Nashville Predators: The newest hole in the lineup

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 7: Cam Atkinson /

After yet another blockbuster trade, the Nashville Predators fixed their biggest weakness. But another hole looms in the line-up, where does that fix lie?

I get a lot of flak for being a negative nancy or a debbie downer, and it might be well deserved. My first article on this site was about possibly trading Roman Josi for offensive help, and I still stand by the idea. Although I understand how problematic that would be now that Ellis is out long-term, Girard is traded, and Poile refuses to call up any Milwaukee Admirals. But the idea was fun to toy with as all trades are.

The Turris deal is a win-now move, as it immediately helps the Predators (and for six years). If the Nashville Predators are going all in, they should commit to it. You have too many roster players and a first-round pick, and there’s still a hole in the line-up. The third defensive pairing has played well recently but were atrocious to start the season. I think they will make a return to their regular form sooner rather than later. That could expose the Predators, especially on the road.

The hole

A right-handed defenseman might be the most coveted player in the entire NHL. They usually sign for a king’s ransom in free agency, and the Nashville Predators boast two of the better ones. Ryan Ellis and P.K. Subban are probably the best right-handed tandem in the in the world. But there’s a steep drop off from the second to third line. Yannick Weber is the right-handed shot that plays opposite to Matt Irwin, who I actually like in a third line spot. But Yannick Weber is consistently an anchor.

Weber boasts less than impressive possession scores with a 47.17% Corsi and 46.20% Fenwick. Both at five on five, because Weber does play on the penalty kill and it’d be unfair to include that. Both are below average by any standards, but the worst stat, in my opinion, is that Weber has given up 25 high danger chances against. That’s on average over two a game, which is absolutely atrocious. The Nashville Predators need their third pair to be at least somewhat responsible on defense. Now Irwin hasn’t been great either, but his stats actually go up when he’s not paired with Weber.

The fact is that when Weber and Irwin play together, they have good possession numbers. They own a 53.72% Corsi in just under an hour together. A little undercut when Irwin and Anthony Bitetto have better possession numbers together. They “boast” a 54.17% Corsi, although the sample size is just about half of what Weber and Irwin have. The point I’m making is that Weber is such an anchor that even Bitetto does a better job of controlling possession. Meanwhile, Bitetto isn’t even a seventh defenseman anymore, in my opinion.

The worst part about Weber is that he’s really lucky. He’s riding a 105 PDO with Irwin and a 100 PDO with Bitetto. Rinne has bailed him out on multiple occasions, but I’m not sure how long it can continue. The worst part for me is the ice time. Weber averages just over 11 minutes per game, absolute peanuts compared to the top four. I understand that the Nashville Predators have an incredible top four, but if they keep riding them like this then they’ll burn out before the post-season begins. Peter Laviolette needs to be able to trust his third pair, and it’s clear he doesn’t trust Weber.

While Weber may not be an issue in the regular season. He’ll be a growing concern as the season stretches on and match-ups become more important. Especially in the playoffs, although that does seem far away. But with this hole still existing, how the do the Nashville Predators fill it?


David Poile has shown that he’s fearless in making trades, so why would he stop now? Well, who’s “available” or even a possibility?

Michael Del Zotto from Vancouver is a curious possibility. The issue is that he’s signed to three million dollars for this year and next. Meanwhile, the Predators only have 2.4 million in cap space, so someone would need to go. Most likely, it’d have to be a first-round pick plus Emelin for cap purposes. To be fair to Weber, Del Zotto isn’t a positive possession player but Del Zotto does play in front of a much worse team and against top-six talent. Although he’s a lefty so I’m not sure he fills the hole completely.

The other player I’m super high on is Nate Schmidt. He currently holds less than a 2.5 million dollar contract so he’d fit under the cap. Plus we know that Vegas is looking to the future and hoarding picks. He might be worth the price of a first as he could bring stability to the third pair. He currently owns a less than impressive 45% Corsi score but let’s also remember that he’s playing first pairing minutes. Not only that, but he’s getting no help from Gerard Gallant as Schmidt starts in the offensive zone only 38% of the time.

To be honest, there’s not a lot of defenseman on the trading block. Most of the good ones are on good teams that are also trying to win. I’m not sure a trade is the best option. As the Dalai Lama said, “genuine change must come from within”.

Call up the kids!

I was beating this drum when it was about Samuel Girard, and I will continue to do so now that the focus is Alexandre Carrier. The offensively minded defenseman has not been putting up his usual numbers with three points in 11 games in the AHL. But he’s been playing a smart defensive game and could look to make an impact in the NHL sooner rather than later. The best news is that he’s a righty and would fit in well next to Irwin. Worse comes to worst, if he doesn’t work out then he can be sent down with no need for waivers.

If Carrier doesn’t work out, Jack Dougherty could fill in. Dougherty is usually a defensive stalwart but has four points in five games so far this season. He’s also a righty and deserves a shot on the third pair, it can’t be much worse than Weber eh?

Don’t hate me

I understand that we’re all pretty high on David Poile right now, but he’s not perfect. Agreeing to leave Cody McLeod and Yannick Weber in the line-up seems like a pretty bad mistake.

I’ve seen depth sink teams before, especially on the road. And right now I’m not sure Weber and Irwin could hold their own in a mismatch situation. The good news is there’s plenty of time to figure out possible options and experiment.

Next: Five Thoughts For Friday, Nov 10th

If you’ve made it this far I want to thank you. I know that I can appear condescending and moronic at times, but thank you for humoring me. So here’s the final question: How can any team consider itself complete when players like Weber eat 12 minutes a night?