Nashville’s Best Case/Worst Case Scenarios: Fourth-Line


The Nashville Predators have added a lot of new pieces this off-season; Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, Olli Jokinen, and Derek Roy are the new forwards in town while Anton Volchenkov will be seeing time manning the blue-line in Nashville likely as a top-six defenseman. These listed players have one thing in common, none should see time on the fourth-line with the Predators; well, at least at the start of the season.

Here is a full-list of players that are currently available and players assumed to have the best chance to make the roster:

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*Mike Fisher is expected to miss 4-6 months due to a ruptured Achillles.

Regular fourth-liners that former Predators head coach Barry Trotz put on the ice last season included: Rich Clune, Paul Gaustad, Eric Nystrom and glimpses of Gabriel Bourque, Matt Cullen,Viktor Stalberg, former Predator Nick Spaling and others were also seen on the fourth-line. All of those players, minus Spaling, still remain a part of the Predators roster and it is safe to assume some will remain seeing themselves with fourth-line minutes this upcoming season.

Now, of course, we have no idea what new head coach Peter Laviolette may do with the line combinations with his new offensive-heavy approach making its way to Nashville; but looking at the Predator’s roster on paper and basing things off of the past (which may not have an implication of course) here is my prediction of the players we will see to start the season and see a majority of playing time on the fourth-line.

This table will be edited and used throughout the coming days as we take a look at the top-three lines.

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Healthy Scratches: Rich Clune, Paul Gaustad

Injured Reserve (IR): Mike Fisher

Eric Nystrom

Last season: 79 games played; 15 goals, 6 assists, 21 points, -25 +/- rating

Nystrom, who had a four-goal game against Calgary last season, will remain a bottom-six forward for the Predators and most likely will see the majority of his playing time on the fourth-line. Expect to see him on the penalty-kill unit this season.

-Best Case Scenario

Nystrom has another 20+point and healthy season while playing on the fourth-line in Nashville’s new system. Nystrom improves his +/- rating instead of having the worst +/- rating on the Predators roster as he did a year ago. Nystrom is one of those players on the roster that could see time on both the third and fourth-lines this upcoming season and remain a solid penalty-kill option for the Predators.

Nystrom’s best case stat-line: 78 games played; 15 goals, 10 assists, 25 points, -18 +/-rating

-Worst Case Scenario

Nystrom struggles out of the gates and finds himself as a healthy-scratch after the couple of months of the season. He and the Predator’s penalty-kill unit find themselves struggling and Nystrom is replaced on the penalty-kill unit.

Nystrom’s worst case stat-line: 55 games played; 9 goals, 9 assists, 18 points, -26 +/- rating

Matt Cullen

Last season: 77 games played; 10 goals, 29 assists, 39 points, +4 +/- rating

With a near forty-point season a year ago, it may be tough to imagine seeing Cullen on the fourth-line but with the additions to the roster Cullen will most likely  see bottom-six minutes and by our prediction, a fourth-line role.

-Best Case Scenario

Cullen finishes the season with a point total north of thirty-five again, in particular another double-digit total in the goals category. Cullen has some of the better hands on the team. Cullen uses those hands and his skating ability to feed the puck onto other bottom-six players and lead the group of bottom-six players in points.

Cullen’s best case stat-line: 73 games played; 11 goals, 32 assists, 43 points, +7 +/- rating

-Worst Case Scenario

Cullen catches the injury-bug and the thirty-seven year old suffers by missing 25+ games and on return the young group of forwards (Forsberg, Sissons, Salomaaki) perform at a high-level and the veteran is traded at the trade-deadline to a team in serious contention.

Cullen’s worst case stat-line: 51 games played; 6 goals, 16 assists, 22 points, +3 +/- rating

Derek Roy

Derek Roy is one of the three center-icemen that the Predators acquired via free-agency this off-season. His natural position is at center, and while some think he may be undersized or better off on the wing on a top-three line, I think Roy fits in nicely centering a line with Cullen and Nystrom. Roy played with the St. Louis Blues a year ago.

Last season: 75 games played; 9 goals, 28 assists, 37 points, -1 +/- rating

-Best Case Scenario

Roy, who has had four 20+ goal seasons, gets back to that pace and becomes a scoring-threat for the Predators. The 5-foot 9-inch forward finds a regular spot among the top-six forwards on the roster by simply putting up points, but I think he would fit best on a speedy fourth-line for the Predators.

Roy’s Best Case Stat-Line: 13 goals, 24 assists, 37 points, +6 +/- rating

Worst Case Scenario

Roy simply doesn’t find a spot among the top-six forward group as he of course wishes to do and finds himself playing bottom-six minutes the entire season. Roy sees most of his playing time on the fourth-line and becomes the speedy center on the bottom line meant to simply produce turnovers, dump the puck, and set up positioning for the top linesmen. If Roy doesn’t gel, I don’t think Laviolette would be hesitant to place Gaustad in his spot.

Roy’s Worst Case Stat-Line: 8 goals, 23 assists, 31 points, -5 +/- rating

We will continue to take a shot at predicting the other lines for the Predators and give you our thoughts with their best case/worst case scenarios in the coming days.

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