What a weird week of hockey it’s been. The Nashville Predators got smoked at home by the Calgary Flames, then come back to whip the Winnipeg Jets. The results are odd and the analytics are even weirder. As happy as the Predators should be about Thursday night’s game, the Jets basically tried to give them the win.
Nine power play opportunities are more than some teams get in three or more games, yet the Predators couldn’t convert. This game should’ve easily been a five to zero victory for the Predators, but they squandered all of their chances.
1. Power Play Woes
It’s no secret that I’m not very high on Peter Laviolette. I don’t think he adjusts his strategies well and he often ignores the issues plaguing his team. It’s early in the season, but the power play has looked downright atrocious. Laviolette even said that keeping the same team over the summer meant that they could focus on special teams and fix the trainwreck from last season.
I hope, for the coaching staff’s sake, that they just forgot to work on it at all. Otherwise, someone new should come aboard just to fix this one issue. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the display below and tell me that the Predators are getting their best looks on the power play. Only two shots came in the high danger area.
Big thanks to Micah Blake McCurdy for the wonderful visuals.
2. Offense In Hockey’s Capital
Since we just talked about special team issues, let’s discuss a team that’s actually good on the power play.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the most fun hockey team I’ve seen since the 2015-16 Dallas Stars. They’re winning games six to five on any given night and sacrificing all their defense for that sweet drug known as goals. Auston Matthews is leading the charge with 12 points, but Morgan Rielly isn’t letting his defensive responsibilities get in the way as he also has 12 points.
Rielly actually beat Bobby Orr’s record for best 5 game start to a season, a record once thought unbreakable. I very much believe that the Leafs will have three players who score over a point per game pace. It’s not so hard to imagine when you have Matthews, John Tavares, and my favorite good old London Knight, Mitch Marner.
Speaking of Toronto and Nashville, there’s been rumors swirling around recently. Everyone knows that star winger, William Nylander, has still not signed his first restricted free agency (RFA) deal. This could mean he’s on his way out. The Leafs have some big decisions to think over as both Matthews and Marner will need new RFA deals after this season, and they could easily cost close to 20 million for the pair.
So, could Nylander be on his way out for someone else? Probably not, but it’s fun to dream. The Leafs need all the help they can get on defense, especially on the right side. They have some great talent in several minor leagues (Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin), but their window is open now. Ryan Ellis would make the most sense if a trade were to happen, as the Leafs need a right-handed guy and he’s locked in for the next half decade at a reasonable price. Does this make enough sense as one for one trade? Who knows.
This brings up a big issue though, the Predators have a serious lack of talent behind their elite top four. I won’t even discuss Weber, Bitetto, or Irwin, but even their AHL prospects are lacking. Alexandre Carrier is probably their most NHL ready guy, but who knows if he’s ready for a full NHL season? Dante Fabbro is probably the most skilled prospect, but there are still some very real concerns about his NHL game and he seemingly doesn’t to want to leave college early. If this trade would ever happen, I think each team would need to give up another piece.
Here’s my ideal trade: William Nylander and Travis Dermott or Timothy Liljegren for Ryan Ellis and Dante Fabbro.
4. Good Times In Raleigh
The sample size is tiny, but the Carolina Hurricanes might’ve finally turned the corner! My breakout team for the past five years or so looks like they’ve finally broken out. Andrei Svechnikov looks like the real deal, and the rest of the offense is stepping up as well.
My bold prediction is that Sebastian Aho will be a household name by the end of the year. Otherwise, the real star is the defense. Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton are probably the second or third best defensive pairing in the NHL, behind Vlasic-Karlsson in San Jose and Ekholm-Subban in Nashville. I don’t know if they’ll go far in the playoffs, but I could easily foresee them making it to the second round. They’ll be a fun team to watch all year.
5. The Watson Debacle
What a mess. I’ve heard so many dumb rumors over the past week that my head is still spinning. I even heard one that Austin Watson “heroically pushed his drunk girlfriend so she wouldn’t drive”.
I honestly have no idea what to make of this. What I do know, is that the Nashville Predators have handled this terribly, as is tradition. Whether it’s standing by Mike Ribeiro or hiring Harry Zolnierczyk, the Predators have not always handled domestic or sexual abuse well.
Now news has come out that the suspension has been reduced to 18 games and people are rightfully angry. The NHLPA has decided that taking performance-enhancing drugs is worse than domestic abuse in what can only be described as the worst decision ever. I figured the appeal was routine and would be more of a formality, but alas, the athlete beats the rules again.
Seriously, what are we doing? Just because hockey is our escape, let’s not pretend that it’s perfect. Instead, let’s face the issues head-on and tackle this in a way that our children will be proud of. I don’t believe that Watson should never play another NHL game, but 18 games are far too few. Especially after he got a proverbial slap on the wrist from the courts that will be off his record after he completes his corrective education.
I just don’t know anymore. I love hockey, but I think it might be killing me. Hopefully there will be a hard line drawn in the next CBA, but I’m not going to hold my breath.