Nashville Predators: Five Thoughts For Friday, December 15th

(Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban make up one of the best shut down pairs in the NHL, although they haven’t seen time this season for the Nashville Predators.

The best shutdown pair in the NHL is Marc-Edouard Vlasic and whoever he’s paired with, although Subban-Ekholm aren’t far off. Those three players are all established NHLers, but there’s a new shutdown pair cropping up in the Atlantic Division. Brett Pesce and more notably Jaccob Slavin are throttling opponents and driving play for the Carolina Hurricanes. They erase all problems, such as Crosby and McDavid for 25 minutes per night. It’s only the other 35 that’s killing the Hurricanes.

Slavin, in my opinion, represents one of the better parts of American hockey and the Olympic team. Which leads me to my first thought.

5. We’re being robbed of one of the best team USA ever

The USA has never really contended for a gold medal. Yes, there’s 2010 but that was mostly Ryan Miller carrying the entire nation on his shoulders. This year would feature the best roster in national history, that is unless they mess it up like they did at the World Cup of Hockey. Here would be my line-up:

Patrick KaneAuston MatthewsPhil Kessel

Johnny GaudreauJack EichelJoe Pavelski

Max Pacioretty-Derek StepanBlake Wheeler

Brock BoeserClayton KellerCam Atkinson

Ryan SuterKevin Shattenkirk

Jaccob SlavinJustin Faulk

Zach WerenskiSeth Jones

John Gibson

Cory Schneider

Jonathan Quick

If i missed anyone, please excuse me. I don’t mean to offend because I missed your favorite player.

Seriously though, how exciting would this team be. They may not beat Canada, but they’ll score more than one goal. Of course, this won’t happen this season as the NHL will instead travel to Tampa Bay. I, for one, am glad that we’re expanding the game to poor old Tampa Bay. Lord knows they’ve never seen real hockey before.

Oh, what’s that? 2004 Stanley Cup winners? Steven Stamkos and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011? Over a 100+ sellouts in a row? Those don’t count. The NHL is “growing” the game in a established hockey market and robbing the USA of a real shot at a gold medal in the process.

4. Turris on Senators, Melnyk

Back in the distant year of 1983, the greatest player in the history of the world (not named Ryan Johansen) made a bold claim. Wayne Gretzky labeled the New Jersey Devils as a “mickey mouse organization” after the Oilers crushed them 13-4. Note: This expression became tricky after the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim became a team, who were in fact, owned by Disney.

The phrase is still applicable today, although not about the New Jersey Devils. The Ottawa Senators have had a real fall from grace since their cup appearance in 2007. The story of the franchise is their internal cap and disloyalty towards stars. Jason Spezza was run out of town and Dany Heatly was labeled a jerk for using his no-trade clause to protect himself from going to Edmonton in 2009 (can you really blame the guy?). Last, but certainly not least, we have Daniel Alfredsson. No matter how you may feel about him (2007 Cup Final incident with Scott Neidemeyer, look it up), we can all agree he was the Ottawa Senators. “Alfie” did everything he was asked, he scored, forechecked, founded charities, and was a positive impact everywhere he’s been. He too, was run out of town by ownership. The latest player expunged was Kyle Turris, who had some choice words.

Turris stated that he believes Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk was the reason he was traded. He showed that he wanted to stay in Ottawa and loved the community, although he’s wholeheartedly embraced Nashville. Owner interference is never a good thing, my personal owner philosophy is to surround yourself with experts and then do nothing but sign checks and enjoy the show. What do the best teams in hockey all have in common? Ownership that hasn’t rushed decisions and have kept out of the spotlight. That’s the difference between the Nashville Predators/Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens/Florida Panthers.

All roads lead back to Karlsson though. Who knows if he’s the next star that ownership refuses to pay.

3. Treat JoFA like Blackhawks treat Kane and Toews

I know that Nashville Predators fans hate to think well of the Chicago Blackhawks, but there’s a lot to be learned. Like it or not, the Blackhawks are the best team of the 2010’s, and so should be mimicked in ways. The best thing that coach Joel Quenneville did was saving a line consisting of Kane and Toews for dire situations. Spreading out the attack made teams think twice about line matching and gave an already deep team an extra layer.

I’m not for splitting up everything though, as Viktor Arvidsson is a much better player with Ryan Johansen. But splitting up Filip Forsberg and Johansen could spark the “third line”. Forsberg is one of the best possession driving wingers in the NHL and doesn’t depend as heavily on his center. If you want an example, just watch any game where Forsberg has played with Calle Jarnkrok and Pontus Aberg.

Jarnkrok is a defensively minded player and Aberg is a complimentary piece who can excel as long as he’s surrounded by talent. I’m not sure how long this line will last, but they’ve deserved every second of ice time. The only question I have is Nick Bonino as a left wing, but we’ll see how long that lasts. I could see Fiala filling in if the Turris line falters or Hartnell returning once he’s back up to speed.

2. Mark Spector going after Justin Bourne

If you’ve ever been on twitter, you’ll know that it’s a space where everyone respects each other, even if people disagree… *throwing up noises* Sorry all, my body couldn’t handle the amount of sarcasm, let’s get serious for a minute. Everyone has an opinion, and while some are not good or under-researched, people shouldn’t be disqualified from having these opinions as long as they’re not harmful.

The most recent harmful incident all started on Sunday when The Athletic’s Justin Bourne tweeted,

Here’s a little context. Connor McDavid was stopped on a breakaway after attempting the move that Bourne described. You may be looking at this and say to yourself, “that’s an opinion I agree/disagree with”. And that’s fine, totally reasonable in fact. But the “McDavid light” went up over Edmonton and a certain member of the media jumped to his defense. That member was Mark Spector of He cleverly replied back with something along the lines of “how many goals did you score like that?” in an attempt to discredit Bourne.

Little did Spector know, Bourne played in the ECHL and the AHL with some exhibition time in the NHL. I’m not here to talk about how Spector wasn’t a perfect gentleman (I’ve heard he’s a great guy actually), but I’m here to talk about that toxic attitude.

The belief that you need to #playthegame in order to have a good opinion on hockey is toxic to the environment. Hockey isn’t a popular sport in relation to the NBA and NFL, and we need to help grow it. As fans, it’s our responsibility to welcome newcomers with open arms and to not discount opinions because they come from inexperienced fans. Guys like Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman provide so much insight into hockey, despite not having played at a high level. I, personally, don’t want to live in a world where I don’t get to listen to Marek and Friedman.

Why this is such a big deal is that Spector is the president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. Someone who thinks about hockey for a living trying to tear down someone else who thinks about hockey for a living seems a bit hypocritical. Especially when you remember that Spector never played professional hockey. The president of the PHWA should be growing the game, not shrinking it.

So in the future, don’t be a gatekeeper. If you see a thought on twitter you disagree with, whether it’s from a “stats nerd’ or a “jock who #playedthegame”, open your mind and see it from their perspective. As Bill and Ted once said, “be excellent to each other”.

1. Defensive changes with Josi

The NHL as a whole has adopted a relatively similar defensive system below the goal line. Usually a defender and center pressure the puck below the goal line while the other defenseman watches the slot area. This is how it works for two of the three pairs on the Nashville Predators. The Josi-Ekholm pair is a different story though. Roman Josi isn’t very good in his own zone and must be babysat to some degree. Whether with favorable zone starts from Laviolette or with a stalwart partner like Mattias Ekholm. In this instance, Mattias Ekholm follows Josi into the corners almost constantly, leaving the center to watch the slot.

Next: Why The Predators Won't Win The Cup

This works when you have Calle Jarnkrok or Ryan Johansen patrolling the slot, but not so much when Turris or Sissons tries to protect the net front. We’ll see how this strategy changes as Ryan Ellis returns. My guess is the zone starts and competition become more favorable, but that’s just my opinion.