Originally posted (and more readable) on www.prednation.com
In Part I, we took a look back at the expectations going into last season. That look provided a brief glimpse at the players we were going to ice as well. At this time last season, we were a team coming off of a 100+ point season. We were going into the season expecting another 100+ point campaign. We had those expectations even though our initial plans were to roll three “scoring” lines that had players like Jordan Tootoo, Vernon Fiddler, and Josef Vasicek playing meaningful minutes. Is the roster the Predators have today so much worse than the one with those lofty expectations from last season? Let’s find out. In this article, we’ll examine the personnel the Predators lost and the impact of those losses. We’ll also look at the Predators current roster in terms of even strength forward combinations and power play combinations. Given how the length of this article grew, I’ve decided to split my original plans into two articles and expand the Expectations article into four parts. Part III will continue the look at the Predators roster by focusing on the blueline during even strength situations, the penalty kill groups, and the leadership group. It will also provide a list of benchmarks and goals that, if most are achieved, will result in another trip to the playoffs.
The off-the-ice headline regarding the sale of the team has obviously had a ripple effect in the Predators’ budget. We go into this season having lost Paul Kariya, Scott Hartnell, Tomas Vokoun, and Kimmo Timonen. While the front office was hoping to bring back Kariya initially, they could not compete with the $18 million/3 years contract he signed with St. Louis. Additionally, we have also learned that we will be without Steve Sullivan for at least three months. Finally, while his personal on-ice numbers were really insignificant (2G, 13A, 15Pts), his affect on Alexander Radulov (my personal belief) makes it noteworthy to mention the possible/probable loss of Peter Forsberg as well.
I’ve struggled mightily on how to assess this roster in comparison to last year. I’ve decided to approach this by looking at projected line combinations and power play units and compare those with their counterpart from last season. While I will present the goal, assist, and point totals as supporting statistics, I will also focus on the Take-Away/Give-Away (Tk/Gv) Ratio (which is an overall number as those numbers are not separated into different situations). In my opinion, it is a pretty good representative, when taken in context, of a player’s propensity to turn the puck over primarily, and their ability to steal the puck secondarily.
We will begin by examining the lines in even strength situations. Table 1 provides a breakdown of the top line from last season as well as a projection for the upcoming season. With the departure of Kariya, Erat will probably move over into his more natural LW position to allow Radulov to move into Erat’s RW position. Last season, this line had no true sniper. All three were more playmaker than sniper. In this case, I believe that the Predators will be better than last season. Kariya’s ES goal totals are not an onerous total for Radulov to achieve. The assist totals are a little more difficult to spread out, but with the addition of a true goal scorer to the line, there should be a few more assists. This is not a declaration that Radulov is a better overall player than Kariya. While he could be one day, he certainly isn’t yet. He is, however, a better fit with Legwand and Erat than Kariya. Radulov’s ability to control the puck, and his ability to separate others from the puck (see Table 3), increases the likelihood of spending more time in the offensive zone as well.
Table 1- First Line, Even Strength Statistics
Left Wing Center Right Wing Total Points
2006 – 2007 Paul Kariya
19G, 31A, 51Pts
.460 Tk/Gv David Legwand
23G, 29A, 52Pts
1.20 Tk/Gv Martin Erat
10G, 28A, 38Pts
.875 Tk/Gv 141
2007 – 2008 Projection Martin Erat
14G, 30A, 44Pts David Legwand
18G, 35A, 53Pts Alexander Radulov
25G, 20A, 45Pts 147
One of the Predators’ problems for this upcoming season will revolve around replacing the offensive production of Steve Sullivan. I’ve taken the conservative approach and have not counted on having Sullivan any time this season. Table 2 provides the even strength breakdown for the second line. Dumont was one of the top three players for the Predators at even strength last season. If David Poile can bring in another excellent two-way left wing, then you’ll see Arnott and Dumont’s even strength numbers get much larger. One item to note is Sullivan’s Tk/Gv Ratio. His propensity to turn the puck over was a particularly good reason that he should not have played the point on a power play- especially in an umbrella formation. While the Predators will miss the offense provided by Sullivan, as well as his playmaking ability, Gelinas does do a better job in the Tk/Gv ratio (.975 last season with Florida) and is difficult to knock off the puck. His offensive numbers, at even strength, last season were also pretty good (7G, 24A, 31Pts) and indicates decent playmaking ability. Having three forwards that were all pretty good at holding onto the puck should help diminish the overall loss of production, but production will drop.
Table 2- Second Line, Even Strength Statistics
Left Wing Center Right Wing Total Points
2006 – 2007 Steve Sullivan
13G, 21A, 34Pts
.675 Tk/Gv Jason Arnott
15G, 19A, 34Pts
1.458 Tk/Gv J.P. Dumont
16G, 31A, 47Pts
.822 Tk/Gv 115
2007 – 2008 Projection Martin Gelinas
8G, 25A, 33Pts
(.975 Tk/Gv Last Season) Jason Arnott
15G, 20A, 35Pts J.P. Dumont
14G, 26A, 40Pts 108
Last season, our third line was supposed to be a scoring line. If there had been a center that had fit into that role, then it might have worked out. As it was, this line only managed to score roughly 79 points last season, almost thirty less points than the second line. Since Vasicek’s contributions were minimal, as well as Forsberg’s, and due to Fiddler’s playing somewhere on one of the top three lines most of the season, we will consider Fiddler’s numbers in the center position on this line. Additionally, Radulov’s ice time was greatly reduced early in the season and never reached significant levels until the playoffs. The one constant to this line was Scott Hartnell. It was also a pretty darn good line at minimizing turnovers while creating some of their own. Radulov actually had the best Tk/Gv ratio, by far, than any other player on the team. While I expect that to drop with his promotion to the top line and extra emphasis on offensive production, I expect that to drop to a reasonable ratio somewhere similar to Legwand’s numbers. I also expect Radulov to add about 20 total points to his even strength numbers from last season. Given the line mates he should have, especially if they remain pretty stable, then that should definitely be doable.
This season should see a move away from the attempt to field a third scoring line (obviously unsuccessful last season) and see the Predators attempt to field a solid checking line that can chip in the occasional goal. The personnel the Predators have are definitely conducive to that move, and they should have success with this third line. With the line having a different focus, I expect Fiddler’s numbers to drop some, but injury fill-in on the top two lines will prevent them from dropping by more than half. Bonk will definitely center this line. Ortmeyer will probably get the first look at right wing (given Gelinas having to fill in on the second line). If a trade occurs to help with the Sullivan injury, Ortmeyer will slide comfortably into a fourth line energy role, and Gelinas’ addition to the third line would increase production by probably 10 – 15 points.
Table 3- Third Line, Event Strength Statistics
Left Wing Center Right Wing Total Points
2006 – 2007 Scott Hartnell
12G, 16A, 28Pts
1.524 Tk/Gv Vernon Fiddler
10G, 15A, 25Pts
2.125 Tk/Gv A. Radulov
13G, 13A, 26Pts
3.273 Tk/Gv 79
2007 – 2008 Projection Vernon Fiddler
8G, 10A, 18Pts Radek Bonk
8G, 8A, 16Pts Jed Ortmeyer
3G, 7A, 10Pts 44
If my projections prove accurate, the Predators are looking at about a 40 point drop in even strength production. The other reserve/fourth line forwards should post their usual total of about 30 overall points. While this drop is certainly due to the loss of the offensive talent that was here last season, the Predators’ forwards are defensively better overall on all four lines.
The real key to the Predators’ offensive production will be the power play. Last season saw a first unit of Kimmo Timonen, Marek Zidlicky, Steve Sullivan, Paul Kariya, and Jason Arnott. It was often said by the fans that this team underachieved on the power play with a team full of power play specialists. Why was that? When you examine some the power play statistics in Table 4, one can begin to understand. The top unit was essentially constructed of players who were noted for their playmaking ability more so than their ability to score goals. This led to a unit that attempted to make the extra pass much too often for a successful unit. Of the four players that look to score just as often as passing, only Arnott saw more than 4:00 minutes of ice time. All of the power play units the Predators iced were generally 4:1 playmaker to scorer. Combine a poor grouping of players with fairly stagnate game plans, and this was a power play that never had a chance. One final thought regarding last season’s power play, Kimmo Timonen epitomized a power play specialist for this team. 47% of his point total came from the power play, and both his assist and goal totals were significant. His production on the power play, provided Chris Mason steps up, could be the one thing we miss most. Zidlicky must return to form for the Predators to be consistently successful this season.
Table 4- 2006 - 2007 Power Play Statistics
Player Assists Goals A/G Ratio % Total Points Avg. Ice Time
Ryan Suter 8 1 8.000 38% 2:31
Marek Zidlicky 8 2 4.000 33% 4:22
Paul Kariya 20 5 4.000 33% 4:58
Steve Sullivan 17 6 2.833 38% 4:26
J.P. Dumont 14 5 2.800 29% 3:26
Martin Erat 13 5 2.600 32% 4:15
D. Legwand 7 3 2.333 16% 2:01
K. Timonen 18 8 2.250 47% 4:50
Shea Weber 8 6 1.333 35% 2:35
A. Radulov 6 5 1.200 30% 1:50
Jason Arnott 8 12 0.667 37% 4:28
Scott Hartnell 1 10 0.100 28% 3:24
If Peterson coaches the power play as well as he coaches the penalty kill, then the Predators have the right man in place for the job. When it comes to constructing the unit, I prefer a 2:3 ratio playmakers to scorers. It’s also important to ensure that we have at least two players that can bring the puck into the zone and have someone willing to float in front of the next. For the first unit, Zidlicky will move right into Timonen’s vacated QB spot from the blueline. His 0.412 Tk/Gv ratio will dictate a partner that can work very well from the blueline in providing that low, hard, accurate shot while covering for Zidlicky’s propensity to turn the puck over. Shea Weber should do a great job in that role while also being one of those three players on the unit that is willing and able to shoot the puck. Floating in front of the net should be Jason Arnott. Arnott was the most productive goal scorer on the power play last season. He provides a big body, a deadly shot just out front of the net, and a decent draw for the faceoff. On the left halfboards, Alexander Radulov provides a player that is more than willing to go to the net, is the best true scorer on the Predators roster, and sees the ice well enough to find a floating Arnott for his shot. Radulov is another excellent option to bring the puck into the zone. On the right halfboards should be David Legwand. Legwand is the best at bringing the puck into the zone. He was very effective quarterbacking the power play last season in his limited time. If no one is available to pass the puck to, he knows how to shoot as well. He provides a decent backup for a faceoff as well. Table 5 projects the effectiveness of that unit. The second unit replaces Zidlicky with Suter, Weber with Hamhuis, Arnott with Gelinas, Radulov with Erat, and Legwand with Dumont. The second unit lacks the true scorer, although Dumont and Erat can certainly score. Suter, Erat, and Dumont can all handle the puck and bring it into the zone as well. The glaring issue with that second unit regards who would take the faceoffs. Legwand and Dumont could be swapped, but Erat could also take the faceoffs as well. While not taking as many as Legwand, his percentage was only a few points lower (granted that Legwand isn’t the best faceoff man there is). Regardless of Dumont or Legwand placement, I believe that this may be one of our most productive power play seasons if Peterson keeps the game plans simple and efficient and the top unit has at least three guys that are willing to put the puck on net at a moment’s notice.
Table 5- 2007 - 2008 Power Play Projections of Top Players
Player Assists Goals
Ryan Suter 12 4
Marek Zidlicky 20 6
J.P. Dumont 14 5
M. Gelinas 10 8
Martin Erat 16 6
Dan Hamhuis 8 4
D. Legwand 18 6
Shea Weber 12 10
A. Radulov 10 12
Jason Arnott 11 14
Offensively, this team will probably not compare to the team the Predator’s iced last season. I expect the even strength production to be down roughly forty points (with no further major roster moves), but I expect the power play production to be better- along the lines of about 80 goals (compared to 76 last season). If this team can achieve a 20% conversion rate on power plays, that would go a long way towards making up for the lack of production.
In Part III, we’ll continue our look at the roster by shifting our focus to the defense. We’ll examine the Predators’ blueline combinations at even strength as well as the team’s penalty killing units. We’ll complete our look at the roster by examining the new leadership group after the departure of four of the previous five and detailing some of the goals I’d like this team to achieve and/or maintain throughout the season.