Sunday, January 8, 2012

Report Card: Halfway home



The Nashville Predators have posted a 22-15-4 record through 41 games in the 2011-2012 season. Through the first half of the season, the Preds currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference and are on pace to acquire 96 points. While there is no way of knowing if that will be enough to secure a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, it's a good building block for the rest of the season.

At the 20 game mark earlier this season, Hockey Night in Nashville took a look at the performance of each individual player and gave them a letter grade. Now that the Predators have reached the halfway point of the season, we'll take a look at how each player has done since then and do the same.

FORWARDS

#5 Blake Geoffrion- To say that this season has been disappointing for Geoffrion would be an understatement. He's collected three points on the year for the NHL club, but has since been sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals. It's unlikely that Geoffrion will return to the Nashville lineup this season. He really needs to work on his game at the AHL level and come back strong next year. 20 game Grade: C- Mid-season Grade: F

#10 Martin Erat- Erat has historically been one of the most dynamic players for the Predators, and that has been true so far in the 2011-2012 season. He has 25 points in 33 games played. His decision making is sometimes questionable, but he's had a pretty good season so far. 20 game Grade: B+ Mid-season Grade: B+

#11 David Legwand- Legwand started the season off on a blistering pace. He had eight points in the first three games of the season, and really started the year off well from an offensive standpoint. His defensive presence has picked up since the start of the season, but his offense has taken a little bit of a dive. 20 game Grade: A Mid-season Grade: A-

#12 Mike Fisher- Overall, Fisher hasn't been as productive as the Predators would have liked from an offensive standpoint so far this year. He brings a physical presence to the rink on a nightly basis, and has been pretty sound defensively. However, the Predators will need him to step up offensively in the second half of the season. 20 game Grade: B+ Mid-season Grade: C+

#13 Nick Spaling- Spaling is a key role player for the Predators. Nashville has never lost a game in regulation when Spaling has scored a goal, and he's a very valuable asset on the penalty kill. He's a good faceoff guy for the Preds, and you know what you're going to get out of him on a nightly basis. 20 game Grade: C Mid-season Grade: B

#15 Craig Smith- At the beginning of the season, Smith was the hot topic of conversation in Nashville. He scored seven goals in his first 15 games, and really seemed to be the offensive solution that the Predators desperately needed. Since then, Smith has just two goals in his last 26 games. He is still playing fairly well, but needs to get his confidence up. 20 game Grade: A+ Mid-season Grade: B

#22 Jordin Tootoo- Tootoo has already surpassed his previous career high in points(18) this season, and has posted 19 points in 39 games played. He's seen an increase in ice time, which shows that the coaching staff really trusts his game this year. 20 game Grade: C- Mid-season Grade: A

#23 Brian McGrattan- McGrattan's job is to be a strong, physical presence for Nashville. So far this season, he's done that job well. He's a great fighter, and he's not a liability on the ice. He's come very close to scoring goals this year on several different occasions. 20 game Grade: B+ Mid-season Grade: B+

#24 Matt Halischuk- Halischuk is quietly putting together a solid year for the Preds. He's got nine goals on the year while playing on the fourth line. That's pretty solid. He's played in every game so far for Nashville, and he's been an effective player. 20 game Grade: B Mid-season Grade: A-

#25 Jerred Smithson- Smithson is a guy that knows and accepts his role on this Predators team. He's a fourth line guy that is invaluable on the penalty kill and in the faceoff circle. He hasn't been producing offensively the way he would like to, but he's still having a solid season. 20 game Grade: B Mid-season Grade: B-

#27 Patric Hornqvist- Even though Hornqvist leads the team in goals with 11, he hasn't been the consistently productive player that Nashville needs him to be. Hornqvist has had a 19-game scoring drought this year. However, he's one of the toughest players on the team, and is never afraid to go to the hard areas. 20 game Grade: A Mid-season Grade: C+

#33 Colin Wilson- Wilson had a chip on his shoulder coming into the season. He was scratched for the entire first round series against Anaheim in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that really forced him to mature quickly. He's responded well, and has posted 23 points in 38 games played this year. 20 game Grade: A- Mid-season Grade: A-

#57 Gabriel Bourque- Since joining the Predators on December 28, Bourque hasn't given any reason to think that he'll be making a return trip to the AHL. He scored his first career NHL goal on January 5 against Dallas, and is a tenacious forward on a nightly basis. Look for his production to increase as the season moves forward. Mid-season Grade: B

#74 Sergei Kostitsyn- The knock on Kostitsyn has always been his lack of willingness to shoot the puck. He had a hat trick on three shots on New Year's Day, but has only registered 39 shots on the year so far. Kostitsyn has a load of offensive talent, but he needs to shoot the puck more as the season progresses. 20 game Grade: B- Mid-season Grade: C

DEFENSEMEN

#6 Shea Weber- Nashville's captain has been about as good as you can ask a defenseman to be. He's on pace to have 60 points this season, and looks to be well on his way to his first career Norris Trophy. 20 game Grade: A Mid-season Grade: A+

#7 Jonathon Blum- Blum has been reassigned to Milwaukee on two separate occasions, and really hasn't found his game yet this season. He has slightly improved as the season has progressed, but still hasn't found that form that made him successful during last season's playoff run. He needs to find his game in Milwaukee and regain confidence. 20 game Grade: D+ Mid-season Grade: D+

#8 Kevin Klein- So far this season, Klein has proven to be a valuable asset for the Predators. He specializes in blocking shots, and plays a key role on the Nashville penalty kill. While he's not playing as well as he did to start the season, he's still a good veteran presence on the Nashville blueline. 20 game Grade: A- Mid-season Grade: B

#20 Ryan Suter- Suter is playing the best hockey of his career so far this season. He's been a great mentor for the young defensemen in the Nashville system, and is on a good pace offensively. 20 game Grade: A Mid-season Grade: A+

#38 Jack Hillen- Hillen has had his ups and downs so far this season. He'll have games where he plays great, and he'll have other games where he gets caught out of position. He's got six points on the year, and will be an important piece for Nashville as the season moves along. 20 game Grade: C+ Mid-season Grade: C

#49 Ryan Ellis- While he's only played in five NHL games, Ellis has looked pretty steady since being called up from Milwaukee. It will be interesting to see how long he stays in Nashville moving forward. Mid-season Grade: B

#51 Francis Bouillon- Nashville's oldest defenseman has been a valuable player for them so far this season. He has fully recovered from the concussion that kept him out for almost half of the year in the 2010-2011 season, and has been steady on defense. 20 game Grade: B+ Mid-season Grade: B+

#59 Roman Josi- When Shea Weber was out with a concussion, Josi played very well on the number one defensive pairing with Ryan Suter. He's been one of the best surprises of the year for the Predators, and it looks like his NHL future is bright. Mid-season Grade: B+

GOALTENDERS

#35 Pekka Rinne- While he hasn't been his normal dominant self over the past few months, Rinne is still one of the best goalies in the league. He's second in the NHL in wins, but he's Goals Against Average is ranked 27th in the league. Nashville will go as far as Rinne takes them. 20 game Grade: A Mid-season Grade: B+

#39 Anders Lindback- Lindback has seen limited time so far this year, and has looked pretty average when he's been called upon. Lindback will be called upon to win a few games in the back half of the season, which could be critical for the Predators. 20 game Grade: C Mid-season Grade: C

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