The chaos that was October…
- Updated: November 2, 2009
In the past month, the Nashville Predators have played 13 games, called up seven players from their minor league affiliate in Milwaukee, reassigned six back to Milwaukee, lost their captain to injury, switched goalies mid-game three times, endured back-to-back 6-1 and 6-0 losses, blew a 3-0 lead, a 4-3 lead and a 5-4 lead all in the same game, and scored the least number of goals in the Western Conference.
Apparently, a perfect formula for a 6-6-1 record.
In a true illustration of Jekyll and Hyde, the 2009-10 Predators have played up to their potential on certain nights, and then just flat-out phoned it in on others. But that’s exactly why it’s so frustrating as a fan who watches this team game-in and game-out. We know what they’re capable of, so why don’t they play like that every night? A 3-1 loss when they’ve fired off 40 shots and their goalie has stood on his head is a lot easier to swallow than the same 3-1 loss when only 13 shots were generated and they spent the entire 60 minutes chasing the other team around the rink like it was a pee wee game.
For those of us who watch this team every single night, it’s no secret that they’re better than the national media gives them credit for. Shea Weber (a/k/a “The Beast”) is not only second on the team in points (9) but is also tied for the league lead in goals by a defenseman (5). JP Dumont leads the team in points (11) despite missing four games with concussion-like symptoms and is even the leagues highest scorer for players with less than 10 games played. Pekka Rinne, last year’s should-have-been Calder Trophy winner, has battled back from his 0-3-0 start to finish the month at 4-3-0. In addition, if you take away the 6-1 and 6-0 losses, Rinne would be second in the league with a .934 save percentage.
That’s not even mentioning the fact that sophomore Patric Hornqvist, who failed miserably as a top line winger last season, looks like a totally different player this season, posting three goals (two of them game-winners) and five assists.
Or Jerred Smithson who, out of seemingly nowhere, is tied for the lead among Nashville forwards in goals (3), one of them being a gorgeous short handed tally that proved to be the game-winner against Minnesota.
Looking back on a .500 month is easy to do when your team won four of it’s last five to get to .500, as opposed to the other way around. But, just two weeks ago, the Predators were playing some of the worst hockey in the franchise’s 12 year history. Not only were the losses lopsided, but the score was indicative of the way they were playing. No one was hustling, defensemen were out of position, forwards weren’t back checking and only a handful of players were busting their tails on every shift.
Giving new meaning the term “inept power play,” the Predators went 0-for-32 during a stretch that started on opening night and ended October 22 against Ottawa. And yes, inside that cavern of incompotence was a span of seven games without a single man-advantage tally (23 chances).
Martin Erat, the $4.5 million man, has just one point so far, is a minus-9 and is on pace for a HUGE eight point season (which, by the way, breaks down to $562,500/point). Oh, and that one point he has? It was a goal that actually went off a defenseman in front of the net so, really, he’s earned zero points this season. And, almost as if to prove they don’t need him or his monstrous salary, Nashville is 2-0-0 without Erat in the lineup.
The six game slide from October 10-21 caused a lot of Predators fans to call for Head Coach Barry Trotz’s head (including this guy) but, per usual, the organization stuck by their coach to see if the team could weather the storm. Trotz, with a career record of 370-348-60-55 through the month of October, is the only head coach the Nashville franchise has ever had and looks to have survived another scare, rumored mainly because of his long time friendship with Predators General Manager David Poile. But, in a season where the Preds are rumored to be actively looking for a big name acquisition to help boost ticket sales (Phil Kessel, Alexander Frolov), one has to wonder just how short Trotz’s leash is.
If the 3-1 Chicago loss on October 15 had’ve been a 6-1 loss, making it the third consecutive game the Preds would’ve allowed six goals, would that have been enough? If the Ottawa game on October 22, where Nashville squandered a 3-0 lead in the 3rd period only to eek out a 6-5 win in overtime, had’ve indeed been a loss, would that have been enough? Or what about the 6-0 loss at Dallas on October 14? If that game had been at home, would that have been enough?
All the “what if’s” are silenced for now, with the team winning four of it’s last five and, even in some of the recent losses, seemingly having righted the ship.
The bottom line is, there are plenty of good things to rally around and, of course, there’s plenty of areas in need of improvement. But there’s one thing, above all else, that fans want and that’s consistency. We know this team can be a playoff calibur team. We see flashes of brilliance and chemistry often enough to know that. It’s the times they come out uninspired, uncommitted or unwilling to shoot the puck that get the fan base up in arms.
If you get beat by a better team, fine, but you’d better go down swinging.
Or shooting in this case.