Tag: Montreal Canadiens

John Carlson, Nicklas Backstrom

Under Pressure: John Carlson


We wrote yesterday about how most teams that win the Stanley Cup have an elite center, like Jonathan Toews.

Well, most teams that win the Cup also have an elite defenseman, like Duncan Keith, the 2015 Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

Can John Carlson be that guy for the Washington Capitals?

The 25-year-old is coming off his best season as a professional. In 82 games, he had 12 goals and 43 assists, his 55 points ranking fifth among NHL defensemen, behind only Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, P.K. Subban and Dennis Wideman.

And with the departure of Mike Green, the Caps will need Carlson more than ever to provide offense from the back end, while also continuing to improve in all the other areas of his game.

“I think with Carly, there’s been areas of his game that sort of would lag, and I think he’s done a really good job of focusing on those areas, so he can have that consistency,” coach Barry Trotz said in February, per the Washington Post. “He’s maturing as a player. He’s still a very young player who’s now entering the front end of the prime of his career. There’s lot of good things to see from him.”

Related: ‘It took him a few years, but Victor Hedman’s arrived’

Preds’ biggest question: Are they strong enough at center?

Mike Ribeiro

When you think about the key components of recent championship teams, the Nashville Predators check a lot of the boxes.

  • Whether you prefer Shea Weber or Roman Josi, they boast at least one elite defenseman, and the rest of their group is impressive (heck, Seth Jones may have the highest ceiling of them all).
  • Pekka Rinne sure looked like a $7 million goalie last season. In fact, he wasn’t far off of Carey Price’s pace before getting injured.
  • Young forwards abound, especially at the wing, as Filip Forsberg, James Neal, Colin Wilson and Craig Smith are all in the meat of their primes.

All things considered, the Predators’ mammoth jump in 2014-15 actually made a lot of sense.

That said, the West is rugged, and there’s a glaring question: are they strong enough down the middle?

Look, Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro bring plenty to the table; the Predators brought both pivots back for a reason.

Do they really stack up to the best of the best, though?

Ribero exceeded most, if not all, expectations by scoring 62 points, which is very nice but not quite “elite” production. Fisher is trumpeted as a strong two-way player, yet his possession stats argue that he may be a little more limited than some think.

Many would argue that, ideally, both would either be second-line centers or perhaps one should be on the second line (Ribeiro) with the other on the third (Fisher).

Look back at this list of championship-winners from the last decade or so and ponder their situations down the middle:

2015: Chicago Blackhawks
2014: Los Angeles Kings
2013: Blackhawks
2012: Kings
2011: Boston Bruins
2010: Blackhawks
2009: Pittsburgh Penguins
2008: Detroit Red Wings
2007: Anaheim Ducks
2006: Carolina Hurricanes
2004: Tampa Bay Lightning

Most, if not all, of those teams boasted at least one serious difference-maker at center. The Ducks might be the best team for Nashville to emulate, right down to their stacked defense corps and solid group of centers (Ryan Getzlaf wasn’t yet Ryan Getzlaf in 2007).

Does this guarantee that the Predators cannot top last season’s work? Not necessarily, but the center position’s questions stick out like a sore thumb.

It’s Nashville Predators day at PHT

Peter Laviolette

Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Nashville Predators.

The Nashville Predators snapped a two-year playoff drought last season finishing second in the Central Division with a 47-25-10 record. However, the Preds met the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the first round falling in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Filip Forsberg had an excellent rookie campaign scoring a team-high 26 goals and 63 points in 82 games. He added four goals and two assists in the six postseason games. The 21-year-old finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting.

Captain Shea Weber led all Nashville blue liners with 15 goals and 45 points in 78 games. He finished fourth in voting for the Norris Trophy. Weber’s postseason was cut short following a knee injury in Game 2.

Pekka Rinne carried the load in goal for Nashivlle making 64 appearances and finishing with a 41-17-6 record while posting a 2.18 G.A.A. and a .923 save percentage and four shutouts. The 32-year-old was the runner up to Carey Price in Vezina Trophy voting.

“I really believe our players are going to be hungry to do even more,” said GM David Poile in July. “We came so close against Chicago. We wanted to make a couple of changes, get a little bit more depth, but we wanted to keep the core of the team together and that’s what we’ve done.”

Off-season recap

In addition to re-signing the club’s top two centers in Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher, Poile signed free agent Cody Hodgson to a one-year $1.05 million deal. The 25-year-old was bought out by the Buffalo Sabres following the second year of his six-year $25.5 million contract.

“He’s shown some great flashes of offensive success at center,” said Poile. “Last year was not his best year. I think he would fit in behind Ribeiro and Fisher.”

Hodgson had just six goals and seven assists in 78 games last season.

“He’s not going to be very proud of the season he had last year, but with all due respect, I think it’s a little circumstantial to who he was playing with and for and how they were playing and what their record was et cetera et cetera,” Poile said.

Poile also added experience on the blue line signing veteran Barret Jackman to a two-year $4 million deal.

“Barret gives us great balance back on the blue line with three lefties and three righties,” said Poile. “I think this is a perfect fit for our defense. He brings a veteran leadership, a physicality and his biggest asset to us is that he kills penalties.”

Nashville added depth for its American Hockey League club acquiring center Max Reinhart in a trade with the Calgary Flames.