Calle Järnkrok, the Predators’ “Swedish Army Knife,” had another season of being moved around to fill whatever role Laviolette & co. felt needed to be filled. He continued to anchor the penalty kill while first centering the fourth line, then moving to wing on the second line, and finally—with Mike Ribeiro’s departure—taking over centering James Neal on the second line and adding regular power play responsibilities.
Through all that, Järnkrok scored fifteen goals and added a career-high sixteen assists for a career-high 31 points this regular season. During the playoffs, he added another two goals and five assists through 21 games (almost all concentrated near the very end).
Järnkrok also seemed to be one of the players trying to replace Shea Weber this year, stepping up his physical game in ways measurable both by the eyetest and on the stat sheet. He was a consistent presence at the netfront trying to clear opponents out of the crease (at five inches shorter and almost fifty pounds lighter than Weber, Järnkrok did not meet with as much success) and took a more active role in sticking up for his teammates. He also added a career high in hits (49, about a 43% increase in hits/60 from last year) and blocked shots (29, about a 25% increase in blocks/60) to his statline.
To all of that, Järnkrok continued to add his usual excellent defensive game.
This heatmap from HockeyViz.com shows the shots that were (or in this case weren’t) taken against the Predators this season, relative to league average, with Järnkrok on the ice. Playing center and occasionally left wing, Järnkrok helped turn the high-danger area in front of Pekka Rinne into a ghost town.
Best Moment of the Season
A January game against the Vancouver Canucks had gone into overtime after Filip Forsberg had a goal waved off, then stayed in overtime after Roman Josi also had a goal overturned. When penalty-killing stalwart Mattias Ekholm got called for holding, we all figured it was all over but the shouting.
Instead, shorthanded and with less than two seconds left on the clock, Järnkrok took a pass from Josi and put it past Ryan Miller to become the first Predators forward to score in OT since the NHL introduced the 3v3 format.
Bonus: Best Moment of the Postseason
All of Järnkrok’s offensive skills were on display in the first Stanley Cup Final game ever to take place at Bridgestone Arena. He had a pair of gorgeous assists to set up first Josi, then Ekholm on the power play.
(If you’d like to rewatch the Ekholm goal too, you can do so here.)
Worst Moment of the Season
Calle Järnkrok doesn’t tend to have bad moments—his worst of the regular season was a turnover in a game against the Avalanche—but there’s an obvious answer here. In Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, only about a minute after Pontus Åberg had put the Predators up 1-0, Järnkrok completely missed a wide-open net (video link to NHL.com, since I couldn’t find it anywhere I could embed). Matt Murray was down, the Penguins were scrambling, and the moment was perfect.
In a series where in-game momentum seemed to play such a huge role for the Predators, it feels like a goal there could have changed the outcome of the game, and maybe even the series.
Trending Up or Trending Down?
Neither. As a forward entering his 26-year-old season, we can’t expect Järnkrok to discover a new level of offense. At the same time, through the last three years, his defensive game has proven consistently good. He is what he is—cheaply, for the next five years.
FINAL GRADE: C
As the second line center by icetime for the second half of the regular season and into the playoffs, Järnkrok showed flashes of offensive brilliance he wasn’t able to sustain. While it wasn’t his fault, he was asked to fill a role he didn’t have the necessary skills for.
Playing on the fourth line with Austin Watson and various left wingers, Järnkrok managed to give up fewer shots than his line generated despite heavy d-zone usage. As a 4C, I would unhesitatingly give Järnkrok an A—that fourth line, especially with Frédérick Gaudreau, Colin Wilson (RIP), or Reid Boucher (also RIP) on the left wing, did everything I could reasonably ask of a fourth line.
Unfortunately for Järnkrok’s final grade, he didn’t get to remain at 4C. When he was moved up to the second line, he needed to do more, and he wasn’t consistently able to. Järnkrok wasn’t a liability at 2C, but his inability to give the Predators the second scoring line they needed counts against him. As a 2C I can’t grade him higher than a D, though he wasn’t bad enough to deserve a failing grade.
When figuring out how to weight his grade for the full season, I considered the relative importance of the roles (2C > 4C) and how much the team needed him to perform to expectations at that time (June > November).
How would you grade Calle Järnkrok’s performance this season?
This poll is closed
A– or B+
B– or C+
C– or D+
I’d rather have James Neal