In hockey, a great idea on paper doesn’t always work out on the ice.
Brett Hull and Wayne Gretzky didn’t set the NHL on fire during their brief run together with the Blues. The days of Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne in Colorado are best forgotten (and many people have done just that). Peter Forsberg and the Predators mixed like water and oil.
So, there was always the risk that the Kyle Turris trade wouldn’t work out for Nashville. Instead, it’s been a smash success beyond just about anyone’s expectations. Even GM David Poile would probably admit that he didn’t expect this sort of boost.
As The Tennessean’s Adam Vingan notes, Nashville sports a 13-2-2 record with Turris in the lineup, the best mark in the NHL since Nov. 11.
In one’s mind, you could picture Turris blending well with two forwards who’ve shown promise but hadn’t yet broken through in young forward Kevin Fiala and veteran sniper Craig Smith. Their production really has been a sight to behold.
Turris in 17 games: four goals, 13 assists for 17 points. He’s currently on a seven-game point streak (two goals, eight assists).
Fiala in 17 games: eight goals, eight assists for 16 points. Fiala is on a seven-game point streak, and it’s goal-heavy with six tallies and three helpers.
Smith in 17 games: eight goals, eight assists for 16 points.
It’s a line that’s checking off just about every box you can ask for when it comes to driving play and dominating opponents.
While Fiala’s getting over that hideous leg injury in an inspiring way (note: it doesn’t seem like that derailed the promising forward, a real concern considering his speed), Smith’s evolution might be the most enticing part of this line’s rise.
As The Tennessean’s Joe Rexrode reports, Turris has been impressed with Smith, and not just by his skill.
“One thing I didn’t realize was how strong he is,” Turris said. “Like, he’s a really strong guy. He has a great shot and I knew he was fast, but the way he competes and battles along the walls, he’s a force.”
Smith, 28, showed some great efforts at times during the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, including generating nine shots on goal in Games 2 and 3. Still, he was limited to a goal and an assist during that series, another missed opportunity for him to gain more mainstream attention.
It all sets the stage for the Predators to be a frightening matchup.
If you’re coaching the opposing team, do you key on Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson, or Turris’ line? When everything’s running on all cylinders, Nashville could conceivably boast two lines that are first-line-caliber and top four defensemen who could be featured blueliners on most other NHL teams.
Now, it’s still December, and one can almost guarantee that Turris, Smith, and Fiala will see their struggles. There might even be enough cold streaks to break up this trio from time to time.
Generally speaking, Peter Laviolette’s bright enough not to mess with something that works, and so far this trio has passed every test with flying colors.
The Predators currently lead the Central Division and Western Conference considering the games in hand edge they have on the Blues, but it’s all in service of trying to win the Stanley Cup after finishing two wins short last time. The Turris trade clearly puts them in a better position to do just that.
It might just make them a favorite.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.