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Is Nashville’s abundance of forwards a hidden blessing?

forwards

Jul 27, 2013


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Having an excessive number of forwards going into training camp, most believe that this will become a growing concern for a Nashville Predators team that has been starved for offensive help. Yet, could it be exactly the opposite?

With 14 forwards on the active roster as of this article, this is the heaviest Nashville has been with their offensive talent since perhaps the 2006-2007 record-breaking season. Granted, the big names aren’t with the team anymore. No more Hartnell’s, Kariya’s, Forsberg’s, Radulov’s. No more household names that can turn the flow of a game with the tip of their hat. What remains is a hodgepodge of seasoned, trustworthy veterans and tough, wily youngsters.

What remains is the makeup of a true Nashville Predators team.

Adding players like Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Matt Hendricks, and Eric Nystrom not only gets Nashville some of the deeper offensive talent they so desperately needed, but also brings the team back to their “blue-collar” roots. Combine these four in with the remaining players on the roster and what emerges may be a team that actually has the correct make-up to truly contend.

Nashville’s current active roster consists of the following forwards: Gabriel Bourque, Rich Clune, Matt Cullen, Mike Fisher, Filip Forsberg, Paul Gaustad, Matt Hendricks, Patric Hornqvist, David Legwand, Eric Nystrom, Craig Smith, Nick Spaling, Viktor Stalberg, and Colin Wilson.

Although Nashville doesn’t have a “true” first line amongst these players, what they have is the ability to construct four truly balanced lines, capable of offensive explosion. Last season, Craig Smith scored four goals and eight assists in 44 games, a dismal performance. However, Smith excelled in the World Championships, collecting 14 points in only ten games while being on a line with Colorado’s Paul Stasney and Phoenix’s David Moss. With dynamic linemates, and a bit of open ice, Smith excelled. Can the same happen with the right line combinations in Nashville?

There is quite an extensive amount of talent to work with for the Predators. Playmakers like Colin Wilson, Mike Fisher, Matt Cullen, and David Legwand are all going to be looking for the right line pairings. With the overage of centers on the team, not all of Nashville’s seven centers are actually going to play the position. Players like Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, and even David Legwand could easily be transitioned and play on the wing.

The Predators’ top six will most likely consist of any combination of Bourque, Cullen, Fisher, Forsberg, Hornqvist, Legwand, Smith, Stalberg, and Wilson. That’s nine players to slot into six spots. The remaining forwards (Clune, Gaustad, Hendricks, and Nystrom) will, of course, pair with the leftovers after Nashville’s top six are generated to form the bottom six.

Regardless of which player plays at which position, the facts are straightforward: Nashville’s problem at forward really isn’t any type of dilemma at all, more like a blessing in disguise. Barry Trotz and his coaching staff will have an abundance of talent readily available to them at the beginning of the season for the first time in quite a while. Even with a slight influx of “new blood” onto the team, the coaches will be able to experiment early with line combinations until they find the correct formula.

It’s been said by many that the Predators could be one “Top Six forward” away from Stanley Cup contention. I argue that they may have quietly collected the right players to ice a team that may be ready for one of the more successful seasons in franchise history.

Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua

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