Nashville Predators: Five Thoughts For Friday, December 29th

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 02: Dante Fabbro
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 02: Dante Fabbro /

The sun is setting on another year, one which is the undoubtedly the Nashville Predators’ best yet. Will 2018 see another step in the right direction?

2017 was quite the wild ride in just about every sense of the word. For all that may not have gone the “correct” way in your opinion, at least the Nashville Predators took strides. It’s a little funny how one playoff run can change the perception of an entire organization, town, and fanbase. It feels like long ago when the Nashville Predators limped into the playoffs as the eight seed, and then proceeded to rip their competition to shreds.

This season saw some early inconsistency but most issues have been calmed. We should all look forward to the future as many years of serious competition lie ahead. If you’re a bit impatient and want to see the future now, I would suggest watching the World Junior Championships.

5. The WJCs

No offense to whoever goes to the Olympics this year, but the WJCs will probably end up being the best national tournament this season. As a junior scout, my goal is to see a player I “discovered” play in the tournament one day, as it truly is the cream of the crop. This year also features some outstanding players and teams. The USA, Canada, Finland, Sweden and even Russia all have great chances at the gold. But let’s say that you’re not into the Juniors for whatever reason, and you just want to see the Predators’ future, well there are a few guys to watch.

Dante Fabbro is currently headlining a wonderful defense for team Canada, and he’s not looking out of place. The more I watch him, the more excited I am for his eventual call-up to the Predators. He’s currently in the NCAA and will most certainly finish off his sophomore year at Boston University. I haven’t heard much about when he plans to leave college but his skill set will fit in well. Fabbro’s two way game has improved dramatically as he’s been used more in a shut down role this season, as well as through a few games in the WJCs. The BCHL alum is showing that he’s not just a pretty face on offense, but that he can also hold his own against elite talent.

Fellow Boston University player Patrick Harper is currently playing for team USA. The sophomore has continued his scoring ways with over a point per game so far this season. The center currently has two points in one game in the WJC but that was against Denmark so don’t focus too heavily on that. The real challenge is against Canada on Friday.

Finland has kind of come out of nowhere during the past few seasons. Players like Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi have seemingly opened the floodgates for talented youngsters like Eeli Tolvanen. Tolvanen is already a household name in Nashville for his feats in the KHL, which are impressive. Tolvanen is currently the crown jewel of the best scoring line in the WJCs, as he plays alongside Janne Kuokkanen and Kristian Vesalainen. I swear those are real people and not made up names. The call has gone up recently for Tolvanen to abandon the KHL for the NHL after his contract is up. While I like Tolvanen coming back to North America, I’m not sure he’s ready for the NHL. I think he is offensively, but his defense is lackadaisical, at best. Even half a season in the AHL would greatly help his two-way game and turn him into a multi-dimensional player.

4. The NHL is back!

The Christmas freeze has thawed on the NHL and hockey is back! The Nashville Predators beat the Blues in a hard fought battle that saw Pekka Rinne return to form. Let’s hope Rinne can keep it up, or it could be a bumpy rest of the season as more responsibility falls to Juuse Saros.

3. Rinaldo and how to handle the situation

I harp a lot on Cody McLeod for being useless, and I stand by that sentiment. But at least McLeod never pulled dirty moves consistently. Enter Zac Rinaldo.

Hockey is weird as fighting is commonly accepted although not actually legal (hence the penalty). But in this illegal act, there exists honor among thieves. There’s a “code” between fighters. There exist many rules to the code and if you want to learn about it, I suggest watching “Ice Guardians” on Netflix. But is this code so holy?

Rinaldo absolutely sucker-punched Samuel Girard in a move that not many could defend. That didn’t stop many from doing it as many ex-fighters came to the rescue of Rinaldo, the most outspoken example being Paul Bissonnette. What I’ve come to realize is I’ve been assessing blame to the wrong place. I’ve been blaming it on the players themselves for creating a culture where a tough guy is needed, when the blame should fall on the officials.

If you’re a ref and you see Rinaldo or Raffi Torres or whoever else commit a questionable hit, call them on it. Don’t let “boys be boys” or let them figure it out, do your job and keep the teams playing hockey. It’s time to stop allowing George Parros and Chris Pronger (foxes) to protect the hen house. Atone for a mistake and bring in Paul Kariya and let him help clean up the game.

Rinaldo only got six games, which is absolutely nuts. This hit had “Bertuzzi-Moore” written all over it and the NHL decided to protect the epitome of a “career criminal” over a promising skill player.

2. Conspiracy time

Chris Kreider is the latest victim of the “blood clot epidemic” over the past few seasons. We all know that drug testing in the NHL is pretty much a joke and now players might be paying the price. HGH and steroids are common among players, not for strength but for durability. The season is too long as is, and then adding an extra 20-30 games for playoffs can be killer.

If I had it my way, I would decrease the number of games too 55-60 to give the players a break. Also no more three games in five days. This would ultimately cost the NHL money and so there’s no chance of it happening, but it’s a nice thought that’s been echoed by P.K. Subban.

Anyways, let’s spend a moment sending good thoughts to Kreider.

1. The Atlantic is sinking

Four of the five worst teams in the NHL are in the Atlantic division, making it the worst division in the NHL. Do not be fooled though, the Maple Leafs, Lightning, and even the Bruins are for real. My picks for the Stanley Cup Finals were the Lightning and Nashville Predators, and so far I feel great about it.

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