Building the perfect Thanksgiving Day menu is not unlike building the perfect NHL roster: it requires meticulous preparation. You need to consider how each and every dish complements the other food on your plate. You don’t want to load the table with too many main dishes, nor do you want a feast consisting of nothing but sides. However, once you find that perfectly balanced menu, *chef’s kiss* your feast will be the envy of the family.
In the hockey world, Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile is still working on the menu combination that’s going unlock a meal worthy of a giant 34-pound silver gravy Cup. With that in mind, the On The Forecheck crew started to wonder... if you looked at the Preds as a Thanksgiving menu, what would each player’s food comparison be?
Well, after careful research and some spirited discussion in the group chat, you no longer have to wonder.
The Turkey: Roman Josi
Ahh yes... the centerpiece of the classic Thanksgiving feast. It doesn’t matter how the rest of your sides taste; if you can ace your turkey, everyone’s going to go home happy. The same can be said for Josi’s 2019-20 season. In a season where a lot of the Preds underwhelmed, Captain Turkey stepped up with a career season, worthy of the giant silver platter the NHL gives its best defenseman, thus saving the Preds’ feast.
Mac and Cheese: Filip Forsberg
Look me in the eyes and tell me mac and cheese isn’t the first side you go for in the dinner line. Like Forsberg, it’s the flashy dish... golden, creamy, has incredible cheddar flow. It also doesn’t matter what you add to it — bleu cheese, bacon, Velveeta, Kyle Turris — chances are it’s still going to be the most exciting dish on your plate. You’ll continue to be amazed each year why your former co-worker gave you their secret mac recipe in exchange for your meh 35-year-old Czechoslovakian cornbread recipe.
The Ham: Ryan Ellis
Turkey is fantastic, but let’s not count out some sweet, old-school Thanksgiving ham. If you’re not feeling turkey, a good ham can step in and be the perfect centerpiece for your feast. That’s the role Ryan Ellis plays for the Preds. He’s often overshadowed by his Swiss Turkey of a partner, but don’t let that distract you from the fact Ellis has slowly become one of the best two-way defenders in the entire league. If something happens to your turkey, rest assured your ham can step up and carry the load.
Gravy: Calle Järnkrok
Gravy probably isn’t the first Thanksgiving food that comes to mind, nor is it the dish you most look forward to. But gosh darn it, does it go well with virtually anything on your plate: turkey, potatoes, heck — you can even mix in a bit with your stuffing if you’re feeling frisky. That’s the role Calle Järnkrok plays for the Preds. He’s not a superstar by any means, but you can play him virtually anywhere in the lineup, in any situation, and expect him to fit in. Gravy is a versatile complement to the stars on your plate, just like Järnkrok is to his tastier teammates.
Turducken: Juuse Saros
Has anyone even had a turducken? We’ve heard about this newfangled Thanksgiving dish for the past several years, but who knows how good it really is, or how long it’s going to stay a thing. Those are the same questions the Preds are asking of THEIR potential new centerpiece, Juuse Saros. The first few bites last season were delicious, but we’re still waiting to see if he’s consistently tasty year in and year out. Maybe you overcook him a bit in year two, maybe the Ingram family comes over with some X-Box-playing barbecue dish that unseats him as the main course. Time will tell, but for now, let’s just enjoy the Turducken’s hot run while it lasts.
Those Trendy Asian-Fusian Side Dishes You Tried Once at a Potluck: Philip Tomasino and Eeli Tolvanen
We’ve all been there. You’re at your office potluck and Jen from accounting walks in with braised short-rib spring rolls that her roommate made after traveling to Seoul for two weeks last Spring. It’s not Thanksgivingy, but they sure are delicious, you’re hooked, and — like the Preds are doing with Tomasino and Tolvanen — you’re wondering if you can make these for your OWN family feast. The Preds two prized prospects could find themselves front-and-center at the dining table in a few years. But right now, the team is still working to see how each of them fit into the CURRENT menu of players.
Traditional Mashed Potatoes: Pekka Rinne
Mmm... your mouth still waters thinking about those fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving past that your grandma always used to make. Those mashed potatoes, like Pekka Rinne, will always have a special place in our hearts, but let’s face it, they’re not the stars of the feast like they used to be. That doesn’t mean Rinne can’t break out the occasional show-stealing performance once in a while, just like someone can’t occasionally bring a heaping bowl of mashed taters that winds up being the hit of the banquet. Those creamy, dreamy potatoes are always going to have a special place in our hearts, even if they’re not the stars of the meal anymore.
The Stuffing/Dressing: Ryan Johansen
If you cook it right, with the right combination of bread and spices, stuffing/dressing (depending on what part of the country you’re from) can be one of the best things on your plate. But get the ingredients wrong, cook it at the wrong time and temp, or add something cute like cranberries, almonds, or first-line winger Austin Watson, and a key part of your feast can turn... whatever the food equivalent of a 36-point season is. Ryan Johansen is a great player, and when he’s paired with the right people in the right situations, he can be one of the main cogs in the Preds’ Thanksgiving machine. Breadcrumbs, celery, spices... that’s the base of a perfect stuffing, just like Johansen, Forsberg, and Arvidsson should be the base of your top forward line.
The Slightly Undercooked Sweet Potato Casserole: Dante Fabbro
This is going to be a delicious side dish, you just know it. Unfortunately, you were in a rush and pulled it out of the oven a few minutes too early. As a result, the potatoes are a little starchy, and the marshmallows aren’t fully melted yet. Likewise, the Predators probably gave Dante Fabbro a top four role a BIT too early. The 22-year-old blueliner has a ton of raw talent, but probably could have used either a month or two in Milwaukee, or a smaller role on the third line to really ease him into a big role (not unlike what the Preds did with Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and others). Don’t worry though, a few more minutes left in the oven and this dish should be a star.
Green Bean Casserole: Matt Duchene
At first glance, green bean casserole looks a little suspect. The first time it landed on your Thanksgiving table, it didn’t necessarily look appetizing, but the more you dig in and the more bites you take, the more you really come to appreciate all the nuances of the dish. That’s why Matt Duchene is the green bean casserole of the Preds. On the surface, his debut season in Smashville seemed disappointing. But the more you re-watch his games, and when you watch him do things like creating scoring chances by himself, disrupting plays via the forecheck, and setting up his teammates for prime opportunities, the more you get excited for his future. Who knows, a good green bean casserole can become GREAT with one more ingredient, like bacon bits or crumbled chips... maybe the right wingers can unlock a career season for Duchene.
The Leftovers that somehow taste better the next day than they did on Thanksgiving: Rocco Grimaldi
All of this food sat untouched and forgotten on Thanksgiving Day. But fear not, like Ross Geller’s “Moistmaker,” these leftovers somehow forge together to make a delicious Frankenstein’s Monster of a dish. In the same fashion, Grimaldi — a once highly-touted prospect — never quite panned out in Florida or Colorado. But there’s just something about his game that made him a delicious fit with the Predators, just like there’s something about that weird combination of gravy and cranberry sauce that makes that Friday afternoon turkey sandwich so tasty.
Cranberry Sauce: Colton Sissons
Cranberry sauce is cranberry sauce. You take it out of a can, drop it in a bowl, and put it on the table. Nothing special, but that doesn’t mean it’s not delicious when you cram that cylinder of goodness on turkey. Colton Sissons is the cranberry sauce of the Preds. He’s probably never going to be a top-six forward, like the Preds envisioned at one point, but that’s okay! He’s still a valuable piece of the Preds' roster, and a staple of the bottom six. And let’s face it, this canned version is a lot better than the fancy, homemade $13 million version you got from Buffalo.
The Bottles of Wine You Slowly Down Throughout Thanksgiving Day: David Poile
Things start off innocently enough. You start with one or two glasses of Riesling during the early afternoon appetizers. By dinner, you’re nice and relaxed, and you managed to get Paul Kariya and Shea Weber at your table. But as time goes on, the more unpredictable things become. Are you going to make a political comment that starts a fight? Are you going to trip and fall into the buffet table? Are you going to give up a first round pick for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli or go all-in on Ryan Hartman? There’s a lot of ways the night can go, and the rest of the party anxiously waits to see if you sober up or continue to embarrass the whole family.
The Pumpkin Pie: Mattias Ekholm
You build your perfect feast. Everything’s delicious. And right when you think you’re full and satisfied... BOOM! Someone breaks out that delectable pumpkin pie. It’s a perfect complement to the main feast, not unlike Mattias Ekholm being a perfect complement to the likes of Josi and Ellis. The Predators are already blessed with having two of the league’s best defensive “main dishes,” but adding Ekholm — who himself would be the best defender on half of the other NHL teams (despite his down 2019-20 season) — gives the Preds some hardcore depth on their blueline menu.
Those Little Sister Schubert or Kings Hawaiian Rolls: Viktor Arvidsson
They’re bite-sized, but they pack a palatable punch, not unlike the Preds’ little 5’9” ball of Swedish energy. Like Arvidsson, these rolls won’t be ever be a centerpiece of the feast, but these little rolls are so versatile you can’t imagine your plate without them! You can use them to make sliders, top them with garlic butter, use them on the penalty kill, there’s no limit! Just make sure you keep these away from your Uncle Bortuzzo...
The Pineapple Casserole Dish You’re Not Sure If You Like or Not Yet: John Hynes
It’s on the table right in front of you, and according to your family who already tried it, this pineapple casserole thing is actually pretty good. But still, you’re not quite sure if it’s something you’re fully on board with. Preds fans are feeling the same kind of way about new head coach John Hynes. He arrived in Smashville highly regarded by the likes of David Poile and former MVP Taylor Hall, so you’re hoping he can unlock the team’s full potential. The first nibble of that casserole was okay, but you need to sample a few more big bites before you consider it a favorite, and potentially go back for second helpings.
That Tall, Jiggly Jello Thing: Yakov Trenin
No really, what is this thing supposed to be? Is it a dessert? Is it something that’s supposed to go on your main plate? I mean it LOOKS good enough, but please, SOMEONE TELL ME WHAT THIS IS! Ahem... anyway, Yakov Trenin looks to be an exciting talent that the Preds are still experimenting with. Is he destined to be a fourth-line “grit” guy? Can he develop into a top-six power forward? Or is he going to be stuck in extra skater limbo for a while? The Preds may need some time to experiment to figure out what type of player Trenin actually is, but with the likes of Tomasino and Tolvanen about to hit the lineup, and with the pressure to make another deep playoff run mounting, that jello thingy may quickly become an afterthought on David Poile’s plate.
The Cheese Board you Snack on After Thanksgiving Dinner: Matt Benning and Mark Borowiecki
You’ve long since finished dinner and dessert, you’ve unbuckled your belt, and you’ve settled in for a long night in the La-Z Boy with the Steelers and Ravens on in the background. All you need now is something light to snack on — not a full meal, just a few nibbles off of a cheese board will do. It rounds out the night just like the Preds hope Benning and Borowiecki will round out the defensive corps. They already have their top four solidified, they just need their newest free agents to step in and play enough of a meaningful role to accentuate their blueline depth. The cheese board isn’t the star of the menu, nor does it have it be. It just needs to get the job done.
That One Potato Salad Your Friend Karen Brought That Has Raisins In It: Jarred Tinordi
Aww... poor Aunt Karen. You want to be nice and give it a try because you know she put a lot of heart and soul in this dish. Plus, you used to work with her dad with the Washington Capitals and you don’t want it to be a whole thing. Who knows, in very small doses, it’s tolerable. But, sigh, it’s just not going to be a full-serving dish. I don’t want to harp too much of Jarred Tinordi, because I really am happy that he fought back to the NHL after a long stint in the minors. But the Preds going after Borowiecki and Benning the first day of free agency, combined with Tinordi’s limited ice time in the postseason, probably doesn’t bode well for Jarred’s long term prospects.
The Chinese takeout you order when you accidentally burn and destroy your entire feast: Nick Cousins, Luke Kunin, and Brad Richardson
Captain America Voice: So, you overdid it this Thanksgiving. You tried to throw too many fancy, expensive dishes together in the oven at once. You messed up. You not only burned the feast, you nearly burned down the whole house. You can’t exactly start from scratch. So what do you do? You pick up the phone and order some Chinese takeout, just so there’s food on the table. Sure, on the surface, new additions Cousins, Kunin, and Richardson don’t look as appetizing as the likes of Kyle Turris and Mikael Granlund looked when they were brought to the table. But that doesn’t mean the new guys don’t have their strengths. Cousins and Richardson are penalty-killing aces (an area in which the Preds desperately needed help) and Kunin’s showing signs of becoming a reliable middle-six forward. They’re not the star-studded additions of years past, but give it a chance, maybe they’re just enough to save this feast!