Mikael Granlund

What’s wrong with the Predators?

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When the Nashville Predators got off to an 8-3-1 start no one was really surprised. Most people expected them to be a good team this year, so why would those positive results be shocking? Well, on the flip side, this six-game losing streak they’re currently riding is pretty shocking. But why are they struggling so badly?

This slump started with an ugly 9-3 loss in Denver on Nov. 7. Since then, the Predators haven’t won a game and they’ve collected just one of a possible 12 points in the standings. As you’d imagine, they’ve been tumbling down the Western Conference standings. Only the Minnesota Wild (20 points) and the Los Angeles Kings (19 points) have fewer points than Nashville’s 21 (the Preds have a game in hand on both those teams though).

You don’t have to look far to see why they’re slumping so badly. They’ve given up at least five goals in four of the six losses. When they’ve held the opponent to two goals or fewer, they’ve only managed to score once. Yeah, that’s an issue.

The really strange thing about the boatload of goals that this team is giving up, is that they actually have lowest XGA in the league at 31.97, according to Natural Stat Trick. So the fact that they’re giving up so many goals while seemingly limiting their opponents’ quality scoring chances has to be concerning.

Pekka Rinne‘s been pulled in each of his last two starts and his individual stats aren’t flattering either. He owns a respectable 8-4-2 record, but his goals-against-average of 3.06 and his save percentage of .889 aren’t great by any means. Is the 37-year-old just showing his age or is this slide only temporary? Will they have to turn to Juuse Saros more often? These are all valid questions that need to be answered soon.

The goalies need to come up with some saves to bail out their team, but that doesn’t excuse the performance from everyone else on the team.

But blaming the goalie for Thursday night’s loss to the Canucks isn’t fair. The Predators surrendered five power play goals to Vancouver during the 6-3 defeat.

“Things aren’t bouncing our way right now, but at the same time, we’re not making it easy on ourselves either,” Matt Duchene said after the game, per NHL.com. “Whenever things are tough sledding like right now, you’ve got to do whatever you can to give yourself a chance. You take that many penalties, I don’t know how many we took, six or seven, I don’t know what it was. They got three or four great bounces on the power play and just put pucks to the net.”

Even though the Preds are 10th in the NHL in goals scored, they’ve seen a lot of their high-end offensive players go cold in the last few games. Here’s the statistical rundown for their top forwards:

— Matt Duchene: Six points in his last seven games, but he’s found the back of the net just once in his last five outings.
Filip Forsberg: No points in his last three games.
Ryan Johansen: One goal in his last 17 games.
Viktor Arvidsson: No goals in seven games and he’s scored just once in his last 12 contests.
Mikael Granlund: One goal in his last 16 games.

Those are some heavy offensive hitters that have gone cold in the goal department. You won’t win regularly if that many top players go quiet.

Overall, it’s quite clear that the Preds need some serious work in a lot of different areas. There’s no denying that the team is talented, but what happens if this drought lasts a little longer? Does head coach Peter Laviollette get the Mike Babcock treatment? For now, it looks like management will give everyone the benefit of the doubt before they make a major trade or a firing.

At least the group still seems to believe they can get this straightened out.

“We’ve got to stick together. It’s a tough time,” forward Rocco Grimaldi said after Tuesday’s loss to Winnipeg. “It’s a rough patch. But honestly everyone goes through it. You look at St. Louis last year and remember where they were, so it’s just something everyone goes through. And if you’re a great team, how do you respond to this? How do you guys grow closer together? How do you guys grow stronger together through this? So this is something we’ve just got to make it band us together and not break us apart.”

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

NHL Fantasy Hockey: Fabbri, Pageau highlight this week’s top adds

Welcome to our weekly Adds/Drops column, where I focus on highlighting players you should consider grabbing or be concerned about in fantasy leagues. As always, the goal here isn’t to recommend 10 players you must add and five players that need to be dropped. Context is everything and the context of each league is different. What this is instead is a guideline so that if you’re looking to make a change, you have potential players to target and if you see players I’ve suggested to drop, you can evaluate your potential alternates.

Players Worth Adding

Nick Paul, Senators – C/LW: Paul has gotten tastes of The Show for years now, but coming into this season he was far from established as a regular in the NHL. In 2018-19, he had a goal and an assist in 20 games while averaging a mere 8:28 minutes and the season prior to that he had a goal in 11 games while averaging 7:54 minutes. However, when he played in the minors, he was developing into a serious offensive threat, to the point where he scored 16 goals and 39 points in 43 AHL contests last season. Now he might finally be ready to apply those skills to the NHL. Over his last six games he’s scored two goals and six points in six games while averaging 17:03 minutes. The rebuilding Senators have given him a chance to prove himself and he seems to have taken advantage of it. Obviously, he’s still a significant risk, but it’s also worth noting that he’s only owned in 2% of Yahoo leagues, so if you’re feeling aggressive, you can scoop him up now in the hope that this is just the start of something bigger.

Cal Clutterbuck, Islanders – RW: Clutterbuck is a bit of an interesting one from a short-term perspective. He’s spent his entire career as a bottom-six forward who makes his presence known physically and can chip in a bit offensively, but he’s logged over 16 minutes in each of his last six games. To put that in perspective, his average playing time over his entire 457-game tenure with the Islanders is 13:18 minutes. He’s done more offensively while his playing time has been up, scoring two goals and four points over those six games, which is pretty nice given that he’s also one of the best sources of hits in the league. His uptick in playing time is probably not going to last and it is worth noting that the Islanders have dealt with more than their fair share of forward injuries lately. Still, for now he’s an interesting pickup.

Tony DeAngelo, Rangers – D: DeAngelo had 30 points in 61 games in his 2018-19 breakout campaign and he’s been building off that this season. He has five goals and 13 points in 13 contests and he’s hot right now with at least a point in each of his last four games. If you look at his average ice time this season, you’ll see it’s at 17:58 minutes, down from 19:20 minutes in 2018-19, but that shouldn’t be taken as a warning sign. He only logged 8:09 minutes on Oct. 18th and that’s skewed down his average. From Oct. 10th onward, he’s averaged 18:49 minutes in 10 contests.

Jared McCann, Penguins – C/LW: McCann wasn’t a major offensive threat when he was with the Florida Panthers, but he was a young forward with upside. When the Penguins acquired him during the 2018-19 campaign, it offered him a fresh start and even the potential to play alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Malkin missed a major chunk of the season due to injury, but since returning on Nov. 2nd, McCann has been getting minutes with him. In fact, McCann has a goal and four points over his last two games with Malkin factoring in on three of those points. As long as he’s playing with Malkin, McCann should have some fantasy value.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Senators – C: Pageau isn’t exactly a major offensive threat most of the time, but he’s red hot right now. He’s on a four-game goal streak and five-game point streak. That’s brought him up to eight goals and 12 points in 16 contests this season, but don’t expect him to come close to maintaining that pace. Once he starts to cool down, you’ll want to re-evaluate owning him.

David Krejci, Bruins – C: Krejci had 20 goals and 73 points in 81 games last season, which made him a pretty compelling player to own in most fantasy leagues. What it didn’t do is convince fantasy owners that he would be a great option this season. Krejci was only drafted in 6% of leagues and his average draft position was 164.1. Now a lot of that has to do with him only having center eligibility and in fact, Krejci is a good example of just how deep that position is. Nevertheless, after shaking off an early season upper-body injury, he’s gotten on track with two goals and six points in six games. Even as a center, he should be good enough to be a factor on a lot of teams. He’s currently owned in 24% of Yahoo leagues.

[For more fantasy sports analysis, check out Rotoworld]

Jared Spurgeon, Wild – D: Spurgeon set a career-high last season with 43 points, but that was hardly an anomaly for him given that he had 38 points in 76 contests in 2016-17 and 37 points in 61 games in 2017-18, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that this season should produce more of the same. Certainly he’s on that track with two goals and 10 points in 17 contests. Even if that’s not enough to appeal to you, he’s still worthy of consideration as a short-term pickup given how hot he is. He’s scored a goal and six points in his last seven games.

Tyler Bertuzzi, Red Wings – LW/RW: The Red Wings are a terrible team this season, but there are a few silver linings on this squad. Bertuzzi is one of the main ones. He had six goals and 16 points in 19 games while averaging 19:32 minutes. He’s owned in 52% of Yahoo leagues, so the window on scooping him up is closing, but if you still have the option to grab him, you should seriously consider doing so.

Bryan Rust, Penguins – LW/RW: Rust suffered a hand injury in the preseason that prevented him from making his season debut until Oct. 26th, but he’s already made up for that lost time. He’s recorded at least a point in each of his six contests, giving him five goals and seven points in six games. It certainly doesn’t hurt that, like McCann, he’s been playing alongside Malkin recently. That makes this potentially more than just a hot streak, but even if it ends up being just that, he’s still worth considering as a short-term grab.

Robby Fabbri, Red Wings – LW/RW: Fabbri had 18 goals and 37 points in 72 games with St. Louis as a rookie in 2015-16, but injuries have proven to be a significant roadblock in recent years. Fast forward to 2019-20 and he’s healthy, but the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues just didn’t have a role for him. With that in mind, trading him to Detroit last week was something of a favor. It gives him a fresh start on a team with openings for young players. Fabbri has taken advantage so far with two goals and three points in two contests with Detroit.

Players You May Want To Drop

Nick Bonino, Predators – C: Bonino has been a pleasant surprise so far this season with eight goals and 13 points in 17 contests. Rather than being propelled by a major hot streak, he’s been fairly consistent in his contributions. While a hat trick on Oct. 29th certainly has skewed his goals total, it’s also true that he’s only been held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games once this season (Oct. 5-8). That said, his shooting percentage is at 25%, which is way higher than normal and doesn’t seem sustainable. His PDO and IPP are also similarly high, which are potential warning signs that he’s due for a regression. If you picked him up early and have ridden the wave then I wouldn’t advise dropping him at this time, but I do believe that you should at least see if you can cash him in for someone more likely to deliver long-term. As it is, there’s a good chance that he’s peaked in terms of value this season and will likely trickle down from here.

Erik Haula, Hurricanes – C/LW: After being limited to 15 games with Vegas last season due to a knee injury, Haula got a fresh start in Carolina in 2019-20 and was taking full advantage of it. He scored eight goals and 11 points through 14 contests, but the same knee that derailed him in 2018-19 is threatening to do so again. At first the injury didn’t sound too significant, but Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour went from describing him as day-to-day to saying that’s not the case. With Haula out indefinitely now, it’s unfortunately time to evaluate your alternatives.

Alex Galchenyuk, Penguins – C/LW: The Penguins got Galchenyuk in the Phil Kessel trade, but so far he hasn’t done much with his new team. It hasn’t helped that he’s missed time due to injury, but even while healthy he’s been limited to three assists in eight games. He’s averaging a modest 14:56 minutes per game, though he has seen some ice time with Crosby and Malkin. If you took him at the start of the season hoping that moving to the Penguins would give him a boost, it’s fair to drop him, but he is still interesting enough to warrant keeping an eye on.

Mikael Granlund, Predators – LW/RW: Granlund has fallen quick and hard offensively. He peaked in 2016-17 and 2017-18 with 69 and 67 points respectively, but last season he dipped to 54 points and so far in 2019-20 he has just two goals and four points in 17 games. He hasn’t recorded a single point in his last 12 contests and has fired an underwhelming 23 shots over that span. I think he’s fair to say he’s capable of more than this, but he’s not worth holding onto during this cold streak. If he starts to heat up then at that point he’ll be worthy of re-evaluation.

Ondrej Palat, Lightning – LW: Palat had two goals and five points in the span of four games from Oct. 26-Nov. 1, which drew some fantasy owners to him, but that hot streak has fizzled out. It’s worth noting that outburst corresponded with a stretch where he was averaging 18:49 minutes, but he has no points in his last two contests while logging 14:14 minutes and then 13:37 minutes. Palat is a solid secondary scorer who will have some hot streaks like that and periods of time where the Lightning lean on him more than usual, but his overall value over the course of a season is somewhat suspect in standard fantasy leagues.

If you’re looking for fantasy hockey information, Rotoworld is a great resource. You can check the player news for the latest information on any player and insight into their fantasy outlook.

Every week Michael Finewax looks ahead at the schedule and offers team-by-team notes in The Week Ahead. I have a weekly Fantasy Nuggets column where I basically talk about whatever’s captured my attention that week. Gus Katsaros does an Analytics columns if you want to get into detailed statistical analysis. If you’re interested in rookies and prospects, there’s a weekly column on that written by McKeen’s Hockey.

For everything fantasy hockey, check out Rotoworld’s Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @RyanDadoun on Twitter.

Early save of the year candidate from Wild’s Dubnyk

This is just the first game of the Minnesota Wild’s season (and second night of 2019-20 from around the NHL), and Devan Dubnyk might have already made the save of the year.

Dubnyk robbed Mikael Granlund on a sweet one-timer, which seems a little rude since Granlund was his teammate on the Wild not that long ago. The Predators ended up getting the first goal of the game via Ryan Ellis later in the second period, but that was still impressive stuff. That contest is currently airing on NBCSN.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

You can watch the save in video form above this post’s headline, and GIF form below:

Dubnyk wasn’t the only goalie who made a great save so far on Thursday. Sergei Bobrovsky endeared himself to Florida Panthers fans by making a nice stop in his first game as a very well-compensated starting goalie:

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Previewing the 2019-20 Nashville Predators

(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, looking at whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or worse: Dumping P.K. Subban‘s contract for little return to clear salary cap space for Matt Duchene is an interesting move because it deals from a position of strength (defense) to fill a position of need (forward). The Predators had one of the worst power play units the NHL has seen in quite some time and desperately needed another playmaker up front. Duchene’s contract carries some long-term risk, but it satisfies a short-term need and they still have a really good defense even without Subban. Duchene’s addition, combined with a full season from Mikael Granlund (who should be better than he was after joining the team from Minnesota at the trade deadline) makes this forward group significantly deeper. That probably makes the team a little better overall.

Strengths: It is still on the back end. Even without Subban the Predators still have an outstanding defense with Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm as the established veterans, while also having 2016 first-round pick Dante Fabbro starting to emerge. Behind them, the team has No. 1 caliber goalies in Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. Rinne is 36 and is going to start passing the torch to Saros, but he hasn’t really slowed down much and is still capable of playing at a high level.

Weaknesses: Until proven otherwise it is the power play unit because there was nothing productive about this unit a year ago. They finished the regular season 31st in success rate, were one of the worst power play units in the league at getting shots on goal, and then followed up that performance by getting completely shut out in their Round 1 loss to the Dallas Stars. You don’t need a great power play unit to win, but you still need to get something from it. The Predators received nothing from theirs all year.

[MORE: X-factor | Under Pressure | Three questions]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): Peter Laviolette is an outstanding coach with a great track record of success in the NHL. He wins a lot, he has taken three different teams to the Stanley Cup Final, and his name is on it once. You can do a heck of a lot worse than him behind the bench, and if you are going to fire someone with that resume you better be darn sure you are getting a clear upgrade. But coaches like him get fired all the time, especially if ownership thinks the team has become stale. The Predators may not be at that point just yet, but the 2018-19 season was a bit of a regression and a small (emphasis on small) step in the wrong direction. Because of that we will put Laviolette’s hot seat rating at a 5, with a chance to move in either direction.

Three Most Fascinating Players: Juuse Saros, Mikael Granlund, and Viktor Arvidsson are three players worth watching.

Saros just because he is going to start seeing more playing time in net. He is probably already good enough to be a clear No. 1 on a significant number of teams around the league and gives the Predators a great 1A and 1B situation with Rinne. He has a .920 save percentage so far in the NHL and is the team’s long-term solution in goal.

Granlund was a huge addition at the trade deadline from the Minnesota Wild but really struggled after the trade, managing just two goals and five assists in 22 games (regular season and playoffs combined). He is better than that and has shown the ability to be a 70-point player in the league. If the Predators can get that version of him it could be a game-changer for their offense.

Speaking of game-changers on their offense, Arvidsson has been one of the most underrated goal-scorers in the league since he became a regular in the Predators’ lineup. The 2018-19 season was his best performance to date, scoring 34 goals in only 58 games. That is close to a 50-goal pace over 82 games. Can he repeat that performance this season?

Playoffs or lottery: Definitely the playoffs, it is just a matter of what kind of playoff team they are going to be. On paper, this still looks like a Stanley Cup contender and potentially one of the best teams in the NHL. They had the same look a year ago only to take a small step back during the regular season and then quietly exit in Round 1 of the playoffs.

More
Predators being bold with term, but are they being smart?
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Previewing the 2019-20 Minnesota Wild

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(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, looking at whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or worse: If we are comparing the Wild right now to where they were at the beginning of the 2018-19 season it would be difficult to argue that they are better following the in-season trades of Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, and Charlie Coyle. But if we are comparing them to where they were at the end of the 2018-19 season they might be a little better. Mats Zuccarello is another big-money player on the wrong side of 30, but he is still good. Mikko Koivu and Matthew Dumba are returning after missing significant portions of the 2018-19 season. There is also some potential with younger players to maybe take a step forward. The important question is whether or not those improvements are enough to get them back in the playoffs and help them return to contention in the Western Conference.

Strengths: The top half of their defense is really good with Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and Dumba leading the way. Suter is the biggest name and the one that gets most of the attention because he never seems to leave the ice, but don’t overlook the other two. Spurgeon just signed a seven-year contract extension to remain with the team and has been a criminally underrated player for most of his career. Dumba, meanwhile, brings a ton of offensive potential from the blue line and was in the middle of a breakout season until an injury sustained in a fight sidelined him for most of the season. Behind them they have an above average goalie in Devan Dubnyk serving as the last line of defense. When he is on his game, he can carry the team and has been one of the league’s most productive goalies since joining the team in them middle of the 2014-15 season.

Weaknesses: The Wild have a lot of really good veteran players and some young players that could become really good players. What they are lacking is great players. They don’t really have anyone that can be a difference-making, impact player that puts the team on their back for a game (or a stretch of games) and carries it. That kind of limits what your team’s ceiling is among the league’s hierarchy of contenders. The other concern is the age of the core. With Spurgeon now re-signed, they now have six players over the age of 30 signed for at least two more seasons. Several of those players are signed beyond the age of 35. How will all of those players hold up during those contracts?

[MORE: Under Pressure | Three Questions | X-Factor]

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): Bruce Boudreau is entering his fourth season as the Wild’s head coach and is already going to be working with his third different general manager. That is kind of shocking, not only because the Wild have gone through that much change in their front office, but that the head coach has outlasted all of it. We will put his hot seat rating as a 6 out of 10. He does not have one foot out the door, but he is probably not totally secure, either.

Three Most Fascinating Players: Jason Zucker, Zach Parise, and Kevin Fiala are the three players worth keeping a close eye on this season.

One of the more bizarre aspects of Paul Fenton’s one year of error in Minnesota was his apparent burning desire to trade Zucker. He has not only been one of the team’s best two-way players and a popular member of the community, but Fenton was also trying to sell him at what was probably his lowest possible value. A similar move with Niederreiter went about as poorly as could have been expected, and repeating the same mistake with Zucker would have been crushing. As it stands now, Zucker is back in Minnesota and should be poised to have a bounce back year offensively.

Speaking of bounce back years, Parise went through one of his own during the 2018-19 season and saw pretty significant improvements in his production across the board. He is almost certainly never going to be a 40-goal, 90-point player again, but was his bounce back a one-year outlier in what has been a steady decline in recent years? Or can the Wild expect similar production this season?

Of all the players Fenton acquired during the 2018-19 season the one that seems most intriguing is Fiala. He is still only 23 years old, has already shown 20-goal ability in the NHL, and has some fairly promising underlying numbers to his game. He is a better player than what he showed immediately after the trade.

Playoffs or lottery: There is a short-term path back to the playoffs for this team, but a lot of things need to go right in order for that to happen. Realistic outcome is this looks like a team that finishes somewhere between 7th and 11th in the Western Conference. Not good enough to truly contend, but not bad enough to play its way into the highest draft lottery odds.

More
Do Wild have short-term path back to playoffs?
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.