This last week seemed slow and boring after the draft and free agency of the previous two weeks brought excitement and nervousness to Nashville Predators fans.
We are at the point in the offseason where the Predators roster might already be set, barring an unexpected drop in asking price for a certain center *cough cough*. While we never know what Poile has up his sleeve when looking at the roster, almost all slots seem to be filled.
Is this team good enough to make it back to the Stanley Cup?
Much has been made this past season about how good the Predators defensive core is. The numbers show the core is made up of four defenseman who could slot onto any top pairing in the league. But while the debate rages on about who could be traded (or who should be traded) there is no doubt that the best all-around defenseman in the group is P.K. Subban.
Starting with OwnThePuck’s HERO Charts we find that Mattias Ekholm is incredible on the defensive end, Ryan Ellis is great at generating goals, and Roman Josi a top notch playmaker. Subban achieves solid or high marks in every category. Conversely, Ekholm displays average offensive, Ellis is average at creating plays, and Josi is actually the only one to display a weakness, with it coming in the form of allowing to many chances for the opposition. Subban can score, create for others, generate possession himself, and still maintain effective defensive coverage.
Perhaps my favorite statistic of the playoffs shows just how good PK is at thwarting the oppositions attack in the neutral zone, courtesy of SportsNet’s Dmitri Filipovic:
Filipovic describes Carry-In % as the percentage of zone entry attempts against in which the player being directly targeted by the puck carrier relinquished the blue line and allowed them to enter unabated.
Subban faced 152 opponents attempting to gain the offensive zone, and only 35% were successful, good for 3rd out of all defensemen. Amazing considering the fact he faced twice as many opponents as the leader, Lindholm, and five times as many as the second ranked Hamilton. This is a sign of a defenseman with great stick work and who is great at taking angles on the puck carrier, always putting himself in good position to hold the blueline.
Finally, the tip of the iceberg is how much Subban creates for his teammates, which is what REL TM stats illustrate. When players where on the ice with Subban they got more possession (CF%, FF%) and more shot opportunities (SF%) than any other Nashville defenseman by a wide margin.
Conclusion: P.K. Subban is the best all-around skater on the Nashville defense.
While I have been a major advocate of trading for another top center, when looking at the potential lineup, it is pretty clear what David Poile and Peter Laviolette will hang their hat on next season out of their forward core: depth.
Depth is what allowed Nashville to stay competitive throughout the playoffs when injuries piled up. Players were put into new roles and they excelled.
Lets take a look at what the Predators lineup could look like next year. I included Fisher into the projection.
Line 1: Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Do not be shocked if JOFA is split up at the start of the season. Many famous lines (HBK, Triplets) do not carry over one season to the next and Laviolette may feel he needs to spread out scoring. But with a combined CF% of 58.7 and GF% of 3.34 it will be hard to ignore this line’s capability.
Line 2: Kevin Fiala - Nick Bonino - Pontus Aberg
I think the best idea for Bonino’s line is to recreate the HBK magic from Pittsburgh. Fiala, like Hagelin, has world-class speed, and while no one can replicate Kessel, Aberg plays a somewhat similar game.
Line 3: Scott Hartnell - Colton Sissons - Craig Smith
I love this line. This line will get dirty, but still create goals. The perfect agitators without sacrificing offense.
Line 4: Calle Jarnkrok - Mike Fisher - Austin Watson
Can you think of a better defensive forward unit than this? This line could go against everyone’s top scoring lines and shut them down.
Line 5: Cody McCleod - Frederick Gaudreau - Miikka Salomaki
Great depth if injuries occur or a fight is necessary.
As we see, the Predators have five lines that can only contribute some type of solid role in the lineup, without including prospects like Vladislav Kamenev that could make the jump.
Laviolette has a lot to play with this year. While it maybe be lacking more top end skill, the unit as a whole is as deep a roster in the league at the moment.
Prediction: Bonino slots with Fiala.
No team in the Central has had a better off-season than the Dallas Stars.
It all started when they acquired Ben Bishop back in May, shoring up perhaps the worst goaltending situation in the league. Then in the expansion draft, they lost overpaid center Cody Eakins, while in the entry-draft they picked the top defenseman, Miro Heiskanen, and top goalie, Jake Oettinger, in the class.
They weren’t done there. They flipped a 2020 second round pick to Vegas for defenseman Marc Methot, who starred last season as Erik Karlsson’s partner. Then they struck gold in free agency, acquiring top forward talents Martin Hanzal and Alexander Radulov.
Wow. Talk about an influx of talent. This is an A++ type of offseason.
Can you imagine next season a line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alex Radulov? That line, if together, is going to put up a massive amount of points.
While I still think they have a depth problem at forward and defense, this team should be right back in the playoffs next year.
Verdict: Dallas Stars are trending up.
Who is your favorite defenseman?
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What team is the biggest threat to Nashville next year?
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St. Louis Blues