David Poile does not think he’s asking too much of most of his forwards.
Simply put: The Nashville Predators general manager wants more goals. And why not? Thursday’s 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues was the 21st time in 63 games this season – that’s one out of every three – that an opponent limited Nashville to one or no goals. It also was the third straight in which the Predators managed just one.
Those struggles on offense have a lot to do with the fact that the franchise is likely to miss out on the playoffs for the second straight season. The last time that happened was 2001-02 and 2002-03.
“We’re not asking any of the players on our roster to do anything more than they have in the past,” Poile said earlier this week. “I could name a few names – say Viktor Stalberg. He scored 22 goals one year. If he scored 22 goals for us this year, I’m pretty sure we’d be a playoff team.
“If Matt Cullen scored 15-18 goals, I think we’d be a playoff team. I think we can go through the roster and a lot of guys are really down on their scoring.”
He’s right, of course. Stalberg did score 22 goals in a season. He also scored 12 in a season. When he signed with the Predators last summer, his career average was roughly 17 goals for every 82 games played – dead center between 22 and 12.
He is, in fact, shy of that pace this season but 17 goals should have been the expectation, not 22 or more.
Similarly, Cullen was once a 25-goal scorer — eight seasons ago. He came to Nashville as a guy who averaged 15.5 goals per 82 games over the course of his career, which dates back to 1997-98, but was trending downward (14.6 over the past four seasons) as he aged through his mid-30s.
He, too, is behind that pace and nowhere near his high-water mark.
They’re not the only ones. They are, however, the most notable because they’re the ones Poile handpicked from the free agent pool last summer to restart the offense.
He didn’t like what he saw last season when a bunch of young forwards got a chance and failed to deliver so he not only overcompensated with veteran free agents he also overestimated what those free agents actually could deliver.
Already, he is prepared to rethink things yet again for next season.
“I want to have a different look with our forwards,” Poile said. “We have to play a little bit differently. Or we’ve got to score a little bit differently. Somehow we’ve got to score a little bit more.”
It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask. It is up to him, though, to find the answers.
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