Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Five teams I can't figure out

I'm confused. Are you confused? Because I'm confused.

Five weeks into the NHL season, certain things are starting to make sense. Good teams are good, bad teams are bad, and most of the league is stuck somewhere in the middle. And that's fine – I can get my head around that. But there are certain teams that I just can't figure out.

Obviously, when you're talking about confusing teams, you're going to get a lot of overlap with the category of surprising teams. But those two groups aren't the same thing. For example, I picked the Dallas Stars to come out of the West this year, but so far they've been losing more than they win. That's a surprise. But it's not all that confusing – they've had a ton of injuries and last year's bad goaltending has been even worse. Surprising, sure, but the Stars aren't especially hard to figure out.

But other teams are. So today, let's run through the five teams I still can't get my head around through the season's first month or so.

Nashville Predators

We may as well start with the obvious choice, since I'm pretty sure the Predators are the one team that would show up on every "Most Confusing" list around the league right now. They came into the season as a trendy pick to win the Central Division, if not the Stanley Cup, but so far they've barely been competitive.

The question is why, and that's where smarter folks than me have tried to sort things out without much success. On paper, the Predators shouldn't be all that different from last year. They've got the same coach, same system, same goaltender, and aside from one trade, the roster hasn't changed all that much.

And yes, that one trade was a big one, sending Shea Weber to Montreal for P.K. Subban. We've got years to argue about that deal, but so far Weber looks unstoppable for the Habs while Subban has been merely OK in Nashville. But could a single one-for-one trade, even an old-fashioned blockbuster, really have short-circuited an entire franchise?

That doesn't seem reasonable. It's more likely that a very good blueline had been masking the fact that Pekka Rinne hasn't been very good lately, and ill-timed goal-scoring slumps by forwards like Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen helped things snowball. And maybe we're just overreacting to a tough start. The Predators had won three straight before Tuesday night's loss to Toronto, after all, so maybe they're already back on track.

Here's hoping that's true. Because that Nashville/Montreal Stanley Cup final would be too much fun to give up on now.

>> Read the full post at The Hockey News

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