Preds Q&A With OnTheForecheck and J.R. Lind

We have Kristopher Martel from OnTheForecheck.com (@kmartel_sports) and JRLind from NashvillePost.com (@JRLind) to answer our questions about the Preds before tonight’s game.

Easy enough to know where we’ll start. Your feelings on Johansen-Jones? We know the Preds have never had a #1 center and Johansen is very good, but Jones looked to be a future Norris winner and it seems at least a little steep.

JR: Obviously Seth Jones is already amazing and is going to be amazing for years to come. What this trade tells us is A) David Poile is comfortable with Ellis and Ekholm long-term and B) Shea Weber isn’t for sale. The trade upset me for a lot of non-hockey reasons – Seth was great with kids, good in the community, really committed to growing the game and really easy to deal with – but from a hockey standpoint, the Preds obviously felt like Jones was going to get in a traffic jam and the franchise has needed a center for 18 years now. With Johansen at 23, under contract for a couple of years and headed into another RFA period, it’s a good deal to make.

Martel: Plenty of folks weren’t bothered at all that Nashville gave up Jones for Johansen, however I may be one of the few that felt as if the price was steep, but necessary, for a player of Johansen’s caliber. Johansen has already shown Nashville what he’s capable of and how dynamic of a center he is, but was it worth giving up Jones? Right now, it’s impossible to tell. Jones had a definitive ceiling with Nashville in the name of Shea Weber — as long as he was around, Jones would never see his true potential realized with the Predators. Now with Columbus, he’ll be able to play those top minutes. Ultimately, I think Nashville wins the trade now, but it could even out as time goes on.

Are Ekholm and Ellis really ready to take over 2nd pairing minutes? Lord knows the Preds can’t ask Jackman to do it.

In Jackman’s defense, his fancies have been superb this year (although one assumes a lot of that is likely due to playing with Jones). Ekholm and Ellis have actually been (at least minutes-wise) the second pair all year anyway. I think Mattias Ekholm’s ceiling is really high and Ellis is solid, so them playing as the second pair doesn’t scare me as much as trying to figure out who is going to be beside Jackman.

Eh, I’m about 50-50 on this one. Ekholm and Ellis do a fantastic job with offensive zone pressure in seasons past and started the same this year, but lately they’ve progressed more to fully rounded-out play across all three zones. With Jackman now subjected to whoever’s behind the mystery door as his partner for the foreseeable future, Ekholm and Ellis are going to get the bulk of second pairing minutes whether they’re ready or not. They still in the top 15 in even strength CorsiFor percentage (via war-on-ice), so that’s definitely a positive — that includes the last two games without Jones.

Should the Preds have tried to move Weber instead? Could they have if they wanted to?

Sure, they probably should have, but I’m not sure that was possible. And maybe they should try again, but moving another d-man means they start cutting into the muscle a bit even on a deep blueline.

I don’t think they should have, for the record. They definitely could have and still could if they wanted to. Teams would easily give up a King’s Ransom for a player of Weber’s level of talent, regardless if he’s on any type of decline or not.

Pekka Rinne’s SV% is .906. He’s already piled up 35 starts. Are the miles catching up? Is this something they need to watch?

Pekka Rinne is still capable of those glittering, athletic saves, but he’s not making them nearly as often as he’s giving up softies a lot more. Used to be, you could on him keeping the goals against at two or fewer most nights with the occasional funfer thrown in. Seems like he’s cut down on those five-fors but he’s giving up three and four a lot more often. Some of that may be due to the change in the system brought in with Peter Laviolette that’s a lot more loosey-goosey defensively than was Barry Trotz and the rest of it is mileage. It’s concerning but he’s still the best option until Juuse Saros is ready (if ever).

Not really. I think part of Rinne’s issue is he, and Hutton as well, are being absolutely victimized by bad luck right now. There also seems to be something mental going on. I’m not necessarily certain what that could be, however it’s the only real explanation I can provide. Physically, there’s no signs of any apparent injury for Rinne and, outside of the bad luck, he should be making some of these saves on goals that are getting past him.

Should David Poile be worried about his job?

I don’t think so. With the Forsberg, Neal and Johansen trades, he’s bought himself some good will; long term, maybe, you look back and say the Preds should have kept Jones but he’d be long-retired by then anyway. Add in the Roman Josi contract ($4 million against the cap for another six years; the contract should be bronzed and given as the GM of the Year award) and he likely gets to retire on his own terms. That said, my dream is that he gets Jones to sign an offer sheet this summer and then immediately retires as a mic drop.

Nope. Poile can make a deal when he needs to make a deal, as evidenced by the Jones for Johansen trade. The biggest gripe about Poile is that, at times, he seems too laid back and lets the rest of the league move past him while he sits and counts his defensemen like Uncle Scrooge’s gold bouillon. For every complaint about Poile, though, he does something spectacular to negate every single one of them. It would be silly for him to be on any type of hot seat.

Are the Preds done or do they need more forwards via trade?

For me, the most important thing is to spend some garbage mid-round pick to get someone to play with Jackman. Forward-wise, I think they are fine. The fourth-line is a black hole, but there’s enough young guys in the organization to fill those roles. Some people say a back-up goalie should be a priority and that’s true only if you think the back-up is going to play a more traditional back-up schedule of 20-25 games (which is, say, 12 or 15 on the back-end of the schedule). If the team is committed to playing Rinne 70 games, there’s no need to get better than Carter Hutton.

There’s whispers that Nashville has been in the mix for Jonathan Drouin. I would be a bit surprised if they parted ways with more of their assets to grab a forward that hasn’t necessarily proved himself yet, although he could just need a change of scenery. Some arm-chair GM’s are suggesting that Kevin Fiala be the one to dangle for Drouin and I can say whole-heartedly that I wouldn’t be the happiest person if the Predators executed that one. Needless to say, I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if Nashville made another trade before the deadline.

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