The chaos that was October…

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.

Who knew?

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.

Kevin Klein, who was the heir apparent to Greg deVries as the #4 d-man, was on the ice for all six opponent’s goals between October 15 and half of the second period of October 21 (3 games).

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.

9 Comments

  1. Big Kev

    November 2, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    As always, a great read. I too was calling for Trotz’s head. Thursday should be encouraging with the return of 22 & 19. I think Toots is far more valuable to the team than his points totals would suggest. Keep up the good work.

  2. Sesana

    November 2, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    It really is all about the lack of consistency with this team, or the lack thereof. I’ve seen Those Expensive Players earn their money, and I’ve seen them play like they’re on vacation. I’ve seen this team play like Cup contenders, and I’ve seen them play like they’re hoping for first overall draft pick, sometimes in the same game. About the only consistent thing about this team is the power play, which I needn’t say is far from a good thing. Is this a coaching problem overall? Maybe. Almost certainly in regards to the power play. Would canning Trotz help, or would it take a total coaching overhaul like Colorado did? Maybe we really need to be calling up coaches from Milwaukee.

  3. Big Kev

    November 3, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Peter Laviolette is still without a job… I’m just saying.

  4. Bryan

    November 3, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I don’t understand why people call for a firing of Trotz when things go bad. I’ve read analysts from around the league claim he is one of the best because every year he manages to keep the team competitive with less talented players. I think what we need is a new gm. One who can actually succeed in acquiring more talent. He has failed multiple times since the trade deadline to bring in a offensive talent that this team needs so bad.

    • Jeremy K. Gover

      November 3, 2009 at 4:19 pm

      You answered your own question Bryan, when you said “I’ve read analysts from around the league…”

      Those aren’t people that watch this team on a game-by-game basis. They watch them occasionally and look at box scores. To clearly understand what the issue with a team is, you have to have intimate working knowledge and watch every game. Nashville media and Season Ticket Holders are the place to go for that.

      The age-old notion that “he’s done with more with less” is a cop-out, IMO. As I said in the blog, we have plenty of talent on this club. Talent that we’re not given credit for because we play in Nashville, not Vancouver, not Toronto and not New York. If this team played in one of those hockey hot-beds, than getting this much out of these players wouldn’t be acceptable.

      Thus, because standings aren’t on a curve, this team needs to live up to it’s potential every single night.

      Hence, a coaching problem.

  5. JW

    November 3, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    I think that Barry Trotz is a great, calming influence on the bench, but the system stinks in Nashville and should be fired. Case in point: Rich Peverley. He was a scrub in Nashville (albeit a hard working penalty killer and hustling scrub) and he goes to Atlanta and INSTANTLY becomes a point a game guy…and he’s not even playing with Kovalchuk anymore! This is the metaphorical nail in the coffin for me. Don’t be fooled by the recent scoring “surge” that’s happened in the past couple of games, I seem to remember a similar one at the trading deadline last year causing the Preds to stay put and then they just reverted to an inability to put the puck in the goal, or even on net for that matter. BUT, is Poile the victim here? Certainly not. If they were ready to pull the trigger to get Kessel in the offseason, then doesn’t that indicate that they have money to spend on ANYBODY who can put the puck on the net? I think so, even at a cheaper price. But no, they spend $9 million a year on Legwand and Erat who have 4 points and are a combined -14 in 24 combined games. Both need to go, with a thank you letter from the fans for their outstanding prior service to the organization.

  6. Robby

    November 3, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Shea Weber is the best defenseman in the league. period

  7. Brendan

    November 4, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Alleging that firing either Trotz or Poile would improve the performance of the Predators is nothing short of ludicrous. The Nashville Predators are the Calcutta orphan child of the NHL. In terms of ticket sales, they are near the bottom of the league. In terms of corporate sponsor money they are int he bottom of the league. In terms of TV deal income they are in the basement too. What these two men have done is make a team that is competitive every season, and they’ve done it with a payroll of a glorified minor-league club. That is coaching and scouting at its finest. If you want a successful Predators club, the way to do it is to draft and sign cheap, quality players who will grind it out for a season. Guys like Joel ward last season who they can pay under a million dollars and squeeze 35-50 points from. I agree that they need to dump Legwand and Erat, then they can sign 6 quality players at 1.5 million a season. If anyone wants to see and example of why the Predators organization is working, look at Minnesota. The place is hockey-crazy. They have money coming in from every direction. Still, they have had equal or less success than the Preds in their time in the league. For Christ sake, they sell out the Wild arena for the QUARTER FINALS of the state high school hockey tourney up there. Nashville high schools have JOINT-TEAMS with other schools, some have no team. trotz and Poile are near-miracle workers.

  8. Codey Holland

    November 9, 2009 at 2:53 am

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    -No improvement in power play
    -Nobody can carry the puck across the blue line
    -Offensive firepower has no chance to form an identity in Nashville

    It’s time for a different vision. Trotz’s is lost amongst the players.