Editor's Note: Jason Zito helps to run On The Forecheck, SB Nation's Nashville Predators site. Jason was gracious enough to sit down and answer our
three four questions about the Preds new lineup, their Voltron centres and the youth balance movement.
C&B: The Predators are 4th in the league in points percentage so far, mostly based on the strength of 4th-best goaltending in the league, but they're vastly better at at even strength so far, lingering in the middle of the pack, yet they're really bad on special teams so far ranking 24th in shots for on the power play. Is this all just another defend Fort Pekka Rinne team, or is there more to look forward to?
OTF: Defend Fort Pekka Rinne...I like that. The power play has been a real sore spot for this team so far, but even with that poor performance they're still hanging on to first in the Central. We'll take it. We're all certainly hoping there's more to look forward to...with so many new players and a new coach, they just might need a little more time to come together as a unit. James Neal might've made some lifetime fans with his hat trick against Chicago last week, Filip Forsberg is off to a great start, and we've seen flashes from Mike Ribeiro and a couple others. It would be nice to see a little more consistency though.
C&B: Most media outlets seem to think the Predators are a particularly young team, yet they only have a couple younger/inexperienced players in key roles, namely Filip Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok and Seth Jones, but even those three are seeing limited, protected minutes. Is there a fundamental misunderstanding of the Predators' makeup, or is this a case of sports writers picking a narrative and sticking to it?
OTF: Well, Forsberg is on the top line now, with no signs of going anywhere. That's a pretty big jump for a guy who many people thought was a toss-up to make the team in the offseason. And there are other guys who are young-ish, like Craig Smith (25), Ryan Ellis (23) and of course Roman Josi (24) who are major contributors. Guys like Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, James Neal and Mike Fisher are the names most people outside of Nashville know, but it's definitely a mixed bag.
C&B: I don't know if you've seen The Lego Movie, but when I look at the Preds' depth chart at centre, I'm reminded of MetalBeard. Can that group keep it together long enough to remain more than a fringe playoff team in the Western Conference?
OTF: We have a lot of "depth" at center. Being that there aren't a ton of #1 centers available (and the ones that are refuse to come here), I think the Preds did a pretty good job filling out the position.Will it be enough to make the playoffs? Right now I'm cautiously optimistic. With Ribeiro and Roy on 1-year deals and Mike Fisher possibly considering retirement, I'm more concerned about next year (and the year after). Perhaps they'll deal some of the depth on D? Time will tell.
C&B: Oh yeah, one more, if you'll entertain it: can the Predators salvage anything from Viktor Stalberg?
OTF: It seems highly unlikely somebody would trade for him, so they better hope they can. He's kind of a frustrating player to watch because you see flashes of what he can do, and it can be really exciting...he just hasn't been able to put it all together here. I'll be very interested to see what happens when he has to come back from his "conditioning assignment" in 2 weeks.