The Best Bad Idea We Have – Nashville Predators Forwards Preview

Moving outward from Nashville’s formidable back end, it’s now time to take a look at their reimagined forward group, which boast more speed and skill than it ever did under Barry Trotz. And under Peter Laviolette, that speed is now finally afforded a bit of offensive creativity as opposed to simply using it for the purposes of constricting the opposition.

Top Line

C – Mike Ribeiro (15G, 47A, 57.13%CF)
LW – Filip Forsberg (26G, 37A, 57.05% CF)
RW – James Neal (23G, 14A, 57.02% CF)

As the center of Nashville’s most consistent and productive line all year long, Mike Ribeiro has been something of a revelation after watching his hockey career flash before his eyes in the face of an unceremonious buyout and harsh words from Arizona GM Don Maloney. Ribeiro has always been a highly skilled pass-first center with exceptional vision, and he’s found a home with the blunt object of James Neal and the electric Filip Forsberg on either side of him now that he’s interested. Mike Ribeiro has always been a colossal sack of crap as well.

This unit has faced the toughest competition the opposition can throw at them all season long, and has absolutely impeccable possession numbers. But the playoffs are another story. Ribeiro has 27 points in 48 career playoff games, and 17 of them came in Dallas’ 18 game run to the Western Conference Finals in 2008 where he was behind Brad Richards in his prime. In Ribeiro’s last foray into the post season with Washington two years ago, he had a goal and an assist in 7 games slotted behind Nicklas Backstrom and got housed in possession. At 35, this will be Mickey Ribs’ first entry into the post season as the top centerman, and he’ll presumably be doing it against a perennial Selke finalist to whom he is giving up 4 inches and 30 lbs shift after shift after shift. Not to mention his winger James Neal, for all his skill, is not exactly a model citizen when it comes to keeping his cool in the playoffs. Forsberg is the real wild card here, as this will be his first trip to the post-season. He has game breaking speed and one of the quickest releases in the league, so it could conceivably not take much from his linemates to get him going even in the face of the Saad-Toews-Hossa matchup.


Second Line

Mike Fisher C (19G, 20A, 52.22% CF)
Colin Wilson LW (20G, 22A, 55.57% CF)
Craig Smith RW (22G, 21A, 55.56% CF)

The name of the game here is balance, as all three of these players sport nearly identical stat lines (at least for the ones being cherry picked for this exercise). While clearly on the offensive decline now well north of 30, Mr. Carrie Underwood has always been defensively responsible, and that’s translated to driving possession at a rate nearly comparable to the Preds’ top line, though they do see slightly inferior competition. Craig Smith and Colin Wilson seemingly kill the Hawks at every juncture, and they’re likely to get plenty of opportunity to do so when at home and Laviolette can get them out against the Kris Versteeg Inerpretive Dance Troupe. If they can carry that level of possession against a returned Patrick Kane, it could spell trouble with a capital “F” for the Hawks. And if Laviolette is able to get these guys out against Rozsival in any capacity, that goes double.

Bottom Six

Matt Cullen C (7G, 18A, 53.48% CF)
Viktor Stalberg LW (2G, 8A, 51.49% CF)
Calle Jarnkrok RW (7G, 11A, 53.94%)

Even as far down as the third line in the depth chart the Preds’ possesion numbers are rather impressive. While a great deal of that is owed to their deep defensive corps, this group isn’t helpless. Yes, even Viktor Stalberg. Matt Cullen has long been a favorite of this publication even in his advancing age, and he still remains a functional depth player with some offensive creativity. It was not so long ago where he provided the only scoring punch an overmatched 2013 Wild team could provide, and he actually made Devin Setoguchi look effective. Jarnkrok hasn’t developed at the rate of Forsberg, but there are still hopes for him to be a contributor. Viktor Stalberg couldn’t find a home under Peter Laviolette and spent most of the year in Milwaukee, that’s how bad things have gotten. But he is productive from a bottom line standpoint even if blindingly one dimensional.

Paul Gaustad C (4G, 10A, 42.34% CF)
Gabriel Bourque LW (3G 10A, 48.22% CF)
Taylor Beck RW (8G, 8A, 46.77% CF)
Eric Nystrom LW (7G, 5A, 43.38% CF)

Now this is where things get downright icky for the Preds. Paul Gaustad, whom the Predators gave up a first round pick for (which is better than being a healthy scratch, eh Joel?), is still an ace at the faceoff dot, but that should reinforce how bad he’s been in every other facet of his game that his possession rate is that low despite starting with the puck the majority of the time. Granted, this unit starts out with Kruger-esque defensive zone dungeon zone starts, but they are hardly ever getting out of their own end. Laviolette still gives them all about 12 minutes a night, regardless of which 2 of those 3 wingers are with Gaustad, so it will be something to watch if he shortens his bench drastically. Because once the series shifts to Chicago, Quenneville will be able to get Kane away from Fisher, and even Kris Versteeg couldn’t screw up against these turds.

  • Kissmyanthia

    “And even Kris Versteeg couldn’t screw up against these turds”

  • TitanTransistor

    “and even Kris Versteeg couldn’t screw up against these turds.”

    I think he’s up to the challenge of proving you wrong.

  • chichicagochi
    • In the first round the local affiliates still get to carry their own hometown broadcasts along with the NBC family’s national ones. The catchphrase spitting teetotaler will be on CSN with Foley.

      • chichicagochi


      • Dan

        “Now stop it right here. I want all you young moderator fans to see what he did.”

    • Sam

      One can only hope? Making excuses for rozival’s giveaway goal in the final week was kinda pathetically transparent. Yeah I suppose you cant fault a dude for knowing who cuts his paycheck. Let’s all hope he wont be replaced by kenny albert.

  • In regards to the second Ribeiro article, if I was a pariah in my professional sports league of choice, I’d probably be paying my own airfare to chase fleeting job offers, too. Not sure why franchise front offices should consider it a badge of honor worth sharing with the public.

  • Brandon Murray

    “colossal sack of crap” and one serious set of bug eyes…..

  • TitanTransistor

    Joel Quenneville is sitting Vermette for game 1.

    You could argue that Vermette has under-performed, but if this is about accountability, then why isn’t Versteeg sitting right beside him?

    Also, Nordstrom back in for Desjardins, which is fine, though I thought Desjardins had played pretty well.

    • 1985AH1985

      I imagine Q trusts Nordy more than Desjardins on the PK, which is understandable.

      • TitanTransistor

        I thought AD looked great on the PK too, honestly. Very aggressive.

    • jhb

      Probably because Versteeg did incredibly well with Richards and Kane. You have to at least see if they can turn it up again.

      I think this is about Vermette v. Shaw. Since coming to Chicago Vermette hasn’t scored, his FO% dropped like 5 points – meaning he was under 50% in his draws – and maybe is really adjusting slowly to a team with real speed and skill compared to AZ. Also, it’s just one game. Q doesn’t really owe ice time to Vermette over Shaw. Playoff Shaw seems to be able to stay away from the stupid penalties he takes in the regular season, making him pretty valuable as a guy who’ll go to the front of the net. This is one of those hunch things. If it doesn’t work, it’ll change, that much we already know.

  • meme gene okerlund

    “Kris Versteeg Inerpretive Dance Troupe”

    If anyone in my adult softball league is reading this, dibs.

  • meme gene okerlund

    Vermette sitting is proof that Q is a regular reader and is pulling strings in favor of Your 2015 Starting 3rd Line Centerman Andrew Shaw after an ill-advised “Who’s Your Druce” bar bet

  • TitanTransistor

    A look inside the mind of a Q apologist:

    • The Hull With It

      Q is truly an idiot. There’s no denying that any more. A blender with just a random spin cycle button.

      In addition to what others said above, he’s completely forgotten about playoff Bickell. Playoff Bickell (and to a lesser extent) playoff Shaw have to be paired up with 19 or 88, to get all those greasy goals they did in past playoffs. That was the only reason for the big contract, and the only reason he wasn’t traded in the middle of yet another disappointing season.

      But hey… it’s just entertainment. I just hope the games are fun to watch.

      • TitanTransistor


        While it will likely be short, it could still be entertaining.

        • Guest

          “While it likely will be short”…

          Well I see nothing’s changed in your world. You may fit in better at other blogs who also dislike the Hawks. I’m sure they would love your sense of impending Hawks doom. I really hope the Hawks sweep the Preds, if nothing more because you tend to disappear when the Hawks win.

          • DJ


          • TitanTransistor

            With this roster management? Not likely.

            We’ll see.

            Run hamster, run!

          • Skags

            You’re a real fucking douchebag

          • Bob Lanz

            Ouch, but hard to to disagree with.

          • TitanTransistor

            Like the bleating of sheep

          • Bob Lanz

            Enough, I dislike Q as much if not more than anyone here. I question his line management and lack of bringing young players along. I hate his doghouse but I hate his security blankets even more. With all that said I really dislike the way you treat those that choose to be optimistic about our chances. After all Kane is back and this team has shown an ability to really play at another level once the playoffs start, even overcoming Q and his piss poor line choices. The past is a great indicator of the future and this team has as much talent as any. Can they put it together I hope so I think you should too!

          • TitanTransistor

            Oh, please.

            She challenged my fandom, Im happy to question her grip on reality and how weakened it may be by blind, undying devotion to an idea/fantasy.

            This series was already a coin flip based on the performance of the two teams. Adding in Q’s nonsensical roster decisions as a handicap, projecting a quick exit for the Hawks is hardly betrayal.

          • 2DinMKE

            I would argue that it is likely that this team has won 2 Cups in spite of their coach and that it is entirely possible that their coach has prevented them from winning more.

          • HawkIPA

            As much as I hated Q’s use of Bollig and Versteeg last year, that wasn’t the reason the Hawks lost in 7 to the Kings. Poor team play in the blowouts and weakness up the middle combined with some bad luck in Game 7 cost the Hawks.

          • Bannerman

            There’s also the fact that the Kings last year were very good and relatively healthy. That’s a tough combination to beat in a hockey series.

          • Bob Lanz

            I never said betrayal just give it a rest harping on others for being optimistic which in turn creates anger or frustration towards you and questioning your loyalties. That’s all go hawks! fuck coin flip Hawks in 5

          • Guest

            Titan – let’s review, shall we?

            2009-10 – Hawks win Cup.
            2010-11 – Hawks lose to Van 4-3. Hawks came back from 3-0 deficit. Lost game 7 in OT.
            2011-12 – Hawks lose to AZ 4-2. 5 of 6 games go to OT.
            2012-13 – Hawks win Cup
            2013-14 – Hawks lose to Kings 4-3. Lost game 7 in OT.

            So, which series were the Hawks ever out of it? There was a short one in 2010, but that was a Hawks sweep of SJ. I bet that sucked for you, because then you didn’t get to tell everyone how you knew they’d lose and how Q was the reason for it. Given the past 5 years, what makes you think the Hawks are in for a short series? Is this all because Vermette may not play in game 1? Or because Rosival will play? Get real. This team won a cup with Nick fucking Boynton on it.

            But you think I’m a fanboy/hamster with no grip on reality because I choose to think this team of players who refuse to give up under any circumstances and are repeat Cup winners won’t be in for a short series? Riiiight. Maybe when the Hawks are on the losing end of a short series, I’ll give your thoughts a little credence. But, unlike you, I hope that doesn’t happen.

            So in the words of your favorite coach – “Fuck off”.

        • HawkIPA

          I also like to be considered part of the reality based community, and the Hawks have as good of chance as anyone to bring home to Cup. Where are the juggernauts this year? Who can’t the Hawks beat in a 7 game series now that Kane is back? I’m not calling them favorites, but they’re certainly in the mix and it’s foolish to count them out before the first puck drops.

      • guest

        I love how all the “Q is an idiot” memes have to revolve entirely around line selection. Because a coach in the NHL is basically just a fantasy GM, right? Literally his only job is to pick who goes on the ice and then watch.

        It’s not like coaches are in charge of systems or anything. How many teams can win a Jennings trophy with a drooling idiot as a coach? You might score goals by just putting out ludicrously talented players in random combinations, but good luck preventing them (hello Edmonton and Toronto).

        There are plenty of very talented and very poorly coached teams in this league. This is not one of them. Yeah, he’s been really bad at trusting/developing new talent. Yeah, he needs an old guy security blanket and a punchfacer security blanket. Those are all personnel decisions, though, and comprise less than half the effect a coach actually has on a team.

        (Side: TCI’s writers themselves do a fantastic job of this, and had really great breakdowns of the times that Q has legitimately been outcoached (detroit 2 years ago comes to mind as the glaring example). My beef is with the comment section whinerati who demean anyone who doesn’t just hop on board the “Q can barely tie his shoes” train.).

        How bout some actual criticism of his coaching, rather than “boo hoo he’s playing guys I like with guys I don’t like” or “well they look ‘flat’ today against a bottomfeeder, must have lost the room.’

  • Aaeismacgychel

    While I personally would not sit Vermette, I’ve gotta say that as of right now, he’s had 19 games to prove himself with the Hawks and the returns have been fairly middling. In fact the times that he excelled the most were as a winger on Richards’ line. These are his numbers since joining the Hawks:
    CF%: 48.4%
    relCF%: -5.9%
    FF%: 48.4%
    relFF%: -3.7%
    FO%: 50.0%
    OZone%: 51%
    PDO: 99.4%
    Take/Give: +0
    Gp60: 0.00
    Pp60: 0.67
    +/-: -2
    There is no nice way of putting it- those numbers are god awful. And they were even worse when he was centering lines, if you can believe it. And even crazier, his 99.4% PDO doesn’t even show him as being particularly unlucky during this time and that there is little reason to expect him to suddenly perform better in the playoffs. I know that Q has done crazy things, but I think he has substantial reason at this point to really be distrustful of Vermette, especially at center. And we can make excuses for him all we want , and call Q an idiot all we want, and he can keep flapping his mouth all he wants, but at the end of the day, he has to effing play better. It’s really as simple as that. And yes, he was playing better on Richards’ line, but if Vermette is forcing Q or us to make a decision of Versteeg-Richards-Kane or Vermette-Richards-Kane with Versteeg god knows where else, he’s putting himself on the chopping block. I expect him to play in Game 1, but I actually don’t believe he’s deserved the ice time.

    • Aaeismacgychel

      Oh, and you know what? I firmly believe Vermette did this to himself by not keeping his mouth shut about his usage. He then had himself 3 games to back up his big talk about how he should be a center and Q is misusing him. Well, he did better than his first go at it, but only okay at best with favorable usage. He needs to shut up and play hockey.

  • HawkIPA

    I’m not going to let the Vermette scratch spoil the awesome news of 88’s return. I wouldn’t sit Vermette but I’m not too worried about it unless it’s a long term thing. My guess is it’s a shot across vermette’s bow and that he’ll be back in the lineup for Game 2.

    • Bannerman

      Agree. Though it would be interesting to see if it’s Versteeg or Nordstrom that sit. If you move playoff Bickell into the top 6, that leaves Vermette to center Sharp and Shaw. That line should be able to hold it’s own if not dominate depending on the match ups.

  • RMM

    Sitting Vermette makes the most sense. You don’t want to mess with the 4 th line that has played so well the last weeks . He has not produced so he sits.

  • jordyhawk

    I can’t find the site but I looked it up earlier in the year and Jonny is career under 40% in the dot against both Fisher and Gaustad. Something to watch for.