Friday, 8 January 2016

Johansen Strikes

Ryan Johansen made his debut for the Nashville Predators in Colorado against the Avalanche tonight. Johansen, as you may have heard was the return for GM David Poile sending highly-prized defenceman Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets. If you had listened to The Hockey Show last night, you'd already know how I feel about this trade, but Johansen made his debut and an impact early in the game tonight. The final results, though, were all the same for both Johansen and the Predators.

Here's the goal in case you missed it.
Johansen's goal was scored on his first shot as a Predator. In scoring at 2:35 of the opening period, the NHL confirmed that it was the third-fastest goal by a player on a new team. In other words, welcome to Nashville, Ryan, and they're glad to have you on their side.

The problem, however, is that when the final horn sounded there was an all-too-familiar feeling inside the Predators' dressing room. The Avalanche had defeated the Predators 5-3, closing the two-point gap between the Predators and Avalanche. Because the Avalanche have more regulation wins, they now occupy the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

I stated on the radio show that I thought that Nashville gave up way too much in acquiring Johansen who I believe won't help them to the extent they believe he will. Most Stanley Cup contenders have three things going for them: an all-star goaltender, an excellent, young offensive defenceman, and two legitimate scoring lines. Nashville, on paper, has all of these things: Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, and lines that feature James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg, and Colin Wilson. Adding another centerman of Johansen's calibre would make it seem like the Predators are on the right path, but this trade significantly made their blue line weaker.

In trading Jones, the Predators activated Anthony Bitetto who logged 12:02 of ice-time against the Avalanche - the lowest of all six defenders. That means that Barret Jackman played more minutes than he usually does, and the Predators finished with three defencemen who logged more than 22 minutes in ice-time. For Shea Weber and Roman Josi, they're averaging 24:30 and 24:41 of ice-time per game respectively, so that's no problem. Matthias Ekholm, however, averages just 18:32 of ice-time and he played 23:40 in this game - 5:08 more than he normally does. Ryan Ellis has averaged 19:56 of ice-time per night, yet he skated for 24:06 on this night - 4:10 more than he normally does.

Remember how Ryan Suter looked gassed in the playoffs last year after averaging some 30+ minutes a night? Trading Seth Jones and his 19:38 per night now puts real strain on the bottom-four defenceman to absorb that time and make up the difference. Skating ten extra shifts in the NHL isn't like your casual public skate at your local rink. This will take a toll on the blue line.

While it appears that Nashville may have found itself a centerman who can bring a pile of offence to the lineup, I'm not sold that Ryan Johansen will make enough of an impact to make up for the loss of a defenceman who is good offensively, has the potential to be an excellent defender, and plays a third of each game. That's not to say that Johansen doesn't have talent, but the loss of a 1A/1B defenceman will have a major impact on a team.

The final result was an all-too-familiar result for the Predators as of late - another loss in a season where it was thought they would take the next step. They have a chance to stop the bleeding in Arizona tomorrow night, but they're now on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff spot. If they can't stop bleeding in their own zone, it won't matter how much offence Johansen brings to Music City.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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