Nashville's Trouble In Generating And Preventing Shots

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 15: Marcus Johnasson #90 of the Washington Capitals takes a shot past Kevin Klein #8 of the Nashville Predators and hits the post over the head of goalie Pekka Rinne #35 at Bridgestone Arena on November 15, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

The Nashville Predators have some serious structural issues with the foundation of the team, and it's not just Pekka Rinne's contract causing cracks.  Though the likelihood of Nashville seeing value out of Rinne's contract is near-zero...

For his contract to be about about equal in value to other goaltenders making $4 million a year or above, all Rinne has to do is play at the Hasek level for 65+ games a year for 7 years.

...it's in front of the giant Finn where Nashville is faltering.  Things are so bad that Rinne is on a record-setting pace this season.

Nashville ranks 13th in the Western Conference and 28th in the NHL in Fenwick tied at .420, ahead of only Anaheim and Minnesota.  Seven regulars and the hired knuckles are below 40% Fenwick Tied:

Player Fenwick Tied %
Jonathan Blum 0.391
Mike Fisher 0.377
Kevin Klein 0.376
Nick Spaling 0.375
Matt Halischuk 0.352
Jordin Tootoo 0.351
Jerred Smithson 0.322
Brian McGrattan 0.250

If this keeps up, Rinne's going to need to play like Hasek just to keep this team somewhat competitive.

The Predators are currently last in the NHL shot differential at -7.1 shots per game, one of the worst marks in the NHL since the lockout.

Year Team  SD/G
2008-09 Florida Panthers -5.3
2006-07 Washington Capitals -5.3
2009-10 Florida Panthers -5.7
2010-11 Minnesota Wild -5.8
2005-06 Columbus Blue Jackets -6.3
2011-12 Nashville Predators -7.1
2007-08 Atlanta Thrashers -8.1

The Predators have outshot their opponents just three times this season: Anaheim by 9 shots, Montreal by 1 and Columbus by 1.  They've tied two opponents:  Los Angeles and Edmonton.  In their other 17 games, they've been outshot by 8.6 shots per game.

This just isn't an issue of shot generation or shot prevention, it's both.  The Preds have generated just 26 shots per game, tied with Edmonton for 28th in the league, and have allowed 33.1 shots per game, 30th in the league.  Both of these numbers are a low point for the Predators since the lockout:

Year SF/G SA/G SD/G
2005-06 29.0 32.5 -3.5
2006-07 27.6 31.2 -3.6
2007-08 29.6 29.8 -0.2
2008-09 29.0 29.4 -0.4
2009-10 30.6 29.2 1.4
2010-11 28.8 30.6 -1.8
2011-12 26.0 33.1 -7.1

Part of the problem is talent drain.  David Poile lost J.P. Dumont, Cody Franson, Marcel Goc, Shane O'Brien, Steve Sullivan and Joel Ward from last year's team, and all four were at or near break-even in the possession metrics.  Last year, the Preds lost Jason Arnott, a consistent possession center, and replaced him with Matthew Lombardi, who suffered a season-ending concussion 2 games into the season.  They also lost defenseman Dan Hamhuis, another quality possession player, to free agency. 

This enormous drain of talent has been replaced through free agency by Jack Hillen, Sergei Kostitsyn, Aaron Johnson and Ryan Parent.  The fiscally-limited Predators have instead placed their bets on young talent from within the organization.  Some, like Craig Smith, have paid immediate dividends, while others, like Blum, Hailschuk, Klein and Spaling, have struggled.  Even Blake Geoffrion's Fenwick numbers are barely above 40% and he's the worst forward on the team by his Corsi number.

The Predators have bet on young talent, a bet that Edmonton fans know well.  While it might pay off in the long run, the Predators are going to experience some severe growing pains in the meantime.  Winning without outshooting is hard to do in the NHL and Improvement in shot differential rests at the feet of this young core of players and failure, well, failure means a trip to the bottom of the standings.

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