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Trotz’s Stalberg gamble fails to pay off

Stalberg Training Camp

Oct 27, 2013


On Saturday morning, Barry Trotz announced that Viktor Stalberg would be scratched from the Predators lineup for Saturday night’s game against the St. Louis Blues at Bridgestone Arena.

Stalberg, signed to a 4-year, $12 million deal on the first day of free agency, was brought into the Predators organization in an attempt to boost the team’s scoring output. After missing the first four games of the season with a shoulder injury, Stalberg had appeared in Nashville’s next six games before being scratched out of the lineup in order to give Nick Spaling an opportunity to play.

Last season, Stalberg scored 23 points in 47 games on his way to a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks. This season, with six games played, Stalberg has no points in a little less than 10 minutes of ice time per game.

After the Predators defeated the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in overtime on Thursday night, Trotz decided to roll with the same lineup on Saturday, which meant that Stalberg was the odd man out again.

“There’s no reason to take anybody out,” Trotz told the gathered media on Saturday morning.

On paper, Nashville’s offense has been anemic. Going into Saturday night’s game, the Predators were averaging just 2 goals per game. The silver lining to that, however, was that the small sample size was largely skewed by two shutouts and two 1-goal games. In wins, Nashville was averaging 3 goals per game. In losses, however, the Predators were averaging just 0.80 goals per game. Essentially, if the Predators score multiple goals, they tend to at least register a point in the standings. In fact, the only time this year that the Predators have scored multiple goals and lost a game was on opening night versus the same St. Louis Blues.

When the puck dropped on Saturday night, however, the team Barry Trotz was hoping would take the ice did not show up. Nashville went down 1-0 in the first on a power play goal by St. Louis’ Alex Steen. The Blues packed on two more in the second period before Nashville’s Nick Spaling scored a short-handed goal in the third two close the gap to 3-1. After that, the Blues opened the flood gates, ran the lead to 5-1, chased goaltender Carter Hutton and scored an extra for good measure. At the end of the night, St. Louis walked home with a 6-1 win.

“Obviously we didn’t do the job tonight.” Spaling said. “There were just a couple of breakdowns we have to fix.”

In the first period, Hutton held his own as St. Louis peppered him with 17 shots, while Nashville had just 8. In the second, the Predators actually outshot the Blues 8 to 4, while in the third period, the Blues regained a 9-7 advantage.

Trotz, however, was quick to point out that a large portion of the blowout loss was in Nashville’s hands.

“It didn’t seem like a 6-1 game,” Trotz said. “The first period we had some chances to convert, but we didn’t convert and then we were down a goal. They scored on their second shot in the second period and that was a turnover on us. Most of it was us. If we convert, we get it to 3-1 early in the period in the third. Craig Smith comes down, but Halak makes a great save which he did a couple of times, but we need our forwards to convert. We need a little more production from our forwards and convert when we have the chances to convert, and defensively we can’t turn pucks over like we did.”

Trotz’s decision to scratch Stalberg may have been a moot point in the end – Stalberg is not known as a defensive threat, so he likely would have held very little sway in Nashville keeping pace with St. Louis’ 6-goal night. In fact, Nashville’s only goal came from the player that Trotz scratched Stalberg for – Nick Spaling. However, with the way the game turned out, Stalberg’s appearance probably would not have made Nashville perform any worse.

“It’s sort of a game to game basis,” Trotz said. “Some guys are playing well, and some guys aren’t playing as well. Some guys are producing more. I think Patrick Hornqvist has the most goals for us then the next guys are Shea on defense and (Jones). We need a little more from the other guys too. With (Fisher) and (Legwand), we need more production.”

While David Legwand is tied for the team lead in scoring with 7 points, Trotz specifically stated that he was not especially pleased with his offensive production.. On Thursday night, Legwand had the first assist on two goals, including Craig Smith’s game-winner. Fisher, the other player Trotz identified for lack of production, missed 3 of the last 5 games with a foot injury, but has 6 points in 9 games. Trotz also pointed out that Gabriel Bourque – at one point last season’s leading goal-scorer – has yet to score a goal.

After Saturday’s game, Nashville’s goals per game average on the season dropped to 1.92 goals per game. Last season, the Predators finished at the bottom of the league with 2.27 goals per game.

Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua