Johnny Bower passed last week and his absence will be felt by all, even the Nashville Predators. Bower’s legacy isn’t just confined to the ice though.
Johnny Bower had what may be the “least valuable” signature of all time. Not because of who he was or his play, but because he would never turn down an autograph. He would stay for hours and sign autographs and just talk to any fan. His legacy is one of kindness and respect. The people of Toronto and every hockey fan should take a moment this week to pay their respects to Bower and his lasting impact.
I usually try to do some clever tie-in between my opening remarks and my first thought, but not today. So instead of reading my dumb tie-in, take a moment to think of Johnny Bower and how you can follow in his footsteps as a good person.
5. Rebuilding a franchise
The taboo word around the NHL is “rebuilding”. Owners don’t want it because it loses money, players don’t want it because it involves losing, but there are some that love it. Scouts and general managers absolutely adore rebuilds. For a general manager, it means becoming the architect of a team and building it in your vision. For scouts, it means that a guy you “discover” could be taken with a high pick and that glory would head straight to you. But what does it take to truly have a successful rebuild?
There are so many cases of rebuilds, my favorite example is Toronto. Toronto did it “right”, ownership hired Brenden Shanahan who had a clear vision, and then ownership got out of the way. Shanahan had the Shanaplan and the first step was hiring Lou Lamoriello and Kyle Dubas. Loophole Lou is the classic old-timer who believes in grit, leadership, and not having a beard. Dubas is the new kid on the block who uses numbers to influence decisions. They make quite the odd couple. From there, they acquired Mike Babcock, the best coach in hockey, and from there it was all about drafting. Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and Auston Matthews headline the young corp. The team still has problems, but they’re far from the worst team in the league that they were two years ago.
A proper rebuild can put a team into a winning position for a decade, but how often do they go off without a hitch? Arizona, Buffalo, and Edmonton are a few cautionary tales.
4. Arvidsson is no longer the top shot producer for the Nashville Predators
Shot production is what made Viktor Arvidsson so likable to many in the analytics community. No matter how many minutes he played, Arvidsson would generate more shots per 60 minutes than anyone else on the ice. Last year he was rewarded for it with a career high 61 points.
This year is going a bit differently though, as the speedy winger only has 12 goals and 25 points in 39 games. Those are good numbers but I think everyone expected another 60 points or so. What’s changed? Arvidsson is shooting the puck less this season, he’s only generating 34.04 shots per 60. Good for sixth on the Predators but still down from the last few seasons where he led the Predators.
There’s no easy solution to this problem. Just saying shoot more doesn’t help, as many of Arvidsson’s shots come from low danger areas.
3. Pacioretty being actively shopped
I swear, Marc Bergevin needs to either put down the phone or be relieved of his duties. I understand wanting to shake up a team and look for new blood, but there’s a simple lesson here. Buy low, sell high. Max Pacioretty is at his lowest selling point since possibly ever. That man has silently carried the abysmal Canadiens’ offense for years and hasn’t complained once.
Well, it looks as if the stoic leader might be the next scapegoat as teams are calling in about him. Word on the street is he’s being actively shopped and the Nashville Predators are one of the big askers, as per Darren Dreger. Pacioretty currently makes 4.5 million per year until the end of next season, the bad news is that the Predators only have 2.89 million in cap space. This means that a real player would have to go back in return. I could see Emelin or possibly Bonino heading the other way, but picks and prospects will be involved. Most likely it’ll be Dante Fabbro or Eeli Tolvanen.
That’s a huge asking price and I don’t think it’s worth it. But David Poile is clearly a gambling man and Marc Bergevin doesn’t make good decisions so who knows.
2. Should Ekholm and Subban reunite?
The answer is sometimes. When facing a team with a bonafide superstar, like Edmonton, the pair should absolutely play together. P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm can combine to erase the presence of a star-powered line, but the Predators sacrifice depth when doing so. When playing a team that scores by committee, like Vegas, the pair should split up.
Let Ekholm provide some stability and stout defense to a porous third pair. Meanwhile, Subban and Alexei Emelin can continue to play together. This will allow the Nashville Predators to shelter the first pair while throwing out two other responsible defensive pairings.
Just to cover my bases, put Ekholm and Subban together against teams with a clear star like the Oilers, Panthers, Blues, or Tampa Bay. Otherwise, split them and don’t force your fans to cross their fingers while Weber and Emelin flounder.
1. New year, new Predators… hopefully
The Nashville Predators picked up right where they left off as they’re inconsistent on a period by period basis. The team has played better as of late but have lost a lot of the puck luck that drove their November success. It’s time for the team to step up and decide who they are and how they want to play. Time’s running out to make adjustments, we’re getting to the now or never part of the season.