Coming off a career year, many expected Kevin Fiala would continue to play a key role offensively for the Nashville Predators. Fiala has zero points and has already been demoted to the fourth line once.
When the Nashville Predators kicked off the 2018-2019 season against the New York Rangers, Kevin Fiala was paired alongside his usual line-mates of Craig Smith and Kyle Turris on the teams second offensive unit. By the second game of the season against the Islanders, however, Fiala was penciled in on the team’s fourth line; leaving many people confused as to why.
Though nothing has been confirmed, a top-6 forward suddenly being dropped down two spots to the bottom of the lineup sounds like a demotion to me. Fiala did something wrong, was sent to the bottom line, and his play took a hit because of it.
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In a tweet from Adam Vingan of The Athletic, however, Coach Laviolette reiterated that it was more of an opportunity for Calle Jarnkrok than it was discipline for Kevin Fiala. It is possible that this is true, however, Laviolette may also be mincing words to avoid further critique.
So far, Fiala’s play on the season has been average at best. In terms of basic statistics, he has yet to register any points, penalty minutes, or have any scoring chances, while maintaining a -1 +/- ratio. On a more advanced level, he has middle-of-the-pack percentages in both Corsi and Fenwick analytics as well.
While these numbers are dismal to say the least, it is undeniable that his time on the teams worst offensive line affected his overall play. In just over 10 minutes against the New York Islanders, Fiala managed to block two shots, but, he failed to register any shots on goal of his own and was on the ice for one of the Islanders goals against his team.
In short, I get it. Lavi needs to light a fire under a player when necessary. Fiala is a talented youngster who still makes mistakes and has some kinks that need ironing out. Last year, his 56 giveaways were 5th on the team. His defensive prowess isn’t the name of his game, and he’s not really one to block a shot. But the back and forth between lines won’t resolve anything.
As an 11th overall pick for the Nashville Predators who has already scored more than 20-goals in one campaign, Fiala’s ability to provide offense for the team is clear. He has shown great chemistry with Craig Smith and Kyle Turris last year and he absolutely belongs in the Predators top six forwards.
Laviolette expects a lot from his players and, obviously, he saw something he didn’t like. I don’t think Jarnkrok had anything to do with it. But there wasn’t much benefit in moving Fiala to the fourth line. Surely whatever the issue was should have be resolved behind closed doors before the 22-year old hits a serious slump.