Lost in the madhouse that is the Central Division has been the rough start to the season by the Nashville Predators. Nashville has been jockeying with the Arizona Coyotes for last place in the Western Conference, despite being a trendy Central Division champion, and Stanley Cup - pick.
Five For Howling: The Predators were a trendy offseason pick to come out on top in the Central Division, but so far this season they are sitting at the bottom. What's behind their early-season struggles?
On the Forecheck: There's almost too many to name. They rank at or near the bottom of the league in many important categories including shooting percentage (dead last), scoring chances per sixty minutes (22nd), shot attempts allowed per sixty minutes (26th), Corsi percentage (20th), and high danger save percentage (dead last). They are a middling team when it comes to shots for and overall save percentage, with most of that due to score effect.
In all but one or two of their games thus far, the Predators have been a hot mess. They can't sustain any consistent presence in the offensive zone and they've been turnover prone in the defensive and neutral zones. The only thing working has been the power play which is 10 for 28 (35.7%).
FFH: On a not-unrelated note: is Pekka Rinne's tenure as "the guy" in Nashville drawing to a close? And what does the future hold for Nashville in goal?
OTF: Yes, Pekka Rinne is a not-unrelated reason for the awful start, though not as much as Preds fans might have expected going into the season. He's definitely put in some decent performances. If anything, the team has struggled despite some decent play from Rinne. Still, he lets in at least one ugly goal every night that leaves fans speechless.
If you needed to find a goalie contract worse than Mike Smith's, look no further than Pekka Rinne's. He is owed $21 million over the next three years and, with a no-move clause, is probably here to stay for that duration. David Poile will be the last person on earth to admit it, but Rinne's time in Nashville is definitely overdue.
The good news is that a new Finnish net-minder, Juuse Saros, has shown that he can be next in line. Against the Penguins on 10/22, Saros stopped 34 of 35 shots for his first career win. He's been absolutely lights out in Milwaukee too, generating a .934 save percentage in five games.
FFH: Obviously the major storyline following the Predators this offseason was the surprise trade of Shea Weber for PK Subban. How has Subban looked with Nashville so far?
OTF: P.K. Subban fits in extremely well with Laviolette's style, but it has taken some time for him to find comfort with his defensive partner. The natural connection was to pair Subban with Josi, but after some rough outings, Subban seems to have found comfort with Mattias Ekholm as his partner. Ekholm has a bit more size, but can still skate with Subban, so he's a nice fit.
Off the ice, Subban has been a revelation in Nashville. Though he's only been in town for a couple months, Subban's personality and style has new fans coming in droves.
Thank you Alex for answering our questions; let’s hope both the Coyotes and Predators can climb their way out of the holes they have dug directly adjacent to each other.