Gameday Preview: Predation

Robert Cleave
January 24 2011 08:13AM

 

 

Tonight's opponent for the Flames are a club that might be fortunate to be in the league at all given the iffy financial picture that's surrounded them for much of their tenure in the league, but they're again thriving on-ice despite all the handicaps they face.

The Predators find themselves in the upper division of the conference on the back of quality goaltending, a first rate corps of young defenders and some good fortune in terms of shooting at EV. Nashville gets outshot more nights than not, but the bounces have pretty much followed them around all season, leaving them with a healthy 5v5 goal differential thus far.

The good shooting at EV certainly isn't because they have much in the way of elite talent up front. Patric Hornqvist is a nice enough player, and the Preds have gotten a fair bit of mileage out of Habs castaway Sergei Kostitsyn, but it's a thin looking group that is somehow shooting around 9% at EV. Considering that Steve Sullivan has been hurt for the last few weeks and Matt Lombardi has played all of two games, I have a hard time believing that we're seeing the true talent of their forwards. That doesn't mean that they're a poor team by any means, but as we saw with Dallas the other night, sometimes teams are less impressive by eye than their position in the standings might otherwise indicate.

One thing that's always a constant with the Preds is their line matching. Barry Trotz invariably uses David Legwand and Joel Ward in the tough spots, using the duo against everyone's best and having them do so from their own end of the ice more often than not. It's a formula that the Predators have used to get players like J.P. Dumont and Hornqvist better looks and easier comp, and Trotz is one of the few coaches to use this approach with any sort of rigour, largely because he's rarely had the type of top-end players that could run things PvP.

He does have a nice set of defencemen at his disposal, though. The 2003 draft gave Nashville three of their top four, with Shea Weber the last one of the three to be selected. Weber is a player of interest not only because he's become a top player, but because there's the hint that he might be moving on when he gets a chance. I've always thought that Nashville would do whatever they have to in order to keep him, so his impending RFA summer should be watched with interest. In the meantime, he's the player that I think most of us would have hoped his more famous 2005 WJC D partner might have become.

It's in the net where Nashville has gained an edge this year, and that's been a characteristic of that franchise from the get-go. They've been an absolute goalie farm, turning out Vokoun, Mason, Ellis and now Pekka Rinne as useful NHL keepers. Anders Lindback has shown signs that he might be the next one in the pipeline, sporting a .930 EVSV% thus far, and with Rinne playing in last night's 3-2 shootout win at Rexall, Lindback could well get an outing at the Dome.

Gamewise, this might be a night where both teams would rather play 5v5, since the Preds don't draw or take many penalties, and the Flames' special teams have spent most of the year causing heartburn for anyone that's had the misfortune of watching them. Nashville does sport an excellent PK %, doing a fine job of suppressing shots against when down a man. 

One last thing that I'll add is that whatever bounces that the Preds might have had to this point in the season, they're a team that always gets the maximum from their talent, and that's an admirable trait in any outfit. Calgary has to match the effort if they expect a result of any kind.

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Robert Cleave is a perpetually grumpy Winnipegger.
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#1 Rain Dogs
January 24 2011, 10:10AM
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It's a darn good thing I'm not Jay Feaster or the next Flames GM because I would do just about anything to get Shea Weber.

Big, strong, dominant RIGHT-HANDED defenseman with one of the hardest shots in the league.

If I'm David Poile I want the five first round picks.

I don't see how Nashville can afford not to re-sign Weber, but I don't see how they CAN.

Is anyone ACTUALLY going to give up 5 first round picks for this guy though?

1. JBO - Weber 2. Reggie - Gio 3. 700k - 500k pairing.

Is there anyway Poile trades him? Not when he could get so much in return from RFA offer sheets?

Shea Weber is the most interesting contract in the NHL right now. It's like Bouwmeester x100. This is when we need crazy Darryl.

EDIT: How the heck did Darryl take Tim Ramholt (at 39th) over Shea Weber (who was picked 49th! and ranked 42nd)? Or anyone of the other teams that took 12 defenders ahead of him. Can't we turn back the clock and give Nashville Dion for Weber in the draft?

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#2 Kent Wilson
January 24 2011, 10:50AM
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@Rain Dogs

The 2003 draft is, in retrospect, one of the biggest missed opportunities of the Sutter era. They had 9 picks in the deepest draft in recent memory (including 9th overall) and the only NHLer they came away with was Dion.

Take a jaunt through hockeydb and look at the guys they picked after Phaneuf. It's pretty embarrassing.

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#3 FireOnIce
January 24 2011, 10:52AM
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Somehow, every season, Barry Trotz is able to take a roster of nobodies and turn it into a playoff bound team. Certainly, quality goaltending helps.

Lord knows Vokoun had our number every time we had to play Nashville in past years.

And I agree with Lawrence, if we could somehow pry Weber out of Nashville, that would be excellent. Perhaps Bouwmeester + parts/pick or two for Weber + parts? Doubt it will ever happen though, but worth a shot, especially after seeing Weber BURN it through the net in the Olympics.

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#4 FireOnIce
January 24 2011, 10:59AM
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Oh, and regarding the game itself - Iginla needs to bag a couple goals tonight. Great, you have another 20 goal season, but we can't be relying on our 3rd and 4th lines to score every goal.

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#5 Rain Dogs
January 24 2011, 11:04AM
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Actually, since Dion was drafted, the Preds have drafted and now dress:

G - Rinne (2004, 258th) G - Lindback (2008, 207th)

D - Weber (2003, 49th) D - R.Suter (2003, 7th) D - Sulzer (2003, 92nd) D - Klein (2003, 47th)

F - Wilson (2008, 7th) F - Hörnqvist (2005, 230th) F - Franson (2005, 79th) F - O'Rielly (2005, 150th) F - Spaling (2007, 58th)

Combine to that they've previous to 2003 selected Erat, Legwand, Tootoo and traded picks Hamhuis, Hartnell, Upshall, Skrastins and Santorelli. Is there any team that is more built through thte draft than Nashville? Only two of their current roster since 2003 are top ten/first round (7th x2)

They have FOUR NHL defenders playing taken in 2003. We took Phaneuf, then Ramholt before Klein, Sulzer OR Weber. This is depressing. Wonder why I don't wholeheartedly believe in the draft?

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#6 Scott
January 24 2011, 11:18AM
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Maybe we could trade for nashvilles scouts? Forget Shea Weber, I'd rather have the scouts that could pick more than 1 player every 3 drafts to make it into the NHL!

On that note, if we had draft weber, he would have NEVER develop or given the chance to develop. He would be a 5-6 defensemen getting benched for every mistake... Either that or we would have trade him for Staios. :)

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#7 wattree
January 24 2011, 11:24AM
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Forget getting Weber out of Nashville, see if you can trade for Poile and his staff. With a budget to try and keep the draftpicks he gets you could build a pretty nice team. Especially when you consider that since the lockout they haven't had any real high picks.

With the 2003 draft you have to wonder how the picks would have been different if they had known how about the crackdown on obstruction?

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#8 otto
January 24 2011, 11:34AM
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EA sports has better scouts than we do,it's always been one of our week points.

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#9 otto
January 24 2011, 11:35AM
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weak points(oops)

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#10 Kent Wilson
January 24 2011, 11:42AM
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@Rain Dogs

Is there any team that is more built through thte draft than Nashville?

BUF is decent too. Since 2003, NHLers drafted by the Sabres include:

Vanek, MacArthur, Hejda, Paetsch, Stafford, Sekara, Kaleta, Butler, Gerbe, Myers and Ennis (with Zack Kassian on deck).

San Jose has an impressive draft record over that period as well I believe.

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#11 Rain Dogs
January 24 2011, 11:48AM
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@Kent Wilson

Yeah (to previous comment re: 2003 draft), but I think the Dion pick was an excellent pick. You're picking 9th, and he is (despite all his "flaws") a superb NHL player as far as draft goes.

I don't understand the Ramholt pick however. I agree with Sutter that if you're picking outside top 5, and don't have any glaring weaknesses, depth or team needs.... you pick a defenseman.

Actually, Darryl says, all things equal you pick D, no matter what.

BUT, all things equal, you should be picking a Right handed defenseman first. They are diamonds in the rough. It's something like 75% of the league are natural LD. That's why I don't get the Ramholt pick. He was ranked 5th from 1984 born defenders, but he's a lefty. You just took Dion a LD. Suter, Coburn and Phaneuf, the big three were LD. Seabrook, Burns and Klein were already taken, that left Weber, ranked 42nd, but the fouth highest ranked RD in a super deep draft.

Weber was there begging to be picked by Sutter, and he picked a depth LD in Ramholt, on a team with too many LD (Reggie, Lydman, Ference, Gauthier) and now Pardy, JBO, Gio, Reggie, Brodie, Erixon etc. etc. We only had Warrener and Commodore, now we only have Sarich and Babchuk. (We did have White, but he could have shot with both hands, and I wouldn't have kept him.)

Weber was the right pick then, and I still want him on the team, but now he's better than anyone would have imagined and he'll cost 5 first rounders. (I'd do it... you can get those draft picks back with Iggy, and.... some others.)

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#12 everton fc
January 24 2011, 01:17PM
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"Maybe we could trade for nashvilles scouts? Forget Shea Weber, I'd rather have the scouts that could pick more than 1 player every 3 drafts to make it into the NHL!"

The lack of depth in our scouting over the years... is why we are where we are. No question. It's one of the glaring deficiencies of this organization. We took Ramholt over Weber. If that were a once-in-a-while gaff, so be it. But it's par for the course here.

Which is why the next GM is a critical choice. McNab in Anaheim was/is a phenomenal scout. Paul Fenton would be anotehr obvious candidate I'd take over Feaster. Hextall seems to also know how to scout.

This is also why I am not a supporter of Feaster taking the reigns here. Even though I think he will, if King is left standing.

Incidentally, Trotz is certainly one of the most under-rated coaches in the league. What he does with very little is amazing. Again, Brent has not done as much, with as little. Trotz would be another who'd have this group in the top 6 in the conference, I believe.

That said... I'm pulling for the 8th spot this season. Tonight's game is yet another "must-win"!

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#13 everton fc
January 24 2011, 01:18PM
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"Maybe we could trade for nashvilles scouts? Forget Shea Weber, I'd rather have the scouts that could pick more than 1 player every 3 drafts to make it into the NHL!"

The lack of depth in our scouting over the years... is why we are where we are. No question. It's one of the glaring deficiencies of this organization. We took Ramholt over Weber. If that were a once-in-a-while gaff, so be it. But it's par for the course here.

Which is why the next GM is a critical choice. McNab in Anaheim was/is a phenomenal scout. Paul Fenton would be anotehr obvious candidate I'd take over Feaster. Hextall seems to also know how to scout.

This is also why I am not a supporter of Feaster taking the reigns here. Even though I think he will, if King is left standing.

Incidentally, Trotz is certainly one of the most under-rated coaches in the league. What he does with very little is amazing. Again, Brent has not done as much, with as little. Trotz would be another who'd have this group in the top 6 in the conference, I believe.

That said... I'm pulling for the 8th spot this season. Tonight's game is yet another "must-win"!

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#14 everton fc
January 24 2011, 01:18PM
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Sorry for the double-post. Not intended.

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#15 T&A4Flames
January 24 2011, 01:48PM
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Rain Dogs wrote:

Yeah (to previous comment re: 2003 draft), but I think the Dion pick was an excellent pick. You're picking 9th, and he is (despite all his "flaws") a superb NHL player as far as draft goes.

I don't understand the Ramholt pick however. I agree with Sutter that if you're picking outside top 5, and don't have any glaring weaknesses, depth or team needs.... you pick a defenseman.

Actually, Darryl says, all things equal you pick D, no matter what.

BUT, all things equal, you should be picking a Right handed defenseman first. They are diamonds in the rough. It's something like 75% of the league are natural LD. That's why I don't get the Ramholt pick. He was ranked 5th from 1984 born defenders, but he's a lefty. You just took Dion a LD. Suter, Coburn and Phaneuf, the big three were LD. Seabrook, Burns and Klein were already taken, that left Weber, ranked 42nd, but the fouth highest ranked RD in a super deep draft.

Weber was there begging to be picked by Sutter, and he picked a depth LD in Ramholt, on a team with too many LD (Reggie, Lydman, Ference, Gauthier) and now Pardy, JBO, Gio, Reggie, Brodie, Erixon etc. etc. We only had Warrener and Commodore, now we only have Sarich and Babchuk. (We did have White, but he could have shot with both hands, and I wouldn't have kept him.)

Weber was the right pick then, and I still want him on the team, but now he's better than anyone would have imagined and he'll cost 5 first rounders. (I'd do it... you can get those draft picks back with Iggy, and.... some others.)

You're forgetting Steady Steve Staios as a RH defender.

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#16 Palt
January 24 2011, 04:39PM
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I remember people saying that four years into their respective careers, Weber would be a better defenseman than Phaneuf. This was said during Phaneuf and Weber's second seasons. I thought Bob Mckenzie was drunk. boy, was he ever right.

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