I'm not sure what to think about where the Nashville Predators are right now. Literally, they're waaaayyy back. At the mid-season All Star break, they only have 43 points - 8 points and at least 4 teams out of the #8 Western Conference playoff seed. (However, #43 is not altogether bad. I've had an affinity for that number for over 30 years. I digress...)
Surprisingly, they aren't the worst team in the Western Conference...yet. The Blues have only 40 points as of tonight. Stats for the first half of the season, however, do not paint an optimistic picture for a run towards the playoffs.
Through the first 46 games, Nashville is 20-23-3. In those 26 losses, the Preds have averaged a miserably low 1.69 goals per game while giving up 3.88 goals. In the 20 wins, the Preds have only managed to score an average of 3.35 goals - and 5 of the wins required overtime or a shootout to get the W.
Coach Trotz is rotating two talented but inexperienced goalies. On more nights than not, either Dan Ellis or Peka Rinne have done their best to keep the game in hand. But all too often, Pred wingers can't score, the "superstars" are neutered, the defensemen commit crucial turnovers in the neutral zone - or worse in their own zone, passes aren't crisp and on the tape, battles aren't waged in the corners, centermen won't camp out in front of the net looking to screen or bang home a rebound, etc. Other than that, things are peachy!
But this scoring drought has simply got to end. Somehow. Some way. The best quote I've seen to summarize the fans' frustration of the team's low scoring during the first half of the season was on the Preds message board. Someone posted something to the effect of "these guys couldn't score with a bagful of cash in Amsterdam."
But I'm not panicked. I'm not angered (except at the conclusion of last Saturday's 2-7 loss to the lowly Atlanta Thrashers). I am frustrated, and I am perplexed. I'm not ready to fire the coach or the general manager. I'm not ready to trade a ton of players - although I do think Trotz should scratch some of the big names over a series of games until they get their heads AND leadership back in the game.
The one piece of good news in all of this has been the return of Steve Sullivan. Sully has remarkably from 2 years of back injuries, surgeries, and rehab. With his return, I'm reminded of one of the funnier moments of his career when he played with the Black Hawks. I'll let him tell the story...