Nashville Predators: Shifting lines are killing offense

(Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Another game, another mix-up of lines for the Nashville Predators. Consistency is key to developing chemistry but it does take time.

Slow starts happen and I don’t want to point too many fingers here, but Peter Laviolette is doing himself no favors. The Nashville Predators’ offense hasn’t been able to rev up yet and so the line blender has burst from Laviolette’s bag of tricks. The good part of the line blender is it stays on until goals are scored. The bad part is that the blender doesn’t always allow for chemistry to form as chemistry can take some time. I was excited for the Arvidsson-Jarnkrok-Aberg line going into the game against the Sharks, as they dominated the Blackhawks. Then after a bit of a rough start- five minutes of average play against the Islanders- the line was blown to dust.

I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence, but it’s been a part of Laviolette’s style since Carolina. And now it’s hurting the Nashville PredatorsPredators.

Spreading the offense

The JoFA line (Arvidsson-Johansen-Forsberg) have been the primary goal scorers. The Nashville Predators would likely be winless if Forsberg wasn’t so hot. But one line cannot carry an entire team, so Laviolette tried to spread the love. A good move in my opinion, as well as many experts’ opinions.

The JoFA line was broken up halfway through the Blackhawks game and a struggling Kevin Fiala was promoted. The results were almost instantaneous as Fiala’s play was noticeably more explosive. Forsberg’s goal against the Islanders wouldn’t happen without Fiala beating the defender and putting the puck on net. But sadly, after one game, Fiala was demoted once again to the Predators middle six. Fiala played the majority of his five on five time against the Sharks with Colton Sissons and Scott Hartnell. He has little to show for it including a few shots and a few missed opportunities. He needs some talent around him who can score at this stage in his career. He’s not fully realized playmaker yet.

The new and improved second line was then Arvidsson-Jarnkrok-Aberg. This line, while small, played extremely high motor hockey with an intelligent edge to their game. Which resulted in a goal against the Blackhawks. But they were disbanded after an average game against the Islanders. Tonight Arvidsson played the majority of five on five time with Forsberg and Johansen. Once again a line with some promise was broken up before proper chemistry could be fostered.

Side note: why is a team struggling for offense playing Cody McLeod over a guy like Pontus Aberg, or even Emil Pettersson or Vladislav Kamenev. Talk about spreading the love, spread McLeod all over the waiver wire.

A solid top four, but a weak bottom pair

The defense’s treatment has been the opposite of the offense. They’ve been kept together despite maybe showing they don’t deserve to be. The first pair of Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm has been as good as advertised. Josi has been a superstar on offense and Ekholm has kept the defensive zone on lockdown. It’s helped the whole of the defense as Josi’s been able to stomach tougher minutes.

Although, the loss of Ekholm has left P.K. Subban with the likes of Alexei Emelin. Not a great combination in my opinion, and in most stats. Subban and Emelin had a 45.45% Corsi together against the Sharks in five on five situations. But when Subban was without Emelin, he had an 83.33% Corsi. Quite the jump, eh? Emelin could be a useful third pairing defenseman who kills penalties, but he’s terribly outmatched in a top four role.

The one pairing that hasn’t been attempted is Girard and Subban. I think we can all agree that Girard should play more than the nine games expected. He has so much offensive upside and he’s not worse than Yannick Weber or Anthony Bitetto. The Subban and Girard pairing could be an offensive spark that could help ignite some middle six forwards.

Then there’s the Nashville Predators’ bottom pair… At some point or another Laviolette should just call up one of the kids. Alexandre Carrier has proven himself in the AHL and could play in the NHL at any moment. He’s also a right-handed shot and would fit in perfectly behind Subban and Ellis once he’s healthy. It can’t be worse than it currently is, why not try something new?

Two parts equaling one sum

Peter Laviolette is a fine coach, but I think he received a lot of credit for focusing on offense while Barry Trotz only ever cared about defense. The line juggling has to stop eventually, just so that some forwards can find some chemistry outside of the JoFA line. Especially in the bottom six, they could use some consistency. The defense being the opposite is a little funny, as they’re constant. Either a constant good or a constant terrible. They could actually use a blender in the bottom three.

Next: Nashville Predators October Awards

Rumors are flying around the league and a few good coaches may end up unemployed in the next few weeks. I’m not saying a change is needed but who knows, maybe Alain Vigneault finds his way to the Nashville Predators’ offensive coach position. Bad discipline and line juggling are signs of a deeper issue, let’s hope that issue is figured out sooner rather than later.