Originally posted on www.PredNation.com
This article must begin with apologies on my part for the delays in posting this article. I’ve mentioned several times before that I’m not a journalist. A combination of my real job as a software engineer as well as a couple of rounds of illness has managed to really put a dent into my schedule.
The delay of Part III has allowed all of us fans to watch this year’s version of the Predators take the ice as well as hear reports from the coaching staff. Instead of projecting the defensive pairings and penalty kill units, we will look at what has occurred in the preseason in preparation of the game tonight to open the season.
To this point, we’ve seen that Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont have shown incredible chemistry together. While I wrote in Part II that Gelinas would be on the second line until Sullivan’s return (if he returned), Fiddler has done an admirable job to this point. Given Fiddler’s chemistry with Dumont and Arnott as well as Gelinas’ chemistry with Radek Bonk, those combinations will stay together for the time being. Fiddler and Gelinas both provide some grit in the corners along with the ability to be in the right place at the right time to those tough, in-close goals. Either player should be able to provide an acceptable fill in until Sullivan returns, or a move made at the trade deadline.
There are several areas for concern for this team. The primary concern is the ineffectiveness of the power play. The first unit consists of Bonk, Arnott and Dumont up front and Suter and Zidlicky on the blue line. The second unit consists of Radulov, Legwand, and Erat up front with Weber and Hamhuis on the blue line. The first problem I see is at the blue line. The first unit of Suter and Zidlicky are guys that do have a decent shot, but they’re better playmakers. The second unit is completely opposite by having two guys that have very good to excellent shots, but aren’t the best playmakers out there. I would prefer to balance those out a little better. Weber and Zidlicky are the two best defensemen on the powerplay, but are both are right-handed shots. If that presents a problem, pair Zidlicky with Hamhuis and Weber with Suter. The latter pairing would be an excellent primary pairing in even strength situations. For the forwards, I’d swap Bonk and Radulov. A first unit of Radulov, Arnott, Dumont, Hamhuis, and Zidlicky would have three players that are excellent playmakers in Dumont, Zidlicky, and Radulov as well as having five players that can all shoot. Radulov doesn’t mind driving the net and Arnott shouldn’t mind. A second unit of Bonk, Legwand, Erat, Weber, and Suter again provides three excellent playmakers in Legwand, Erat, and Suter. It also provides five good to great shots. Both lines would have possible quarterbacks down low and at the blue line.
While the composition of the units is certainly key, the game plan is just as key. Trotz has recently stated the game plan is limit passes to one or two and then put the puck on net. That will be very critical to the success of the Predators’ power play: put the puck on net and drive for rebounds. To succeed in the standings, this team must have a 20% conversion rate for the power play.
The second area of concern from the preseason is Alexander Radulov. This team is going to need Radulov to score 60 – 70 points this season. He has been in a funk for the entire preseason and hasn’t shown much chemistry with Legwand and Erat. That has a two-fold result: Radulov loses confidence in his game and Trotz has a good excuse to follow through with creating lines with complicated roles and weakens the offense by creating a third pseudo-scoring line. If Radulov gets reasonable ice time, particularly on the power play, I believe he’ll quickly regain his confidence. If that happens, I hope he’ll be moved back into the top two lines and see that solid checking line formed. Ortmeyer being paired with Legwand and Erat does not appear on paper to be a good combination.
The final area of concern appears to be the defensive pairings. DeVries and Zanon as a pair is outstanding for penalty killing situations, but is worrisome during even strength situations. Both are outstanding positional players, but are a little slow and provide little offensive punch at even strength.
Those are the concerns that I’ve seen from this preseason. There have been many bright spots as well. The leadership shown by Arnott and Dumont has truly been amazing as well as their play together. Fiddler’s chemistry with those two also helps to ease the loss of Sullivan for a short time. The continued progression of Weber and Suter, as well as Hamhuis, has been promising. Zidlicky also appears to be playing better as well. The penalty kill unit shows no signs of being falling off and Chris Mason looks very good in net.
We’ll close this article by looking at the key’s to success for this season:
The team must stay healthy, starting with Chris Mason and continuing with the top six
Power play must have a 20% conversion rate
Chris Mason must maintain his current level of play throughout the season
Defensive unit must continue to grow
Penalty kill unit must maintain their level of success
Legwand, Erat, Arnott, Dumont, and Radulov will need to contribute in even strength play.
I hope to see everyone tonight by the glass during warm-ups. Given my time constraints, this is the last article in this series- no Part IV.