The Nashville Predators have been well known for their high scoring defensemen, and have continued that fine tradition into this season.
Roman Josi and Shea Weber have earned 41 points between them from the first line of defense, after 30 games.
As great as this is, the defense is relied upon far too much to get the scoring going, which may actually be hindering their progress.
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Defensemen need to defend
Nashville went on a three-game goalless streak at the end of November with the main issue being the mass amount of penalty minutes that they conceded.
During the 213 minutes 47 seconds of not scoring, the Preds conceded 43 minutes worth of penalties.
Due to them being penalized so much, their most relied upon scorers – Josi and Weber – were forced to spend their ice time on the back foot, rather than pushing to the opposition’s blue-line.
To allow the defenders to defend their own net – whilst having a fair crack at goal – the Predators need to acquire a trusted goal scorer who would relieve some of the scoring pressure put on Weber, Josi and their fellow defensemen.
Sharpshooter needed in Tennessee
According to Fox Sports, the Nashville Predators lead the league with their shots on goal differential – recording a +152 after 31 games. This means that they’ve shot the puck on net 152 times more than their combined opponents have shot on them.
The same source shows that the Predators only rank 15th in the league on goals scored; meaning that they’re clearly not making the most of their shots on net.
Nashville by numbers
After their first 30 games this season, Nashville’s top four goal scorers were; James Neal (12), Shea Weber (9), Roman Josi (7) and, Craig Smith (7).
They record 15-10-5 and stand 6th in the Western Conference, with 80 goals for and 79 goals against.
At this time last season, the Golden Jerseys were 4th in their conference with a record of 20-8-2 and a +17 goal difference, having scored 81 goals.
With 2014-15 rookie Forsberg bursting onto the scene and scoring a lot of goals, Weber and Josi were allowed to focus more on defending goaltender Pekka Rinne instead of being relied upon for goals - which clearly had a huge effect on the amount of goals that the Preds have conceded.
Of the 78 goals scored by Nashville players through the first 30 matches this season, 55 have been scored by forwards and 23 have been netted by blue-liners. This means that 29.5-percent of Nashville’s goals have been scored by their defenders.
Compare this to the Montreal Canadiens – who have the highest goal difference of +32 after 30 games. The Habs host notorious point scorers with Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban in their defense, but only have 10.1% of their goals scored by their defenders.
The Carolina Hurricanes have the current highest goal scoring defenseman, Justin Faulk. He has 12 goals after 31 games, which is only three behind his total last season.
Even the Canes only have 24.7-percent of their goals from defensemen. With this in mind, Carolina stands fourth from bottom in the overall standings, after 31 games.
Steven Stamkos to Smashville?
According to Sportrac, Nashville has $11 million of cap space remaining so have the potential to go for one of the big stars who could be going on the free agency.
Pierre LeBrun on TSN 1040 had this to say about the Predators possibly making a move for a forward before the trade deadline:
“Nashville is one of them. They’re so stacked on the blue-line, and they happen to be a team that needs a top-six injection, I think, up front, if the Predators are going to be more serious about contending.
“So they’ll be in an interesting position closer to February 29th, where I think they can do something.”
The biggest name who could be out of contract at the end of the season is Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay Lightning. To date, he is yet to sign a new contract with the club that drafted him back in 2008.
Stamkos is one of the best goalscorers in the NHL. In 524 regular season games, the 25-year-old has 520 points – 287 of which are goals.
USA Today theorizes that Steven Stamkos would be looking for a $10 million-per-season contract if he were to reach the free agency, which appears to be within Nashville’s budget.
However, Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg will become restricted free agents at the end of this season, and Nashville will most likely be looking to sign them both up. This would eat away at the majority of that $11 million cap space.
The Nashville Predators have a solid defense and goaltender but really need to add a top forward to become genuine contenders for the Stanley Cup, or at least for a decent playoff run.
Who knows, Stamkos might be in gold next season, if the Preds play their cards right.