Thursday, November 6, 2008

Will the Real Nashville Predators Please Stand Up

Through 12 games of this young campaign the 2008-2009 version of the Nashville Predators are still searching for their identity. Currently, they are in eight place in the West with 13 points and are one game into the longest road tip in franchise history.

At home they have sported a 5-1 record and have looked like the Predators of the past several seasons where they made the playoffs. At home they are 11th in the league on the power play with a 20% scoring rate. They have come close to matching last year’s third best in the league penalty kill currently ranking fourth with an 88.9 % success rate.

On the road the Predators have been a completely different team. They have a 1-4-1 record and have been miserable on special teams. Their road power play is 28th in the league barely showing any life at a 9.7% scoring rate. The PK is the most porous in the league ranking dead last and giving up a goal a third of the time.

The home-road difference hasn’t been the only inconsistency. Their play within individual games between different periods and on different trips down the ice has been equally irregular. At times they appear to be the team that challenged the Red Wings in the payoffs last year and at other times they appear as uninspired and inept as they were at time in the franchise’s early years.

Were this not the Nashville Predators that have shown extraordinary loyalty to their players and coaches over the years you would expect to be hearing rumors of coaching ousters and player changes, but that’s not the way the David Poile/ Barry Trotz ship has been run. Tuesday’s game against Vancouver marked Trotz’s 750th game as head coach and that’s not going to change.

Part of the problem has been the infusion of many first year players and rookies into a team that sports the best young defense corp in the league. This time last year Ryan Jones was in college, Patric Hornqvist was in Europe, Pekka Rinne was in Milwaukee, and Joel Ward was on another planet. These four youngsters have been key in the Preds successes so far this year and cannot be specifically blamed to the Preds inconsistency. However, they are new to the system and will take time to fully gel with the others.

I am also starting to fear that the pattern established over the last two seasons in goal may be rearing its ugly head once again. For some unknown reason the team has simply played much tighter and has closed ranks when playing in front of the backup keeper. It happed in 2006 when Chris Mason outplayed Tomas Vokoun. It happened last year when Dan Ellis stole the job from Chris Mason. We are now on the verge of the trifecta in this area as the team has appeared stellar in front of Pekka Rinne while looking very average in front of Dan Ellis. Rinne won the last two games at home last weekend and Ellis looked very average in Vancouver Tuesday night. Rinne is set to start tonight at Calgary.

I am by no means ready to start screaming that the sky is falling at this point because I am fully confident that the Predator ship will right itself sooner than later. It is important for them to amass at least six points on this six game western swing and then return home for the holidays and play like they have been playing in the home rink. I feel certain that the time on the road as a team will give them the opportunity to focus on playing more of a cohesive 60 minute game that will lead to greater success down the road.

Article by Buddy Oakes - Reprinted from

No comments: