Grading the Predators halfway through the season

With Thursday’s 3-2 overtime loss at Boston the Nashville Predators reached the midway point of the season, which makes this the perfect time to assess the performance of the players with mid-term grades.

Keep in mind, at 18-18-5 Nashville is .500 through 41 games, which is not all bad, but also is in last place in the Central Division, which is plenty bad. That affects the marks.

Players also are judged according to a combination of expectations and performance. The closer those factors are to one another the better.

Simply put, though, the Predators have not been good enough that a bunch of players can reasonably be judged as ‘A’ level performers.

So without further delay let’s get to it:

Shea Weber, defense – A
His offensive pace is comparable with his two Norris Trophy finalist seasons and he continues to do more in the defensive end.

Mike Fisher, center – B+
He’s never going to be spectacular but he’s producing big points of late and remains a steady, reliable presence on the ice and in the room.

Patric Hornqvist, right wing – B+
He’s not scoring the number of goals he has in previous years but it’s certainly not because he’s not in front of the net.

Kevin Klein, defense – B
He is more reliable than ever, particularly as the experienced hand opposite a revolving door of inexperienced partners.

Craig Smith, right wing – B
He’s the team’s leader in goals, in part because he’s competing harder in the more congested areas of the ice.

David Legwand, Center – B-
As usual, there are questions about the consistency of his effort but he is the team’s leading scorer.

Paul Gaustad, center – C+
He wins faceoffs, plays a physical game and creates scoring chances that somehow result in very few points.

Seth Jones, defense – C+
He has had the expected growing pains but handled big minutes early and never has looked out of place.

Nick Spaling, left wing – C +
He’s not a guy you necessarily notice when he’s on the ice but things seem to be better on the nights he’s in the lineup.

Matt Hendricks, right wing – C
He has brought some much needed punch (literally) and professionalism to the lineup that far outweighs his physical limitations.

Roman Josi, defense – C
There’s no question the guy can skate with the puck but not enough comes of the times he carries it into the offensive end.

Marek Mazanec, goalie – C
It’s safe to say he has exceeded any reasonable expectations but as good as he was in November, he was almost as bad in most of December.

Eric Nystrom, left wing – C
His point total does not reflect his value to the team. It’s his attitude and versatility that make him an important piece.

Colin Wilson, left wing – C
He needs to even out his offensive performance and become a more consistent point producer – and the potential clearly is there.

Victor Bartley, defense – C-
He is at his best when you don’t notice him because he is the one defenseman not looking to make a splash offensively.

Gabriel Bourque, left wing – C-
He looked poised for a big jump in points this season but it has not happened despite his gritty style of play.

Rich Clune, left wing – C-
In a way he is the quintessential Predators forward – tough to play against but not difficult to play goal against.

Matt Cullen, center – C-
He was signed as a top six forward but has not raised the team’s offensive production. In fact, his numbers have dropped.

Ryan Ellis, defense, C-
His plus-minus is a good sign, but his role remains limited and his point total falls well short of his immense offensive promise.

Mattias Ekholm, defense – D
He has yet to score his first NHL goal or to carve out a clear role for himself among the team’s group of young defensemen.

Carter Hutton, goalie – D
His moment arrived and he failed to seize it. There have been too many times when he failed to make the save at a key moment.

Viktor Stalberg, right wing – D
He’s had a hard time fitting into the system, which has made it impossible to live up to the expectations of his contract.

Filip Forsberg, left wing – Inc.
In just 12 games he has shown flashes of the high-end skill this team covets. Currently he’s starring at the World Junior Championships.

Pekka Rinne, goalie – Inc.
Just when it seemed he hit his stride he was felled by a staph infection that has kept him sidelined for more than two months (and counting).