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Annual Report Card: Nick Spaling

Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua

May 29, 2013

Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua

Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua

Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua

If you follow Nashville, you are well aware of the crazy record they have at home when Nick Spaling scores a goal (16-1-1). While this is quite an impressive statistic, Predators fans have hoped that there would be more than 18 games at home in which Spaling has scored during his four seasons with the team. Although he can score timely goals, Spaling is known for his high energy, his faceoffs, and ability to kill penalties.

From One Year to the Next

Spaling posted a career-high 22 points in the 2011-2012 season, notching 10 goals and 12 assists. Three of his goals were game winners, which gives even more credence to the notion that his goals are as important.

Despite the shortened 2012-2013 season, Spaling almost matched his goal output from the prior year, lighting the lamp nine times. He added four assists for a total of 13 points for the year. His faceoff percentage was 46.3%, the first time since his rookie season that he didn’t win at least half his faceoffs. His plus/minus was -10, which was the second worst among players that finished the season with the team.

Beyond the Stats

No one will mistake Nick Spaling for Sidney Crosby out on the ice. Spaling is a two-way forward with more emphasis on the defensive part of the “two” than the offensive side. His ability to kill penalties has always been a huge asset to the team. This season, however, he struggled to help the penalty kill unit get the puck out of the net, being on the ice for far too many goals.

Offensively, you know what you will get from Spaling. He will work hard, forecheck, and try to be around the net to mash home pucks. He brings energy and intensity on every shift and his career faceoff win percentage has also been solid for a bottom six forward.

Whats with the Streak?

So the Predators are almost unbeatable at home when Spaling scores, but why is that the case? There is no scientific or mathematical formula we can use, but we can take our best guesses as to why Nashville has been so good when he scores. He isn’t a gifted offensive player, but when his game is on it means that the team is forechecking effectively. When the team is forechecking effectively, they are winning games. This means the streak likely has less to do about Spaling’s individual play in those games and is more about the style of the play that the Predators are imposing on the opposition.

Best of Spals

Spaling’s best game of the season was in the 5-3 victory of Calgary on March 21st. He had an assist to go along with his game-winning goal, and was also a +2 on the evening.

Too Many Grinders?

All teams need players who are offensively limited but work hard on the forecheck, bringing physicality to their game. The problem is that the Predators might have too many grinders. In addition to Spaling, most would consider Yip, Clune, and Halischuk to be grinders as well. Teams need a few grinders, not a team full of them. Spaling and Halischuk are restricted free agents while Yip is an unrestricted free agent. It is likely the team will have to part ways with at least one of the three.

Final Grade: C

Spaling finished tied for fourth on the team in goals, an impressive feat considering he is a third or fourth line guy. His defensive play was less impressive; however, especially on the penalty kill. Mental breakdowns plagued his season and inhibited him from having a breakout year. Overall, we give his offense a B- and his defense a D. We’ll average it out to a solid C.