We got a request from Jon Garcia (@JGarcia36) newly-minted Managing Editor of On the Forcheck, asking us if we wanted to answer some questions to preview tonight's game. We did, which you can check out at On the Forecheck soon, if not right now.
Thanks to Jon Garcia, who was nice enough to take the time to answer some of our questions. Hope you all enjoy his Perds primer!
1) Despite finishing just 4 points out of a playoff spot- without star goaltender Pekka Rinne- no one pegged the Nashville Predators to be doing much this season. Obviously, everyone is stupid. The Predators are neck-and-neck with the Blues and Blackhawks at the top of a stacked Central Division, and while some lazy people point to their league-leading PDO, they are overlooking very good underlying numbers, separating them from the 13-14 Colorado Avalanches (and 11-12 Minnesota Wilds *cries*) of the world. Should we have seen this coming?
Not unless you possess some cosmic power the rest of us are unaware of.
The Predators were never going to be as bad as many prognosticators made them out to be, but the reality was just no one knew how the team was going to mesh. There were so many variables to consider: David Poile brought in a ton of aging free agents, James Neal was playing without Evgeni Malkin, Pekka Rinne was coming back from injury, and Filip Forsberg wasn't even guaranteed a roster spot. Oh yeah, and there was a brand new coach who was supposed to change the entire culture of the club. At most, we thought they could challenge for a Wild Card spot.
Turns out Forsberg is a revelation, Ribeiro is playing better than he has in years, Rinne is penciled in for the Veniza, and everyone has bought what Laviolette's selling. "The Lavy Effect" might be one of the biggest reasons why the team is so good. Even from training camp, there was a buzz around the locker room, and the team looks nothing like the slow, boring team you've grown accustomed to. Lines are getting assembled due to players strengths, rather than their level of grit, and they've responded.
It isn't all sunshine and roses, though. Special teams have been a nightmare (especially the power play, sound familiar?) [Editor's Note: Ugh] and secondary scoring has been spotty at times. However, the Preds have been close to about a 53% FF most of the year. So, like you mentioned, their great play isn't just an illusion.
2) Ryan Suter is enjoying perhaps his best season skating apart from long-time defensive partner Shea Weber. With more than two years away from the defensive rock in Suter, how has Weber’s game changed and evolved? Is he now at the same level he was with Suter, whom he seemed to have genuine chemistry with?
2) Weber struggled a bit without Suter (as the entire team did) for a couple seasons after he left. Most of that had to do with not having anyone nearly as talented as Suter to fill the void he left. Weber also had to be THE guy, on the scoresheet as well. I don't want to say it was too much for him to handle, because he had essentially been doing that for a few years anyway, but the team around him was doing nothing but getting worse. It hurt.
Fast forward a few years, and Roman Josi has come into his own and is more than capable of holding down the left side of the defense. They may not share the same amount of chemistry that 20/6 did, but they are logging heavy minutes against the toughest competition. Their possession stats are a little south of 50%, but it seems they're taking a beating so that Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis can feast on favorable zone starts and competition.
3) Yeah, it’s not even 2015 yet, but I’m going to jump the gun a bit. The Predators have a 98.2% chance of making the playoffs. Which matchup are you hoping to see, and which team are you most afraid of?
3) Right off the bat, I would love to see a Blues/Preds series. All the games they've played this have been spectacular, one goal affairs, and Nashville matches up really well against them. The Preds could legitimately win that series, though it would be a close one. Plus, who wouldn't want to see 4-7 games of Forsberg vs. Tarasenko?
And I hate to go with the obvious answer, but Chicago scares the hell out of me. I'm getting stressed just thinking about it right now. Preds have better goaltender, you could argue either way about the defense, but the Hawks have the insane forward depth Nashville doesn't. Also, Coach Q already bested Lavy in 2010 en route to the Cup, so there's history there.
Bonus) One of my biggest fears in hockey involves the recently swirling Taylor Hall rumors. I’m terrified he’ll come to #ConferenceIII and make it even more brutal, and I’ve got the Predators pegged as the most likely candidate for acquiring Hall. Let’s rosterbate a bit- what would you be willing to give up for him? Shea Weber? Seth Jones? Am I being too much of a #hot #takeist right meow?
This is actually a little funny to me, because we have a commenter that has been brining up this exact scenario all the time. The team really needs a legit 1C (coughcoughRNHcoughcough) but let's humor each other. Let's say Forsberg moves back to center and excels at it or something, opening up a spot on the left wing.
Seth Jones makes more sense, especially if they are planning on taking a few years (again) to round out the roster. Weber isn't that old, but he's definitely not a 20-year-old. Jones still hasn't reached his potential, and still has the talent to be a franchise defenseman who puts up a lot of points.
On top of defense, Nashville does have a good crop of goaltending prospects, something Edmonton could really use. Despite Marek Mazanec getting a good chunk of time in the NHL, the better prospect has by far been Magnus Hellberg. He'd be more enticing.
So HFBoards style, you have:
LW - Taylor Hall
D - Seth Jones
G - Magnus Hellberg
1st round draft pick
That seems more than fair [Editor's Note: Maybe a little too fair.], even maybe a bit of an overpayment for the Preds. I really like both Jones and Hellberg, though, and I'd hate to see them go.
Bonus 2) You guys have totally incorporated Perd Hapley into OtF mythology, right?
I will answer that question with an answer, and that answer is yes. 'Ya Herd? [Editor's Note: I have not heard this, but this has the cadence of a joke.]
Parting Comment) I couldn’t be more jealous of Kevin Fiala. I was hoping against hope he’d fall to the Wild at 18.
Haha, suckers! (Kidding... sorta.) We actually had a chance to watch him up close during rookie and training camp, and he was so good some thought he might actually crack the lineup. That was never the plan, but he'll be a force when he comes over from Sweden next year. So fast, so smart, and has incredible hands.