Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette took a puck above the right eye tonight in Winnipeg after Jets’ defenseman Jacob Trouba tried to knock down a clearing attempt.
Now that James Neal is a Nashville Predators forward, goalies in Tennessee are sure happy to call him a teammate.
Neal hit the ice in Nashville for unofficial workouts and, as Josh Cooper of The Tennessean shared, goalie Carter Hutton is happy he won’t have to face him outside of practice.
“I’m happy he’s on our side now,” Hutton joked. “A lot of guys give you more information. You can kind of read where pucks are going. With him, it’s hard to pick up his stick blade and where it goes from there.”
There’s a reason why Neal is a former 40-goal scorer in the league and his wicked shot is a big one. Last season, he put up 27 goals for the Pittsburgh Penguins but was traded to the Predators this summer to help give them something they haven’t had since Paul Kariya took to the ice in Music City – a bonafide goal-scoring threat.
While the Preds will get their logjam of centers, both new and incumbent, figured out – Neal arrives as, ahem, the real deal when it comes to putting the puck in the net.
If Neal takes to new coach Peter Laviolette’s style right away, fans in Nashville will like it, love it, want some more of it often this season.
Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Philadelphia Flyers.
If there was a team whose season best resembled a roller coaster last season, it was the Philadelphia Flyers.
After getting off to a 0-3-0 start, the Flyers fired coach Peter Laviolette and brought in Craig Berube. Things didn’t get better right away as they went 3-6-0 in the next nine games and appeared to be in deep trouble after the first month of the season.
That’s when captain Claude Giroux took over. After decreeing they would make the playoffs, the real Flyers showed up going 39-21-10 the rest of the way and finishing third in the Metropolitan Division. Giroux had a season to remember finishing with 28 goals and 86 points – third best in the league behind Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf. As it turned out, those were his fellow finalists for the Hart Trophy that Crosby ran away with.
That’s neither here nor there though because Giroux’s performance was the kind of thing that makes you a legend in Philly. Not only did he help carry the team, he also helped bring others out their shell.
Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek had a career-years. Voracek had career-bests with 23 goals and 62 points and Simmonds did the same with 29 goals and 60 points.
One guy who had a hard time was Vincent Lecavalier. The new-old guy on the block did have 20 goals, but with just 37 points and looking not like the Vinny of old, he wound up in Berube’s dog house on the fourth line.
On defense, Mark Streit’s first season in Philly saw him produce the most points from the blue line with 44. Kimmo Timonen was next best with 35 and Braydon Coburn’s physicality made him a favorite. Perhaps the biggest surprise came in goal.
Steve Mason was the No. 1 guy in net and didn’t look like the guy we saw at the end of his run with the Columbus Blue Jackets. His .917 save percentage and 2.50 goals-against average helped keep the Flyers rolling along all year while Ray Emery battled hard but didn’t put up great numbers.
In the end, all the good stuff didn’t much matter as they were bounced out in the first round by the New York Rangers in seven games.
While we’ve become accustomed to the Flyers stealing headlines in the summer, the hiring of Ron Hextall as GM virtually slowed that to a crawl.
The big move this summer was the trade that sent Scott Hartnell to the Columbus Blue Jackets for former Flyer R.J. Umberger. The Flyers felt they were done with Hartnell and his contract only to bring in Umberger and his shorter contract but not-as-good performance.
The biggest blow may have come from Timonen discovering multiple blood clots in his system – something that may keep him out for most of the season. That development led to the Flyers taking a chance and signing Michael Del Zotto. Philly also added Nick Schultz on defense to try and help add depth.
One move they haven’t made is moving Lecavalier. While rumors persisted for most of the summer that he would be finding his way out of town, and he nearly was dealt to Nashville, he’s still on the roster and the Flyers want more from him.
This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.
1. Shea Weber — 555 votes
2. Pekka Rinne — 282 votes
3. David Legwand — 103 votes
It’s hard to argue Shea Weber winning the vote as the greatest Predators player in team history.
He doesn’t (currently) hold the team record for most games played, goals, or points but his role in establishing the defensive might of the Preds has been huge. Even still, his 131 goals and 347 points are good for third all-time in Predators history behind Legwand and Martin Erat.
Why yes, the Predators have only been around for 15 seasons – why do you bring that up?
Weber’s ferocious physical play and even more fearful slapshot have earned him league-wide fame. Players who have gone down to block his shots on the power play become virtual heroes for trying to stop a shot that’s been registered at over 100 miles per-hour on the reg.
It’s crazy to think Weber almost wasn’t a Predator. The infamous 14-year, $110 million monster offer sheet the Philadelphia Flyers signed him to in 2012 as a restricted free agent pushed Nashville GM David Poile to make the financially difficult decision to match it. Player-wise, it was a no-brainer to retain the guy they made captain of the team and his consistent Norris Trophy-level play has proved that.
While Weber proves to be his ever-consistent self, it’s up to Poile and now Peter Laviolette to make it all pay off and bring Nashville a Stanley Cup. At the very least, they don’t have to sweat the blue line.
If there’s one player in the Nashville Predators organization who might benefit immediately from Peter Laviolette coaching the team, it’s forward Filip Forsberg.
At 19 years old, Forsberg is heading into technically his third pro season. Two seasons ago, he played five games for the Predators after they acquired him in a trade with the Washington Capitals. Last season, he spent the bulk of his time in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals. There he played 47 games and had 15 goals with 34 assists.
While he played in 13 games with the Predators last season scoring one goal with five points, he averaged just over 11 minutes of ice time per game. Injuries helped slow him down a bit, but we didn’t really seen what Forsberg could do while under Barry Trotz, but Laviolette could provide the change he needs.
Forsberg will have the opportunity to show what made the Caps pick him 11th overall in the 2012 Draft, but it won’t be easy. Competition in Predators training camp at center should be fierce with a mix of veterans and youth.
The Preds added Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribeiro, and Derek Roy in free agency and made the middle of the ice a bit crowded in Music City. Throw in fellow Swede Calle Jarnkrok, who they acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in the David Legwand trade, and the competition just amongst the new guys will be stiff. Never mind Matt Cullen, Paul Gaustad, and eventually Mike Fisher (out 4-6 months with a torn Achilles) who are already established there.
Having more than a few centers wasn’t an issue for Laviolette in Philadelphia, so it’s possible Forsberg might find a way to push his way onto the big club’s roster on the wing. That said, Forsberg is the youngest player out of the group. Jarnkrok is 22 while the trio of Jokinen, Ribeiro, and Roy have loads of NHL experience.
With how things are set up, it seems like Forsberg is almost destined to return to Milwaukee and continue his development there. That puts it on him to show what he can do in September and prove potential can win out over age and experience.