Nashville Predators find balance at defense after losing Seth Jones

The biggest question for Nashville was who would replace Jones on the blue line and how would Nashville finagle things around after his departure.

Albeit a small sample size, Nashville has nailed down its continuing defensive pairings for the foreseeable future.

There's no question that the absence of Seth Jones patrolling the perimeter with Barret Jackman has made it interesting, to say the least, in what the Predators deploy every night for their second and third defensive pairings.

After a handful of tweaks and changes -- seeing both Petter Granberg and Anthony Bitetto find themselves inside and out of the lineup, along with Jackman himself looking like a nomad roaming a post-apocalyptic Earth -- Nashville saw itself rewarded with a perfect 4-0-0 road trip, which included allowing only one goal in each of the four off a combined 107 shots through the trip.

"We've kept it the same the last four games and it seems to be working for us," said Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis. "For the most part, we kind of know what we're doing going forward. Whether it changes or not, everyone has played with everyone at some point in their careers, for the most part. Hopefully we keep finding the success that's been going on lately."

Statistically speaking, splitting apart Ellis and Ekholm to pair each with another defenseman was the most reasonable course of action -- seeing that a long-term combination of Jackman with either Bitetto, Granberg or anyone else wasn't going to be a solution.

Via HockeyAnalysis, Ellis, Ekholm, Jackman and Granberg all have relatively solid Corsi percentages based on their WOWY (With or Without You) statistics:

(Cumulative totals below includes Tuesday night's game against St. Louis)

Player Combo Time Together (season total) Corsi% when together Average Corsi% when separated
Weber/Josi 832:25 51.0% 44.75%
Ekholm/Ellis 646:45 56.7% 51.95%
Ekholm/Jackman 16:17 52.5% 56.5%
Ellis/Jackman 81:14 55.5% 56.65%
Ekholm/Granberg 71:31 47.2% 41.75%

While the latter three are clearly disproportionate to both the Weber/Josi and Ekholm/Ellis pairings, the underlying numbers for a team that traded away one of their better defensemen are still quite solid.

Though, there may be more than a handful of folks that poo poo the Ekholm/Granberg pairing immediately just by looking at the numbers above, but they've been just as solid visually as the other pairings.

Splitting up Ekholm and Ellis was one thing that could have had mixed results. To be fair, so far the results have been just that -- mixed. However, the pairing of Ellis and Jackman has been a rather pleasant one, providing Jackman with a more seasoned defenseman in Ellis to break out into the offensive zone with him patrolling the defensive aspects of play as per the norm.

"[Jackman] plays hard in the defensive zone. He moves the puck well," continued Ellis. "For me, I like to have the puck more and be able to skate up the ice. I think we complement each other well. He, more or less, takes care of the defensive part and allows me to move forward.

"He is more defensive-minded. He can make plays out of the [offensive zone], but more defensive-minded for sure."

"It’s been good to be able to maintain the three pairs and be able to utilize them," said Predators head coach Peter Laviolette. "I think with Ellis and Jackman, you get a pair that has some experience and can play against just about anybody – and they do a good job at it. They seem to have handled the transition into new pairs. Ekholm and Ellis being split up and used in different ways has been fine and it allows us to spread the minutes a little bit more evenly."

The split has also allowed Ekholm, who's currently riding a five-game point streak with one goal and five assists in that span, to really carry the play with Granberg.

That's not to say that Granberg isn't a solid bottom-six defenseman, but it's going to take him a bit more time to come into his own. He's not going to magically enter the lineup for his first handful of games and turn into Paul Coffey. In his best AHL season, he registered 15 points in 53 games with the Toronto Marlies.

Obviously, the Predators are hoping they've stumbled upon a waiver wire thrifty treasure find here with Granberg.

Not discounting the possibilities of Bitetto, Johan Alm, Stefan Elliott or any one of the eight different defensemen that Nashville has under contract and set to expire at the end of the season, but Granberg has worked out more than the Predators could have hoped he would at this point.