Early results, production suggest Predators' choices at forward are clear

Barry Trotz has decisions to make with his forwards.

The Nashville Predators coach has to sit as many as two for each game and lately his choices have emphasized defensive reliability over offensive potential.

In the last week he scratched both Filip Forsberg, the team’s most skilled youngster, and Viktor Stalberg, Nashville’s most high-profile free agent. Forsberg sat out last Tuesday’s loss at Minnesota and Stalberg was not in the lineup Thursday or Saturday against Winnipeg and St. Louis, respectively.

Those moves were curious given that Nashville is the only Western Conference team that currently averages fewer than two goals per game.

“It’s sort of a game-to-game basis,” Trotz said. “Some guys are playing well and some guys are playing not so well. Some guys are producing better than other guys are.

“… We need our forwards to convert. … We need a little more production from our forwards. When we get a chance, we have to convert.”

It might help if he sticks with those who have the best chance to convert.

Through the Predators’ first 12 games, six forwards have been in and out of the lineup either because of injury or coaches’ decision and already there looks to be a direct correlation between which ones play and how the team does on the scoreboard.

Gabriel Bourque – 1 game missed
Record without him: 0-1-0
Goals per game without him: 0.00

Filip Forsberg – 3 games missed
Record without him: 0-3-0
Goals per game without him: 1.00

Viktor Stalberg – 6 games missed
Record without him: 2-4-0
Goals per game without him: 1.67

Mike Fisher – 3 games missed
Record without him: 2-1-0
Goals per game without him: 1.67

Rich Clune – 7 games missed
Record without him: 5-1-1
Goals per game without him: 2.43

Nick Spaling – 4 games missed
Record without him: 3-0-1
Goals per game without him: 2.75

In short, Nashville has been much less productive when offensive-minded guys like Forsberg and/or Stalberg have been on the bench.

Both were injured for the first two games and, not surprisingly, the Predators started 0-2-0. In three contests last week one was on the bench was because the coaches put them there. Nashville won once in three games and was outscored 10-4.

Stalberg’s four-year, $12 million contract was the biggest among this season’s free agent additions and was proffered with the idea that he would play an offensive role. Yet his average ice time has been 11:20 overall (second lowest among all Nashville players) and 25 seconds on the power play – the most offensive of situations.
Forsberg, conversely, has gotten his fair share of power play time and the results speak for themselves. The Predators have six power play goals and the rookie has had a hand in four of them (one goal, three assists).

Nashville’s record with at least one power play goal is 5-0-0. Without, it’s 1-5-1.

All in all, the choice -- or choices -- seems clear.