Before I begin, I wanted to share a story on how college is going so far.
The 126th Monon Bell game between DePauw University (my school) and Wabash University last weekend. I was asked to write a prediction for the school newspaper about this particular game, and I had Wabash winning 24-14, but DePauw defeated Wabash 17-13. Statistically, my school was outmatched on both sides of the ball, and DePauw didn’t even take the lead until 37 seconds remained in the game. It was nothing short of a miracle that they won.
The next day, I was walking from the cafeteria to the media center to work on a few assignments. As I was walking across the street from the cafeteria to the media center, a car sped past me. Someone in the car must’ve recognized me, because the car came to a screeching halt. The driver then put the car in reverse, pulled up alongside me, rolled down the window, and yelled, “HEY. JACK WOODS. DEPAUW WON. YOU SUCK,” and then sped off.
What’s that old Jack Sparrow quote? Does “But you have heard of me” sound correct?
Here are some of my thoughts on the Nashville Predators and other major headlines in the NHL right now.
The Toronto Maple Leafs recently fired their head coach Mike Babcock and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe, the former Toronto Marlies head coach. Keefe was extended for three years after Babcock was fired. The Maple Leafs had not been playing productive hockey, posting a 4-5-2 record in their last ten games. Although losing Mitch Marner for four weeks to an ankle injury did not help Babcock’s case, this team could not produce wins and as a coach, it’s his job to isolate issues and fix them. Babcock evidently failed to solve the Maple Leafs’ issues quick enough, and now, he’s out of a job.
This felt a little quick, but objectively, the Maple Leafs want to win now. And win now means registering more than one point in six games, right?
I took a more conservative perspective on this one and will say, “It’s November. Why jump the gun this early?” However, Babcock was hired in 2015 and after a brief rebuilding period, led Toronto to three playoff appearances. The team could not get out of the first round three years in a row. With the talent that’s on the Maple Leafs roster, they should have advanced beyond the first round at least once. Frankly, if management is paying a coach the most amount of money around the league, they’d like to see some results.
With as much talent as the Maple Leafs have, they have to wonder the underachieving team. The Atlantic Division is loaded right now, with teams like the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Florida Panthers maintaining a stronghold on the division right now. Cough this up to a rough month and a half for good teams, as there are many good teams that are struggling right now, but the Maple Leafs took the risk early.
To answer a burning question most Nashville fans have been asking… no, Mike Babcock would not be a good fit for Nashville.
Kyle Turris and Peter Laviolette
Scratched two games in a row. $6 million dollars perched up in the press box, watching his replacement, Mathieu Oliver, play only 3:58 in the 60 minute equivalent of a fart noise. I don’t know how to reasonably look at this situation with objectivity.
For a guy who has played on FIVE(!!) SEPARATE(!!) LINES (!!) IN HIS LAST EIGHT GAMES, it is perfectly reasonable to understand why he is not producing. Also, taking into consideration that Austin Watson and Colton Sissons do not provide him with the best opportunities to succeed offensively, it’s hard to imagine why Turris would be optimistic. There is a lot of hard evidence that suggests Turris and head coach Peter Laviolette do not agree on most things, but that is speculation. As is Turris refusing to play winger. As is talks of trading Turris altogether.
I firmly believe Turris does not fit into the role Laviolette wants him to. Turris is not a bottom six player, and he does not belong with linemates who hinder his abilities.
Turris has only two points since Nashville played Tampa Bay back in late October, but his numbers are more reliable than some of his teammates. For instance, Nick Bonino has nine goals on 45 shots, astounding fans with a deadly 20% shooting percentage. Is Nick Bonino going to shoot at 20% for the year? No, he’s not.
Turris has four goals on 31 shots, leaving him at a solid 12.9% shooting percentage. Will he shoot at 12.9% for the year? Maybe, and it’s far more likely to hold over Bonino’s current numbers.
Turris is a good player who thrives with offensively-inclined linemates, but last year’s numbers prevented him from starting in the top six at the start of the year. Despite the point production, Filip Forsberg’s injury was the only reason Turris saw top six minutes. It legitimately hurts my brain to see an AHL fourth-line agitator start over him, especially since Turris keeps reiterating he’s “trying to make the most out of his opportunities” in his interviews. He has not been placed in a position to consistently succeed, which goes directly back to Peter Laviolette.
I understand coaching under times of duress can be stressful, especially when your team is almost last in the division. However, switching lines on a game-to-game basis seems both irresponsible and idiotic. Logistically, if Turris does not know what line he’ll be playing on or who he’ll be playing with before the morning skate (or if he’ll be playing at all), it can be reasonably concluded that mild levels of anxiety can permeate his mind that can inhibit his ability to play his best brand of hockey. From a player’s perspective, if a coach does not maximize every player’s full potential, he/she is not doing their job.
Kyle Turris deserves more chances, and Peter Laviolette would be wise to reward his hard work. He played very well with Matt Duchene and Calle Jarnkrok, for in three games together, the trio produced seven scoring chances and three high danger chances. However, Turris will likely remain in the bottom six should his near future be spent in Nashville.
Don’t freak out yet
The Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vegas Golden Knights, and San Jose Sharks are all underperforming. Every single team in this list made the playoffs last year, and none of them currently hold a place above fourth in their respective divisions.
The New York Islanders, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers, Arizona Coyotes, and Vancouver Canucks weren’t projected to do well at the beginning of the year, and every one of those teams is dominating their respective divisions.
Colorado lost Gabriel Landeskog and Miiko Rantanen to long-term injury, and those absences were supposed to slow the Avalanche down. They still hold second place in the Central Division, clinging to .500 hockey right now. The Stars started off rocky, and have won five games straight, clawing their way back to 13 wins in 23 games played. The Jets, whom were projected to finish around fifth in the division, have put together 13 wins as well. St. Louis, a team that was supposed to suffer from a Stanley Cup Final hangover, have managed 33 points in 23 games, good enough to lead the Central Division.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl lead the league in points. James Neal, Jean Gabriel Pageau and Nathan MacKinnnon are all tied with 13 goals. Arizona’s Darcy Kuemper is statistically the NHL’s best goalie right now.
It’s only November. Some trends will continue, others will not. Some teams will fall off, some will rise from the ashes of mediocrity. We’ve officially hit the middle of the season, so early trends will start wearing away soon enough. Stay patient, and don’t overreact just yet.