y-E-S. If you asked this same question prior to last season the answer would have been yes as well. Are there question marks surrounding this team? Yep, a lot actually. Is Pekka Rinne officially on a major decline? Can Fisher and Ribeiro still play extremely valuable roles up the middle of the ice for 82+ games? What is the power play going to look like without Shea Weber? Is P.K. Subban going to fit alongside Roman Josi or Mattias Ekholm? But hey, every single team around the league has question marks.
If Rinne is just ever so slightly above league average in a goals allowed and save percentage then this team has a very legitimate chance at raising it’s first banner in franchise history.
Marya: Yes. It was also a reasonable expectation last year and a bit of a long shot the previous season before the Preds managed to choke epically down the stretch. If they can skate as well as they have, and also get league average goaltending, they absolutely should be in contention for a banner. If you need some pessimism, though, I can come up with several ways for them to fail in increasingly hilarious and embarrassing ways.
Cisar asks, with the upcoming expansion draft, will teams be more likely to seek draft picks at the trade deadline? Will they use the opportunity to trade for players that they want for playoff run but won’t protect in the hopes that they WILL get picked?
Mark: There is a lot of uncertainty, I think, surrounding the expansion draft especially when it comes to the trade deadline this season. Every year, the trade deadline seems to take on this trend of the majority of teams trading valuable picks for pieces or teams just turning off their phones for the day.
With that being said, I do think we’ll see a number of moves for players that know that they are going to get exposed after the end of the season, but we already see a massive amount of moves for rental players that know they’re likely going to hit the UFA market after the year ends anyway. Sure, the expansion draft is a totally different animal, but there is uncertainty there just like it’s uncertain where the player may play the next year as a UFA as well.
Marya: The expansion draft is definitely a wrench in the works that is the trade market. I'm sure there will be moves just to acquire players that they can expose, since there will be games played requirements. Blockbuster deals involving a lot of players going back and forth have become less common due to the flat cap (ignoring whatever it was Toronto and Ottawa did last season), and I imagine uncertainty regarding the draft will further suppress them.