The Predators will have to manage without their leading point-getter for at least the next month, which will be a tall task. However, it’s probably not fair to compare this injury to last season’s freak injury to Ryan Johansen during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There are some substantial differences that make Forsberg’s absence much easier to withstand.
Here are a few reasons not to fret, Predators fans.
If there was ever a good time to get injured during the season, it’s now.
The Predators were in the midst of a slump, having gone 2-4-2 in their last eight games going into Saturday, January 6. Going into their bye week, they were victorious over the Kings and Oilers. Forsberg’s absence has something to do with the slide, but he’s not the entire reason that the team has struggled. Many players who could, and should, be softening the blow have not stepped up.
Missing a top guy during a slump is easier than suddenly missing a top guy during a hot stretch, much like the Predators without Johansen late in the 2017 playoffs.
In addition, this stretch in January comes loaded with two lengthy breaks for Nashville. They’ll be off January 10-15 on their bye week, and will be off from January 26-28 for the All Star Break. That means that Forsberg will have missed a minimum of nine games after the timetable for his injury was announced on January 3.
In the scheme of the entire season, that’s not a huge chunk of time to miss, especially when you consider that four of those games are against teams in the bottom 10 in the league standings (including Nashville’s overtime loss to Arizona this week). Compare that to Johansen’s injury, which came in the midst of a tied Western Conference Final with Nashville about to go on a pivotal trip to Anaheim for Game Five.
This light schedule during his absence should lighten the blow of his injury.
The Invaluableness Factor
Forsberg is an integral part of the Predators’ offense and one of their most important forward, but will his loss hamper the team’s offense like Johansen’s did in the playoffs last year?
In the playoffs up until Johansen’s injury in Game Four of the Western Conference Final, he was third on the team in on-ice unblocked shot attempts for (Fenwick) at 56.29%. It’s worth noting that Forsberg was second on the team in that category. Johansen was also fourth on the team in on-ice scoring chances for percentage with 61.72%.
On top of that, he was the most trusted center in offensive zone face-offs up until that point. Johansen led all Predators centers in his percentage of face-offs in the offensive zone. He took 53.57% of his face-offs in the offensive zone, while the next-best center in that category was Calle Jarnkrok at 46.67%.
Based on these numbers, Johansen was as close to invaluable to his team at that point as possible. Forsberg, while still valuable, is not as invaluable as Johansen was, and for good reason. As of Saturday, January 6, Forsberg sat ninth on the team in on-ice unblocked shot attempts for percentage at 52.10%, and 11th in scoring chances for percentage at 49.56%.
Those are still good numbers, but are not devastating numbers to lose. That type of production is not nearly as invaluable as Johansen’s was in the playoffs.
Depth, Depth and More Depth
Remember when Colton Sissons was a number-one center for the Stanley Cup Final?
Granted, he performed admirably in that role, but he still had to deal with Sidney Crosby across from him in the face-off dot.
When Johansen went down last year, the Predators did not have the benefit of depth that they do now. Now, Kyle Turris is in the lineup, along with Nick Bonino as well as Kevin Fiala, who was already injured by the time Johansen was knocked out of the postseason. In addition, Craig Smith has turned himself into the sniper that people expected him to be a few years ago.
Yes, Forsberg is a bona fide top winger and a borderline NHL star, but now there are more high-octane forwards to take his place and pick up the slack. Perhaps they haven’t done so yet, but this 2017-18 Predators squad has more than enough depth to withstand the loss of Forsberg for 4-6 weeks.
So, don’t lose your minds, Predators fans. This injury isn’t great, but it’s not the end of the world.
Statistics via Natural Stat Trick