Ask The Staff: Game Countdown and the Bottom Six
FRIDAY SOCIAL! We have some smart folks on our roster, but we have smart friends as well. And in this episode, we call on them to take part in this week's Ask The Staff.
Joining us for the first time is a good writer and a great person, Rebeka Hutchings of LadyPreds. Frankly, we've been wanting to get her involved for a while now. She's joined at the table by fellow TTU Golden Eagle Kris Martel, The new Memphis Tiger himself George Scoville, and staff goons Anish Patel, Alex Daugherty, Jeremy Sargent, and Jason Zito. Enjoy!
The Predators media folks are doing a countdown of their top games of the season. What was your favorite game during the 2014-15 season? Why?
This’ll probably be a shoo-in, but my favorite game during the 2014-15 season had to be when Trotz made his return to Nashville with the Washington Capitals. Say what you want about the guy, but he help put Nashville on the hockey map for sure. Of course, the standing ovation from the crowd was awesome, but Neal’s game-winner with 1:40 left in regulation also helps seal it as a favorite.
That's easy: Game 4 of the first round against Chicago. Yes, even though the Predators ultimately lost that game in three overtimes, it was a quintessential example of hockey at it's finest. Nashville took a lead and looked dominant, only to give the lead up twice. Then the overtime periods with saves left and right by two stellar goaltenders. Don't forget the game-saving stop by Rinne in the final ten seconds of the third.
Even though Chicago would win the game, it was absolutely my favorite game of the season. Sure, there as a deep pit in my stomach afterwards, but that's hockey!
Hands down my favorite game last season was James Neal single-handedly defeating the Chicago Blackhawks on October 23, 2014. It was a real "welcome to SMASHville" moment and a statement game for Neal, who many pundits thought wouldn't be as much of a threat without Malkin or Crosby, the first hat trick Nashville fans had seen in the building for a long time, and a statement game against a division rival that said "you might be used to outworking our defense with elite offense, but now you're going to have to stop some pucks, too."
My favorite game of the 2014-2015 season had to be the 9-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not only were the Preds clicking on all cylinders that night, but they did it against a big market team. It gave Nashville a chance to get noticed nationally. It also showed what the Predators were capable of when playing on point for an entire game. Granted, it was against Toronto, so you had to take it with a grain of salt.
The Preds accomplished a rare feat last year: their last home game was a dominating playoff win over the eventual Cup winners. And what a Game 5 it was: Forsberg's hat-trick, Mike Fisher's Globetrotter-like pass to set up the 4th goal, scoring 2 goals in 12 seconds, Shaw getting Shawed, and all of this happening in front of probably the most raucous home crowd I've witnessed at the Bridge. I think my throat was bleeding for a week after that game. Regardless of how the season ended, that was an exciting final loop in the 2014-15 season roller-coaster. I even enjoyed watching Brad Richards out-skate Cody Franson, effectively ending his tenure as a Pred. Silver linings!
The Washington Capitals game and the return of Coach Trotz. The tribute was amazing (I may have been slicing onions at the end) The atmosphere was electric and the game was great. To top it off, James Neal's GWG was sick. He was a man on fire out there, knocked the puck down when the Caps were trying to clear and then five-holed the goalie. Place went nuts.
The 4-1 beat-down of the Stars on October 11th. It was so great to drink to excess out of joy and excitement rather than a deep, bottomless pit of depression. We were finally done Trotzing the bed, and it felt so, so good. A close second would be the 4-3 win over the Blues on December 4th. Just felt like a playoff game, plus Jon and I got to witness #PrinceFilip score a goal from our seats in the #OfficialOnlineMedia press box 6 rows off the glass. Awesome.
Jon covered the Predators' logjam in the bottom six earlier this summer. Who are your picks to win the roster spots on the Predators 3rd and 4th lines
As of right now, I’d go with the following:
3rd Line: Kevin Fiala, Cody Hodgson, Calle Jarnkrok
4th Line: Gabriel Bourque, Paul Gaustad, and Eric Nystrom
However, you still have to find spots for Viktor Arvidsson, Austin Watson, and Steve Moses so that’s where the 3rd and 4th lines could get a little tricky. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trade during training camp. Not saying it’ll happen, but we’ve got some good talent that could go back to the AHL level, but I feel are just about NHL ready.
Probably the toughest question to answer this offseason, but the answer is fairly simple if you think about it. With Arvidsson, Bourque, Fiala, Gaustad, Hodgson, Jarnkrok, Moses, Nystrom and Watson all competing for the final six spots, you have to take a look at the most obvious of players to earn spots.
First, count in Gaustad, Hodgson for starters. They will most likely serve as centers for the third and fourth lines, respectively. Next, you'd expect Jarnkrok and Moses will both earn spots as well. I doubt that Poile and the coaching staff are willing to give up so quickly on Jarnkrok and Moses was signed by the organization from the KHL in a hope that he can repeat his 36 goal performance across the sea in Nashville this season.
Of the five remaining players, only two can make the roster to start out with. If you throw Bourque and Nystrom as healthy scratches -- which isn't outside the realm of possibility -- I'd hand the keys to Fiala and Watson. Fiala should be playing on the bottom six, but he needs the ice time at an NHL level and could make some magic against weaker competition on the bottom lines. Watson just needs to be in the NHL, his time in the AHL should have been over a season ago. Arvidsson, though? He can be effective at either level and I don't believe it will stunt his growth to play a little more in Milwaukee before he comes to the Predators.
Like I said: simple!
*puts hand over eyes, tosses dart at side of barn* (Suffice it to say I think this year's camp will be really competitive.)
This is a tough one. It really is anyone's game at this point. The safe bet would be to go with Gaustad and Nystrom on a line, but they are aging in a game that is only getting faster. Gaustad's faceoff skills will still be put to use though, in my opinion. With that said, I think it will be Jarnkrok-Hodgson-Moses on the third line, and Fiala-Gaustad-Bourque on the fourth line. It wouldn't surprise me at all though if Arvidsson or Watson get in on the fourth line by the start of the season.
It's nice to have options, but it does lead to some Frankenstein-work on those bottom two lines. I like having balance on all lines as opposed to having lines that merely do one thing well. So for the third line, I'd go with Jarnkrok-Hodgson-Fiala. Puck possession, offensive threat, defensive awareness, a veteran presence (a bit of a stretch, I know) out there with the young guys. Similar idea for the 4th line: Moses-Gaustad-Bourque. Physical presence, but some speed and scoring ability on the wings that could be a threat against lesser opponents.
3rd line would have to be Jarnkrok/Hodgson/Moses. If this line is anywhere close on the ice as they are on paper, the mismatches for the opposition will be exquisite. I feel Hodgson will be a steal for Poile this year and Moses has the potential to be a crafty goal scorer (think Matt Halischuk from a few years back). The 4th line would be best with Bourque/Gaustad/Watson, but I fear that Nystrom will finish out the fourth line due to his experience and contract. This means Fiala will probably be in Milwaukee, but look for him to start the season with the Predators and get sent back before the 9th game. If this happens, move Fiala to the third line and drop Jarnkrok or Moses to the fourth, Nystrom to the press box.
Lots of good options here, but if there is any justice in this world, the 3rd line will feature Fiala Time and the 4th will be Nystrom-less. I remember the game Victor Bartley played on the 4th line and the only difference I could see between him and Nystrom was the extra $2 million in salary.