Despite goals allowed, goalies not at fault for emabrassing loss…

It wasn’t exactly what Colin Wilson envisioned when he was daydreaming about his first ever NHL game.

The Nashville Predators laid an egg against the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. The final score? 6-1. For those that remember that absolute debacle that was the Thrashers game last season where the Preds lost 7-2, this game was right up there with that one. The only thing that made this game slightly better was that the Atlanta game was a sold out house – on a Saturday night, no less – and the college football season had just ended. Sports fans were looking for a place to invest their “fandom.” And the Predators turned them away so they could find a high school volleyball game instead.

But I digress…

Only a never-say-die attitude by Marcel Goc, an “I’m gonna bust my tail even with 40 seconds left” work ethic by

Fans came out in droves to see Colin Wilson's during the pre-game skate.

Fans came out in droves to see Colin Wilson's during the pre-game skate.

Wilson and one meaningless goal by captain Jason Arnott was to show for what otherwise was a wretched game by the home team.

Sure the Preds were credited with 41 shots on goal. Sure goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis were probably to blame for only two of the goals. And sure the Preds put more pucks on net during their seven power plays than they usually do in most games as a whole (17), but to play that bad defensively, and make that many mental errors, and to get zero offensive support from a 1/4th of the payroll (*cough* *cough* *Leggy & Erat* *cough*), and to leave the goaltenders out to dry, and to…

You get the idea.

One fan even said “I hope they get sick tonight thinking about how they ruined Colin Wilson’s first NHL game. He only gets one and they ruined it!”

For someone who only looks at the box score and tries to draw an opinion from that alone, there might not be a goaltending controversy anymore. But, for those who witnessed the game in-person, it was obvious that only one goal could be blamed on Rinne and then, in mop-up duty, only one goal could be blamed on Ellis. Thus, there is still very much a goaltending controversy in Nashville.

Unfortunately another controversy is what to do with the last original Predator David Legwand and the $4.5 million man Martin Erat. The two have basically been married since Paul Kariya was here but Head Coach Barry Trotz, in his post-game press conference, said that he had “nothing to lose” by splitting them up considering he’s not getting anything from them together.

So what’s to be done of Leggy and Erat? An argument could be made that Legwand has played better than Erat has, especially considering he’s a more defensive-minded player and backchecks well. Legwand also finished with a team-high 86% success rate in the face-off dot on Monday. He’s even among the top 15 in face-off leaders league wide. Erat, on the other hand, has shown next to nothing in his four games so far.

One suggestion had Erat playing on the fourth line. Another suggestion had making Erat a healthy scratch. While some would say that forcing an athlete to not play is the bigger punishment, let’s think about it for a second. Take Erat’s potential skill level and banish him to a line with guys like Ben Guite, Triston Grant or Jordin Tootoo. Then the coaches tell him you have to earn your way back up to one of the top two lines. Not only should he be motivated to get his game back, he should at least be motivated to get off a line that limits him offensively.

Scratching him, on the other hand, just allows him to sit up in the press box and think about how poorly he’s played. Which, believe me, is fine once in a while, but sticking him guys who are less-offensively gifted and forcing him to fight to get back to the promised land just seems like a more unorthodox way to go.

And, when you’ve heard the same voice your entire career, an unorthodox approach might just be all you need.

So, things to take away from Monday night’s game: Erat needs to start earning his $4.5 million salary cap hit (especially while JP Dumont is out), Wilson showed a lot of good things out there (too bad he didn’t have any support), Goc continues to be Nashville’s best player without a point and the Preds are 0-1 this season when “O Canada” is sung at the Sommet Center.

Make of that what you will. The standings say it makes us 2-2-0.

 

GAME NOTES:
* The top line of Steve Sullivan, Arnott, Dumont and Patric Hornqvist are the only Predators forwards with points so far this season. Matter of fact, until Dan Hamhuis registered an assist on the Arnott goal Monday night, only the top line and defensive pairing (Shea Weber and Ryan Suter) had points.
* Hamhuis, who had an atrocious game, finished with a minus-3 while his partner Kevin Klein finished with an unflattering minus-4. At least one of them was on the ice for every even strength Edmonton goal.
* Edmonton goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers made 40 saves but don’t get carried away with his performance. Other than a handful of opportunities, most of his saves were of the routine variety.
* After only allowing one goal on 41 Buffalo Sabres’ shots on Saturday, Rinne allowed four on just nine shots Monday. He finished out the first period and then was pulled in favor of Ellis.
* Nashville’s next game is on Wednesday on the road against the Dallas Stars.

One Comment

  1. @stackiii

    October 14, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Scratching him, on the other hand, just allows him to sit up in the press box and think about how poorly he’s played. Which, believe me, is fine once in a while, but sticking him guys who are less-offensively gifted and forcing him to fight to get back to the promised land just seems like a more unorthodox way to go.

    And, when you’ve heard the same voice your entire career, an unorthodox approach might just be all you need.

    On the outside looking in, I think it is easy to jump to the conclusion that a player sitting in the box just leaves them with time to think about what they’ve done without suffering any real humiliation. However, I would argue that these are guys who have dedicated their lives to becoming professional athletes…not allowing them to compete at all (and we can argue about whether or not recent lackluster performances count as “competitive edge”) I think sends a stronger message than shifting the player into a defensive role.

    Another piece to this that I think is interesting is what temptation the coach might be forced to resist to make his point with a pro athlete if he did demote a top producer to a more defensive role, particularly as game situations change. For example, if Erat were moved to the 4th line and told he must work his way up, but then late in a game down a goal or two, he gets paired with Legwand and Santorelli because the coach needs production — and let’s face it, the coach wants to win more than he wants to teach lessons — would this not send a mixed message to the player?