OTF Q&A: Holiday Edition

The OTF staff is here to give you the gift of knowledge! Curl up with a mug of cocoa, drop the needle on your Nat King Cole record, and enjoy.

The holidays are here, (Happy Hannukah to our Jewish readers!) which means we're about ready to close the book on 2014. The year may be coming to an end, but plenty of questions still linger. So lets get to 'em.

Jason B - Despite the fact he's been working hard, Jokinen has very little to show for it. Is he totally washed up?

Alex: It is pretty amazing that he has played in every game and only has 2 points. Still, that's 2 more points than Viktor Stalberg. I don't think he's washed up as much as he's been really unlucky so far. His shooting percentage is puttering along at 3.7, but with a career % at 9.7, look for his offensive numbers to improve over the remainder of the year... maybe not to his average, but at least to 5-6%.

Jeremy: Washed up is a bit of an overstatement, but I have not been happy with Jokinen at all this year. Despite the measly two points, every shift I see from him seems to have a turnover or sloppy play. He doesn't hit, he doesn't steal, he doesn't make good decisions in any zone. He is holding a place for Gaustad and Beck until they get back. Personally, I would not be miffed if Jokinen goes the way of Stalberg.

Zeke: As the player I picked for a possible bust before the season, I didn't exactly have high hopes for Jokinen to come in and light it up offensively, but what I've seen from him so far has just been an uninspired effort. As Jeremy mentioned, he hasn't looked particularly good in ANY zone, and on top of that he is standing in the way of other players (aka Beck right now) who have shown more enthusiasm and willingness to compete. Bottom line, veteran forwards either need to provide leadership or be fundamentally sound all over the ice, and right now Jokinen isn't doing a whole lot of either one of those things.

Tom D - Early grades for Mike Fisher since the return?

Alex: He seemed a bit too eager at first... reaching for plays that weren't there. But I would say his help on the PP has been important. He's too consistent to give him anything less than a B.

Jeremy: He has helped the power play (even if one of the goals was mere luck). He is a great locker room guy and a natural leader for the team. He plays with all sorts of tenacity despite his body becoming less likely to recover from such play. Solid B or B+ for his return.

Zeke: Fisher is the kind of player that every team wants centering their second or third lines. He plays a selfless, physical style, is a great leader and brings a bucket full of charm wherever he goes. He is finally in the correct role and not being forced into a top line center spot he clearly never fit. I'll admit that things were a little shaky early in his return, but his play has evened out and as long as the PP keeps scoring I'll give him any grade he wants.

Tim R - It might be early but who between the Hawks, the Blues and the Preds have the easiest remaining schedule

Alex: The Blackhawks and Blues both have easy schedules. The Hawks road games the rest of the way are cake, with the exception of visiting Pittsburgh and LA right around the All-Star Game. As for the Blues, their hardest stretch in the entire month of February is hosting Pittsburgh and Montreal... other than that, they have a slew of Sabres, Blue Jackets, Lightning, Oilers, Jets, et al. The Predators still have some tough non-divisional games: in January they will visit the Red Wings, Kings, Ducks, and Canadiens.

Jeremy: From the eye test it looks like the Blackhawks have the easiest upcoming schedule until the end of the season. Lots of bottom feeders in the East and they get to play the dismal Oilers a couple more times. Also, it depends on the Minnesota Wild; if the Wild can be a playoff contender then the Hawks have some more adversity. If the Wild turn into what they normally do, the Hawks have a cake schedule through April.

Zeke: Things are only going to get tougher from here on out for the Preds and Blues, while I'm willing to bet the rest of the Hawks schedule will be exactly as it seems and melt into a cake walk while I sit here and grumble about it.

Jason K - Are we hitting any less than we used to? Not seeing the hard hip checks anymore.. But could also mean not being out of position as often.

Alex: Weber and A-20 have been the most physically present of the defensemen, but we need Gaustad to get healthy again to provide that physical presence. I've been impressed with our forwards physicality in the offensive zone. I think we hit as much as is necessary. No need to be bruisers when we control the puck as much as we do.

Jeremy: The first Nashville Predator player to rank in hits for the NHL is Shea Weber, tied for 54th with 70 hits. We seem to be more obsessed with keeping possession of the puck rather than blatantly trying to jar people against the boards or open ice. What I like about this aside from puck possession dominance is we have a lot of sticks in the passing lanes and shooting lanes causing deflections and disruption which is way better than leading in hits (which as many here have pointed out means you don't have the puck).

Zeke: This isnt your old Predators style of hockey, and that's a good thing. The Preds are doing what the really good teams in the NHL do; they don't need to go around knocking the other team off the puck because they are doing such a dang good job of possessing it themselves. You can be physically by playing power forward hockey and simply out muscling the other team for the puck and that is what the Preds are doing right now. At the same time they've shown that when things aren't clicking they are not afraid to ratchet up the hits (see the last Chicago game). The ability to play both ways when each is needed is the key to a winning (especially playoff) style of modern hockey.

Christ M - With Weber's point total last season and still not Norris trophy, what are his odds of winning this year given his point production so far?

Alex: With Weber delegating much of the top line offense to Roman Josi at this point, I don't like Weber's Norris chances this year. To some extent this is a good thing. I much prefer Weber as the stay at home defensemen that can jump up to the blue line and blast one occasionally. I love watching his defensive game at the moment. He can absolutely shut down 99% of forwards out there (1% = Sidney Crosby). Excellent top line defensemen? Yes. Captain that does Captainy things? Yes. Norris? No. Not this year.

Jeremy: Sigh. It'll be tough. Even though Weber is a staple of the All Star game, his numbers this year aren't as gaudy awesome as they have been in years past. He plays one of the best two-way defensive games of any defender over the last decade...but alas it won't be enough since the Keith's and Karlsson's of the world tend to win it based solely on point tallies. I am a Weber supporter for sure, but to quote one of my best of friends, "I'm a realist, not a pessimist."

Zeke: It's going to be a long shot. On the stat sheet Weber's numbers haven't looked as eyeopening as they have in previous seasons, and with the early play of certain Dman in Calgary, LA, and Montreal, it'll be hard for the Captain to bring home the trophy to Nashville. However, there seems to be growing national guilt over his lack of hardware, and if the Preds stay hot and land a playoff spot, the combination of his leadership, point totals and the Team's success might be enough to get him the nod.

Matt - It's Christmastime! Which Predators would you equate to Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, Scrooge, the Grinch, Ralphie, and George Bailey?

Alex: Santa-Lavy, Frosty-James Neal, Rudolph-Forsberg, Scrooge-Dan Bradley, the Grinch-the power-play, Ralphie-(I don't know who this is... Mike Fisher?), George Bailey-Pekka Rinne

Jeremy: George Bailey - Craig Smith. He just has that "me against the world" kind of play and you're always rooting for him to do well (would've been Hornqvist if he wasn't traded). Frosty would have to be James Neal since I can't believe he's here and when he gets too hot, he seems to go away for a bit. I picture Ryan Ellis as Rudolph because he has always been picked on because of his size, but when given the reigns he has excelled. Take that, Haters. Scrooge is obviously Poile, a tightwad (and who are we kidding, still is) who is visited by three people (Erat, Laviolette and Ribeiro) that changed his and the teams outcome. The Leg Lamp Award goes to Seth Jones as Ralphie for always trying his best and eventually getting what he has always wanted: the adulation of being a top tier defenseman (He'll shoot your eye out, just ask Canada). Santa goes to the ever-humble sideline reporter and backup goalie Carter Hutton simply cause he is almost always on the bench and ready to receive people on his lap. Finally, the Grinch goes to Olli Jokinen since he steals my joy and cheeriness every time he hits the ice. MERRY CHRISTMAS FOLKS!!!

Zeke: I don't think you'll get any argument from anyone on Poile being Scrooge, though some yuletide deals might change our mind's David (hint, hint). As far as Rudolph goes, I really want it to be Calle Jarnkrok. He's another Pred who has been called too small, but he has the potential to be a topline center at this level if he gets the chance. I believe in you Calle, you can do it!!! James Neal is Ralphie. He'll shoot your eye out, he'll shoot your arm off, and he'll shoot from everywhere and anywhere and then he'll shoot again. I would say that with the way the Preds have played thus far, Laviolette has brought plenty of fans a bright enough gift to be this year's Santa (though it could be you David, just pick up the phone and make some calls). Frosty is a tough one, but I'm going to go with Ribs. Whatever meltdowns he had in the hot Arizona sun, put him on some nice cold Ice and he brings magic with him wherever he goes. George Bailey is an easy one in my mind. No one has brought Smashville together to believe in miracles more than the one and only Prince Filip himself, long may he reign. Enjoy the Holidays Everyone, and happy Chanukah!

What do you think?

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