With the addition of two more centers to the Nashville Predators rosters last week, the club’s four forward lines will have a very different look this fall.
After Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy were signed to one-year deals on Tuesday, Nashville general manager David Poile commented that the Predators could feature up to six new forwards in their lineup for the 2014-2015 season. Add in Predators head coach Peter Laviolette‘s more up-tempo style of play and vision for the team, and it’s clear that this year’s version of the team will be quite unique.
Assuming Nashville goes into training camp with their current slate of players (which they should, barring a trade), here’s a table of the forwards currently available:
|Viktor Stalberg||Mike Ribeiro||Craig Smith||James Neal|
|Gabriel Bourque||Olli Jokinen||Colin Wilson||Filip Forsberg|
|Eric Nystrom||Derek Roy||Matt Cullen|
|Rich Clune||Paul Gaustad|
Interestingly, the Predators may not have a single natural right wing in his normal slot on the roster this fall. Poile has mentioned that James Neal will try the left side in order to accommodate Craig Smith on the right wing, so it will take Filip Forsberg making the team (not necessarily a given) to have a right wing in his normal position.
Before we take a guess at what the four forward lines could look like, let’s list what we know:
- Mike Fisher had surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles this month and will be out four to six months (or longer).
- Poile has said Calle Jarnkrok will be given an opportunity to win the third line centerman spot and that Paul Gaustad has effectively locked down the four line center slot.
- Olli Jokinen has spent more time at wing then Roy has, but both would probably prefer center.
- Especially under Laviolette, Viktor Stalberg will be trying to show last season’s underwhelming performance was a fluke and should start higher in the lineup than the fourth line (Poile has also hinted at this).
With these factors considered, here is my attempt to fill out the 2014-2015 Nashville Predators roster card:
|James Neal||Mike Ribeiro||Craig Smith|
|Colin Wilson||Derek Roy||Olli Jokinen|
|Viktor Stalberg||Calle Jarnkrok||Matt Cullen|
|Eric Nystrom||Paul Gaustad||Gabriel Bourque|
- First line: This trio is probably the one most set in stone in my mind. Ribeiro and Neal re-unite, while Smith (last season’s leading-goal scorer) plays top minutes again this campaign.
- Second Line: Wilson is kept in the top six with the hope that Roy and Jokinen can create space for him.
- Third Line: Jarnkrok is given the chance to prove himself at center, Cullen adds a veteran presence and Stalberg tries to stretch the defense with his speed.
- Fourth Line: Bourque plays on his off-wing on the fourth line (and without a lot of skill around him).
- Summary: The Predators third line takes on a more offensive look then it has in years (making slowing down opponents more difficult), while the club leans heavily on it’s first line to produce the majority of the goals.
While I would consider putting Cullen and Stalberg with Jarnkrok setting up the rookie for success, the second line in this lineup doesn’t feel very threatening (offensively).
Let’s try one more version:
|James Neal||Olli Jokinen||Craig Smith|
|Viktor Stalberg||Mike Ribeiro||Matt Cullen|
|Colin Wilson||Calle Jarnkrok||Filip Forsberg|
|Gabriel Bourque||Derek Roy||Eric Nystrom|
Scratches: Gaustad, Clune, Sissons. IR: Fisher
- First line: Jokinen takes on the No. 1 center spot in order to balance the top six a little more.
- Second Line: Stalberg is given a great chance to find his lost offensive touch with Ribeiro and Cullen dishing pucks to him.
- Third Line: This might be a Predators top line of the future if certain storylines play out (Jarnkrok and Forsberg also attempt to recreate chemistry they had with the Milwaukee Admirals).
- Fourth Line: Gaustad gets the surprising scratch and Roy and Bourque give the fourth line some rare offensive pop (while sacrificing size and defensive ability)
- Summary: This lineup probably represents the most offensively-minded four lines the Predators could put on the ice. It’s likely Laviolette will want the faceoff talents of Gaustad (and perhaps the grit of Clune) so I’d be very surprised if this specific collection of forwards ever suit up together.
What do you think of these two potential lineups? Comment below or on Twitter if you’d like to submit your picks.