Photo Credit: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Finishing our season preview will be a two-part series look at the Nashville Predators offensive talent.
Nashville has always been known as a “no-star, everybody-works” type of team and the offensive play is no different. The Predators’ “scoring-by-committee” approached has continually worked since it’s inception, including netting them the top overall powerplay last year as well as landing them 8th overall in league scoring.
This year, Nashville will have to channel the same scoring magic that they found last season to push them along the 48-game schedule and into/through the playoffs. Can they replicate it?
MARTIN ERAT – (2011-2012 Stats: 19g, 39a, 58pts, +12, 30PIM)
Erat led the team in regular season scoring last year, having his second best season ever with the Predators while notching 50+ points for the 5th time in his career with Nashville. Having Erat healthy and scoring will be something that the Predators will have to count on this year as every point will be utterly important in this short season.
Expect Erat to lead the way again for the Predators, in my opinion. I expect that Erat will also land/keep the “A” this season in lieu of Suter’s departure. A healthy and scoring Erat will go a long way for the Predators chances at returning to the postseason and notching some success.
MIKE FISHER – (2011-2012 Stats: 24g, 27a, 51pts, +11, 33PIM)
Mike Fisher may not wow or dazzle people with his skills, but his two-way play is something the Predators have recently benefited from. Fisher was third on the team last season in points and was one of Nashville’s four major faceoff takers. His grit, poise, skill, and speed make him a huge asset for the Predators in their continued success.
Fisher may not be a Selke finalist anytime soon, but since he was acquired from the Ottawa Senators, his presence has been unmistakable. Fisher will continue to be one of Nashville’s faceoff leaders this season and his point total should rival his previous experience with the Predators.
PAUL GAUSTAD – (2011-2012 Stats: 7g, 14a, 21pts, -1, 76PIM)
Traded to the Predators from Buffalo late last season and signing a contract extension with Nashville over the summer, Gaustad notched 4 assists over his final 14 games with the Predators. However, he wasn’t acquired/signed for his offensive scoring touch, but for his faceoff prowess. Gaustad ranked 23rd in the league last season in total faceoffs won (659) and recorded a 57% faceoff win percentage during the regular season, including a 60% faceoff win percentage during the post-season.
While Gaustad, if he doesn’t impress the coaching staff/administration this season, could be a potentially candidate for a buyout this summer, I expect his faceoff abilities, offensive additions here and there, and his size/stature to keep him around for a bit past this season.
MATT HALISCHUK – (2011-2012 Stats: 15a, 13a, 28pts, +9, 27PIM)
Halischuk had a breakout season last year, more than doubling his NHL career-best point totals from 12 to 28, all this while being a 3rd/4th line winger. There’s something, in my opinion, about a player that can chip in almost 20 goals in a season while playing as a bottom 6 forward. That being said, Halischuk has been quite an asset for the Preds since coming over to the Predators in 2010 during the Jason Arnott trade.
While he may never be a top line forward, Halischuk’s is one of Nashville’s best bottom 6 forwards and is great at clutch endings for double-overtime games. I have a feeling that Halischuk will continue to produce for the Predators and it will be enough to get him a new contract after this season is over.
PATRIC HÖRNQVIST – (2011-2012 Stats: 27g, 16a, 43pts, +9, 28PIM)
Nashville’s version of Tomas Holmström, the pesky Swede enters the final year of his 3 year/$9.25 mil. deal. He led the team in goal scoring for the second time in the past three seasons and is on pace to hit the 100 career goal mark very soon (currently at 80 career goals).
While his net-presence is enough to irritate any goaltender, Hörnqvist still has to stand in the way of Shea Weber cannon blasts on a nightly basis. I still expect Hörnqvist to lead the team (or come very close to it) in goal scoring.
SERGEI KOSTITSYN – (2011-2012 Stats: 17g, 26a, 43pts, +8, 34PIM)
While Kostitsyn has yet to arrive in Nashville with the rest of his teammates, he’s had a great season in the KHL and had a near-career year with the Predators last season after setting career-highs the year before. Kostitsyn has been widely-known for his accurate shot and shot quality selection (last season: 97 shots, 17.5% conversion rate)
If his 29 points in 27 games during his time in the KHL this year is any indication of what we can expect this season, we could be looking at a possible 51 point year in a 48 game season. Yes, the KHL and NHL are vastly different leagues and the ice product is much different. However, you should expect Kostitsyn to possibly be the leader in the clubhouse this season, in terms of scoring. I wouldn’t
OFFENSE PRE-SEASON GRADE (PART 1): B-
The Predators offensive players listed above aren’t supertars or extraordinary point-producing machines, yet their abilities for generating a scoring-by-committee approach for the entire team can’t be rivaled. As the players continue to buy into Coach Trotz and his system, it’s still kind of a shock to me that the actual system works year in and year out like clockwork every season.. While there isn’t any eye-openers on the roster, the Predators should still find success in their normal gameplan.