With the absence of Mike Fisher due to an injury, the Nashville Predators will have to move their lines around a bit. Assuming that Fisher won't be ready to start the regular season, who becomes the top line center on the team?
Last Saturday night against Winnipeg, the 1st line for the Preds was the line of Sergei Kostitsyn, Cal O'Reilly and Martin Erat. All three of these players possess considerable offensive talent and skill. They also all have one thing in common: They really like to pass the puck.
There were a combined 272 shots between Kostitsyn, O'Reilly and Erat last year. By comparison, Patric Hornqvist had 262 shots all by himself. Albeit, O'Reilly only played in 38 games and had 44 shots on the season.
The question here is can a line of players that all have a "pass first" mentality really be an effective offensive threat when the regular season starts? I don't think so. Somebody has to be willing to be the guy that pulls the trigger.
Sure, both Kostitsyn and Erat scored a goal on Saturday night against Winnipeg. However, the Jets hardly had an NHL roster out on the ice. Things change when the level of competition rises.
All three of these players are great offensive weapons for the Preds, but their style of play is very similar to one another. They have the playmaking ability and look to make the pass to set people up.
Granted, Kostitsyn was the leading goal scorer on the Preds last year. However, he only had 93 shots on goal in 77 games played. That's 1.17 shots a game. Erat had 135 shots in 64 games played. That's 2.1 shots a game. O'Reilly had 44 shots in 38 games, for an average of 1.16 a game. That won't get it done.
If these three players are going to stay on a line together, Erat or Kostitsyn will have to buck the trend and develop a "shoot first" mentality. O'Reilly is a set up man, and he's very good at that job. He's not a guy that's going to be the shooter.
The potential solution to this problem may be as simple as switching Erat with Hornqvist. Erat has usually played well when he is on a line with David Legwand. Also, Hornqvist is a guy that's not at all afraid to shoot the puck. He would be a nice fit with Kostitsyn and O'Reilly.
It's unclear whether or not Kostitsyn, O'Reilly and Erat will be on a line together when the season stars. If they are, however, it will be interesting to see how many shots they develop while on the ice and how well their style of play meshes together.