Nashville Predators: Bonino brings experience, production to Predators’ second line

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

A new season brings new players to the Nashville Predators. Few will draw the level of attention from fans than new center Nick Bonino.

The excitement the Nashville Predators experienced at the end of the 2016-17 season has faded into hope for the new season. After making franchise history – appearing in their first Stanley Cup Final – fans of the team are excited to see what happens next. For many, it is championship or bust. Others just want to see great hockey.

There is reason for such high hope and expectations. Much of the team from last year returns. We all know this. It has been the topic of conversation all offseason. Starting forwards Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson signed multi-year deals. The core of the team is in place for many years.

The major area of concern is the second line. Again, we know this. But, with the talk of the second-line comes discussions of who is slotted at center, replacing former captain Mike Fisher. The answer is a no-brainer: Nick Bonino.

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Point of the position

The veteran Bonino is an upgrade for the second line. That is not say Fisher was a poor player, because he was not. Fisher embodied the character and spirit of the team. His leadership crucial. But, Bonino was not signed to be the captain. He is here to score and create scoring chances.

That is where we should focus our attention with Bonino. While his experience on a two-time Stanley Cup championship team is important, his play on the ice is what the Nashville Predators are relying on.

Here are the facts. During the last two seasons, Fisher and Bonino’s offensive stats are extremely similar. Over that time period, Fisher accumulated 31 goals and 34 assists in 142 games. As for Bonino, those numbers are 27 goals, 39 assists in 143 games. Simply from a scoring standpoint, Fisher and Bonino are equal.

However, in face-offs, Fisher won 54-percent versus Bonino’s 49-percent. And, their Corsi ratings are different as well. The important thing to remember is that Fisher was paired with James Neal and Colin Wilson. Bonino? The Pittsburgh Penguins’ third-line. Sometimes that included Phil Kessel, other times it was Bryan Rust.

Production matters

If you want to compare the performance of Bonino to Fisher, then you should also look at second line centers in the NHL.

As you can see from the copied tweet, Bonino compares well with other second-line centers. As a third-line center, Bonino’s goals are slightly better and assists mirror other NHL second-liners over the last two seasons. Given these trends, his production could increase as do his minutes.

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So, Predators fans, fear not. Bonino as the second-line center is a good idea. Placing him with Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala will create a great line.