Nashville Predators Invisible Centers


The Nashville Predators will be in Los Angeles on Saturday against the Kings on Halloween.  There will be plenty of ghouls and goblins in the stands that night but a worry for the Predators is the invisibility of their centers on the ice.

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It’s hard to complain about a team that is now 7-1-1 and leading both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  They have the second most points in the league to the Montreal Canadiens and are only three points behind them even after their historic start.  The Canadiens also have played an extra game.

The Predators are being recognized as one of a handful of the top teams in the league that have a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup.  How many times have we been able to say that in Nashville?  It is rarified air that is really nice to experience.  The team arguably has the best defensive core in the league and one of the best goaltenders in Pekka Rinne.  They should be able to stay in most any game with that back end.

Nashville Predators center Mike Ribeiro (63). Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

There is still one glaring problem that could be the one thing that keeps them from getting as deep in the playoffs as they would like. The Preds starting centers have a grand total of two goals and ten points in nine games.  There are eight centers in the NHL with at least 10 points by themselves.  Come playoff time, how will Mike Fisher, Mike Ribeiro, Cody Hodgson and Paul Gaustad match up against the other teams centers?

Fisher has moved to the first line and has meshed well with Filip Forsberg and James Neal.  The line has provided most of the scoring for the team and his physical style seems to have energized the line.  He is able to go into the corners and get the puck to the wingers to allow them to do their magic. He has one goal and one assist through nine games.

Ribeiro is leading the centers in scoring with six points but only one goal.  He hasn’t had a lot of time to gel with linemates Craig Smith and Colin Wilson, but Smith hasn’t scored at all in two weeks.  Their line seems to be at a bit of a deficit when it comes to defense and there have been times during games when Ribeiro has really seemed invisible.

Cody Hodgson was brought in to provide offense on the third line for the Predators.  He is a former 20 goal scorer but has a grand total of zero points so far this season.  Some of that is bad luck as Adam Vingan pointed out in his article in the Tennessean this morning:

He(Hodgson) ranked fourth on the team in overall scoring chances with 13, according to, only trailing Nashville’s three highest-scoring forwards: Filip Forsberg, James Neal and Craig Smith. He also rated highly with six “high-danger scoring chances,” which are generated in the slot and directly in front of the crease.

He seems to be playing well and even getting better after missing most of training camp but he has to contribute offensively for this line to be successful.

Gaustad has been doing what he does.  He leads the team by a wide margin in Faceoff Percentage with a 56.3.  He is usually matched up against the other teams top line and has respectable -1 Plus/Minus and has chipped in a couple of assists.  His winger Eric Nystrom has three goals to start the season which ranks second on the team. Goose is playing his role well.

Speaking of Faceoff Percentage, it is noted that the Predators team is worst in the league by only winning 44% of their faceoffs. And that is with Gaustad being one of the leagues best.  You aren’t going to lose games just by not winning the most faceoffs but it is an aspect of the game that can help and be important at times.

Going into the season, one of the worries about this team was it’s lack of an elite center.  It is still a glaring weakness that needs to be addressed if this team is going to take the next step. You would hate to trade one of of our young defensemen but we certainly have a wealth of riches there. We need a center whose invisibility factor is zero. That may be what it takes to truly get this team into the elite teams in the league.

Next: Preds 3-on-3 Strategy

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