The Nashville Predators general futility in the shootout last season was well documented.
The club went 2-9 in the shootout in the 2013-2014 season, in a campaign where they finished three points out of the final Western Conference playoff spot. Technically, just two more shootout wins (including one over the Dallas Stars on April 8) would have evened the Predators with the Stars in the race for the last Wild Card spot.
A 22-percent winning percentage in the shootout cost the team from Music City last season, and it’s actually been a sore spot for the club for several years now:
While the shootout’s place in the NHL can be argued–its current importance really can’t be–and Nashville has found that to be particularly true the past pair of seasons, in which they’ve missed the playoffs both times. The club has gone a combined 4-15 over the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons; a total-point swing of 30 points across those two campaigns.
Heading into a new season, the positive news for the Predators is easy to find, however. With up to six new forwards gracing the depth chart in 2014-2015 (a potential 50 percent turnover rate), head coach Peter Laviolette will have a variety of solid options to choose from for the skills competition.
Below are the lifetime shootout statistics of the Predators top 10 (current) players:
Mike Fisher was left off the list due to his Achilles injury (Lifetime: six goals, 26 attempts)
*New to the Predators this season.
Instantly, one predominate trend emerges from the above table: The impressive addition the Predators have made this offseason of players effective in the shootout. While Nashville traded away two forwards traditionally dangerous in the shootout (David Legwand and Matt Hendricks) earlier this year, there’s little question they’ve taken a large and promising step forward the past couple of months.
Not only will Ribeiro, Jokinen, Neal and Roy boost the Predators attack while five-on-five, they should also go a long way in pushing the club’s downward spiral in the shootout in the opposite direction. Add in a full season of Pekka Rinne (assuming he remains healthy) and Nashville also gains the goaltender’s career save percentage of 71 percent in the shootout.
Winning only half of their shootouts last season would have placed the Predators in the 2014 playoffs, so even only marginal improvement (brought by the team’s new players) next campaign could mean Nashville’s 2014-2015 season concludes much more positively.
What does the Predators shootout card look like next campaign? Here are my top-five picks:
Order (Best-of 3):
Neal’s speed and blazing shot help to open the shootout with a bang; while the patience of Ribeiro and Jokinen gives a nice change of pace to the attack. Finally, Cullen and Smith present two very different options for the Predators if the skills competition goes extra rounds.
No doubt the order and some of the names will change as next season progresses–but so too should the Predators fortunes in the shootout–and that could make a world of difference.