Ed. Note: Welcome to a new weekly feature we’re doing at Smashville 24/7 this season. We’re calling it ‘Stacking the Pads’, as we bring you some notes, quotes, opinions, stats and audio – a package of Predators info we hope you enjoy throughout the season…
– This preseason the NHL is testing a possible new rule for the future: Hybrid icing – a blend between touch and no-touch icing, with the purpose being that it increases player safety. Former NHL defenseman Kurtis Foster, among others, is the prime example for why the league is trying to think of ways to eliminate the threat of injury in dangerous one-on-one races for the puck. Foster broke his femur on this play back in 2008.
Hybrid icing sounds simpler than it really is. If the defending player shows he can clearly get to the puck first, the referee has the ability to blow the whistle when the player reaches the faceoff dot. If the offensive players shows he will get there first, the ref will not blow the play dead. However, it has been hard for players to get used to over the last week or so and there has been an issue with calls being inconsistent around the league.
This potential new wrinkle to icing will be examined by the NHL and NHLPA in the coming days. We went around the Predators room to gather some of their opinions on hybrid icing…
Viktor Stalberg: “It seems a little weird to me. For the faster guys, even if you’re a step behind you feel like you can get your stick in there with a reach. I still haven’t made up my mind up about how I feel about it.”
Kevin Klein: “I like it. Obviously it helps out the defense a little bit, just because of those dangerous plays where guys are getting seriously injured by getting their feet tangled up. From what I’ve seen it has worked out pretty well. I think it’s beneficial just to reduce injuries. … It shouldn’t have any effect on the defense because you just go back like you normally would.”
Matt Cullen: “I don’t mind it. If it can eliminate some of those needless injuries it’s worth working on. It’s an adjustment and it hasn’t been overly smooth yet. … It’s like anything, if you work on it hard enough and put enough time into it to allow it to work itself out, I think it’s worth doing.”
Shea Weber: “There are still some question marks. … I feel like it creates more of a race. I don’t know. I think it should be no-touch icing, to be honest with you. … Obviously they’re trying to make it better with this hybrid. Hopefully it helps protect the players.”
Paul Gaustad: “I think it’s something that is going to take a little more time to analyze than just the short period we’ve had so far, but as of right now it’s gone over pretty well and I guess time will tell.”
Barry Trotz: “I don’t mind it. There are a couple times when there is some indecision, and it comes when the pucks are rimmed [around the glass] rather than directly down the ice. Who’s going to get to those first and how are you going to determine that? They turn into a race where you start going back and you could get someone who could be a lot further back, and because the puck is going to the other side of the ice, it’s coming in a lot quicker. Even talking to the referees that has been a real tough call for them, too. … We just have to define it a little better. Maybe we can use it a little more in the preseason and in the AHL just so players grow up with it.”
– Another rule that has garnered some attention this month – one that isn’t going through a trial run – is the newly-enforced “jersey tuck rule,” known as NHL Rule 9.5:
Players are not permitted to tuck their jersey into their pants in such a manner where the top padding of the pant and/or additional body protection (affixed to the pant or affixed to the Player’s body) is exposed outside the jersey. The back uniform number must not be covered or obstructed in any fashion by protruding pads or other protective padding.
The way it works is this. The first offence is a warning. After that is a two-minute penalty for delay of game. Should someone still not get the message, the penalty is increased to a misconduct and then a game misconduct.
Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who usually tucks his jersey into his pants, is “upset” about the rule change. Meanwhile, Nashville Predators forward Matt Cullen doesn’t understand the new rule.
“I don’t see any point to that,” Cullen said. “I was watching little kids practice and I’d say 85 percent of the kids had their jersey tucked in. It’s just kind of the way the game is. Everyone points to [Wayne] Gretzky; kids want to tuck in their jersey after that. To me that is one is a waste – I don’t understand it at all. It’s ridiculous. I don’t see the safety side of that one.”
Cullen said he doesn’t tuck his jersey in on purpose, but that “90 percent of the time” his jersey falls into the back of his pants while he’s skating or simply sitting on the bench.
“They’re going to have to make the jerseys longer or something so they stay out. I’m not a fan of that [rule] at all. I don’t think anyone is.”
– Through Sunday’s action, No. 4 overall pick Seth Jones is averaging just north of 23:30 of ice time per game in the preseason. He has drawn rave reviews in the process and Trotz mentioned the ice time wasn’t necessarily by design, but rather Jones earned it.
“Coming in we just wanted to see how Seth would perform at that level and I think he has excelled. … For the most part he has deserved all the minutes,” Trotz said Monday. Following Sunday’s game Trotz said Jones was a “force.”
– One player that was sent down to Milwaukee this week, but caught the eye of Trotz in preseason, was Miikka Salomaki. The 2011 second-round pick had four points in three rookie games. Although he didn’t register a point in two preseason games, Trotz had high praise for Salomaki.
“[He] has probably played himself into a position where if anybody falters he’s right here. He’s made a substantial impression on myself and the coaching staff and I think other players,” said Trotz, who also liked what he saw from Patrick Cehlin and Colton Sissons in training camp.
– Another impressive player this preseason has been Filip Forsberg, who is currently sidelined with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day. Forsberg has two points in three games after a great showing in the rookie games. He played well in Sunday’s game on a line with David Legwand and Gabriel Bourque.
Trotz said of Forsberg, “Filip was the one guy, when he came back, that looked 10 years older. Not necessarily when looking at him, but just his confidence level and demeanor coming back – he looked like he wasn’t intimidated by anybody or anything and just played his game. … He’s been one of the more consistent forwards we have had through camp.”
To read more on Forsberg’s preseason, check out this article from Andrew Hirsh at Sunbelt Hockey.
– This week we published a story on Victor Bartley and his unique road to the NHL and a three-year, one-way contract. One thing that wasn’t included in that story was that Bartley decided to keep the No. 64. It was the number given to him before his first training camp and he thought about changing it, but in the end he wants to make it his own.
“Just being able to wear this number now kind of means a lot to me knowing that I deserve to be here and it goes to show that hard work pays off,” he said.
– Pekka Rinne will likely make the Finnish Olympic team come February, which would be his first Olympic bid. When asked whether being snubbed in 2010 would add motivation for Rinne this season, Trotz was fired up about Finland’s decision from three-plus years ago.
“He should have been [on the team]. Absolutely. They (Finland) made a mistake there. The Finns should have had Pekka Rinne on their team. And they should this year.” He continued, “I’d be absolutely flabbergasted if he’s not there. I’m putting a lot of pressure on the Finnish team. I see him on a night-to-night basis; they don’t. He’s – he’s good.”
Here is a story I wrote for Sportsnet on Rinne’s motivation to play well out of the gates for the Olympics.
– At this month’s Skate of the Union, a fan asked Trotz who he would put in the shootout if the season started today. Trotz responded by saying Craig Smith, Cullen and Matt Hendricks. Last season Smith finished tied for second in the NHL with five shootout goals (5-for-7; 71.4%), but the rest of the team struggled (4-for-25; 16.0%) and had a 2-6 record in the skills competition.
Cullen and Hendricks should help that record. In his career, Cullen is 22-for-50 (44.9%) in the shootouts with nine game-deciding goals. In 35 less attempts, Hendricks is 60% for his career.
– Hockey Prospectus recently released their predictions for the upcoming season (disclaimer: ESPN Insider link), and they are not too high on the Predators. The analytics-based site projects the Predators to finish with 87 points and 26th in the NHL.
Their top-five is as follows: Pittsburgh, NY Rangers, Boston, Chicago and Ottawa. Also, four of the bottom seven were from the Central Division: Winnipeg, Colorado, Nashville and Minnesota.
Rob Vollman, the man who wrote that predictions article, joined 102.5 The Game yesterday evening to discuss hockey analytics:
– Robby Stanley and I recently recorded the latest version of the Smashville 24/7 podcast, a Central Division preview with Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports as our guest. If you missed it, you can listen to it here: