Nashville Predators: Five Thoughts For Friday, October 20th

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 17: Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) battle for the puck during the NHL game between the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche, held on October 17, 2017, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 17: Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene (9) battle for the puck during the NHL game between the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche, held on October 17, 2017, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Nashville Predators started off extremely flat, but have picked up as of late. Is it due to some better play as a team or any specific reason?

The Nashville Predators have started the season off in a rough way, but are seemingly on the rise. The possession numbers reflect this quite a bit as last week they were 14th in Corsi and Fenwick. but now they rank 9th in Corsi with 51.73 and 7th in Fenwick with 53.37. Their PDO has finally risen to the average 100, and I think we’re starting to see the real Predators.

What a lot of it comes down to is the inconsistency of Pekka Rinne. He’s on a bit of a hot streak, but most Predators fans can feel a slump incoming. Then we’ll learn if this Predators team is for real. A hot goalie can make or break a game, a season, or a playoff series. Can Rinne be “the guy” for the Predators again? A lot of questions loom for the Predators over the next few weeks.

5. Why won’t Laviolette play Girard consistently?

I’m a big believer in that you consistently ice the best team possible. The Nashville Predators have sat Samuel Girard for consecutive games while playing less talented defenders like Anthony Bitetto. It really doesn’t make sense but I think I know what the issue is.

The Nashville Predators don’t know what they’re doing with Girard. Plain and simple. The Predators don’t want to burn a year of his entry-level contract, but why not? The only notable players that would be leaving, when his contract is up, are Roman Josi and Craig Smith. Smith is most likely gone but that frees up 4.25 million to re-sign Josi. That plus other cap relief in the form of buy-outs ending leaves at least three million to sign Girard. He’ll most likely receive a bridge contract for two years at under 3.5 million.

My thought is to play Girard until he proves that he’s not ready for NHL minutes. He deserves the time, at least from what we’ve seen so far. And if they are going to send Girard down, why not do so now? Girard is learning nothing by sitting in the press box.

4. Mattias Ekholm is a human eraser

I have a thing for skaters that play a defensive role and don’t get their due from the general public. Those players, in my opinion, are Calle Jarnkrok and Mattias Ekholm. A defensive center in the NHL rarely gets any credit but shot suppressing defensemen even less so. These defensemen are becoming a dying breed. I grew up in San Jose so I’ve been spoiled by watching Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and I see a lot of those skills in Ekholm.

Ekholm isn’t going to dazzle with highlight-reel plays or multi-point nights. But he is going to keep McDavid, Crosby, and Stamkos off the scoresheet. He consistently plays long minutes against first line competition. Ekholm currently leads the Nashville Predators in minutes, while being in the near the bottom of high danger scoring chances against. He currently boasts a 54.42 Corsi and 53.98 Fenwick in five on five situations. Great scores considering he never gets a shift off from first line talent.

I like to call these shot suppressing defensemen erasers. They can literally erase mistakes made by teammates and put a coach’s mind at ease. There’s a reason why Girard mainly played with Ekholm. Laviolette made sure that Girard could play his style of hockey without having to worry about being caught out of position. Players like Ekholm are rare, the Nashville Predators better appreciate what they have, before a team throws some serious money at him.

3. Leave fighting in hockey, take the fighters out

Ahhhh the age old dilemma. I catch a lot of flak for being a “new age” fan and embracing analytics. Because of my love of possession scores and WAR, I get accused of hating fighting. And it’s totally wrong. Fighting is a part of hockey. In fact, the first ever game of hockey actually ended in a fight. It has a place in the game, and it does help keep people honest. My favorite thing in the world is two skilled players chirping and going at it all game until it finally boils over. The best fight of last year didn’t involve Cody McLeod or Chris Neil. It involved Sam Bennett and Jacob Trouba. I ate it all up, this fight is why fighting should remain in hockey.

But what’s the difference between Sam Bennet and Cody McLeod? Well, one can actually play hockey at the NHL level. Enforcers are a dying breed, and for good reason. Fighting is not a reason to be on an NHL roster, otherwise why not just have Conor McGregor skate out there for 30 seconds a night? The fact is that the Nashville Predators are playing McLeod on average four minutes a night meanwhile better players are scratched. In a league where scoring is always needed, why scratch a scorer in favor of someone who can barely do anything?

2. New trade rumors

I imagine we’re all a bit tired of trade rumors right about now, eh? But there a few rumors circling and they deserve discussion.

The Duchene rumors live on! Supposedly Duchene for Girard plus a high pick is the asking price and I’m not totally against it. I’ll say this, If the Predators plan to sit Girard randomly, then they should trade him. A Duchene who plays every game is worth a first-round pick and a Girard who plays less than 50% of the time. Duchene is on a six million dollar deal that ends after next year, so the Avalanche will need to retain some salary. The Avalanche have plenty of cap space so I’m sure it’s not out of the question. If only there was a way to get rid of Bonino…

The other, less talked about rumor is Alex Galchenyuk of the Montreal Canadiens for Girard plus a later pick. Galchenyuk doesn’t deserve to sit on the trading block, but here we are. I’m more in favor of this trade because Galchenyuk is on a four-year deal worth 4.9 million per year. Better term and better money than what Duchene would cost. Then there’s the actual trade cost, it would be Girard and most likely a second or third round pick.

Big questions surround the Predators center corp, but it mostly depends on the health (or lack thereof), of Nick Bonino. That’s looking like a deal that the Predators are starting to regret.

1. 3-on-3

New year, same old Nashville Predators overtime. I’m a little curious as to why the Predators insist on playing a zone style defense. The Chicago Blackhawks took advantage of it by using a cycle to catch the Predators running around. Then the Blackhawks delivered the final blow once the Predators had tired themselves out.

Next: The Roster Logjam Is An Easy Fix

The Predators have one of the best mobile defense corps in the NHL as well as a good group of forwards. They should at least be going .500 in overtime, although the potential for better is there. The system needs to change, desperately.