The Nashville Predators have recovered somewhat from their terrible losing streak in November. They’ve gathered seven points out of their last ten possible, including a couple wins over the St. Louis Blues and a nice road win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Now the calendar has flipped to December, where the Preds can put those negative thoughts behind them and begin to work on getting back into contention for the Central Division.

But they won’t be able to do it without some improvement from a few players. Here’s three players that need to step up their game in December in order for the Nashville Predators to get back to to the top of the division.

Craig Smith

In one of my season previews, I mentioned that Craig Smith had an outside shot at getting to 30 goals, especially if he played primarily with Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund.

Through two months, I could not have been more wrong.

Craig Smith is currently riding a five game point-less streak. He had only two points (one goal, one assist) in the month of November, and he’s only managed seven points all year (two goals, five assists).

At this point, I’m not even sure he will get to his usual 20-goal plateau. His current goals per game rate is 0.08 which is three times lower than his career average. With that pace, he won’t even reach double digits.

This is particularly bad timing for Smith to have a cold streak. He’s in a contract year for the Preds and presumably due for a pay raise from his $4.25 million salary. He will hardly even get a contract at the rate he’s going.

The Preds desperately need Craig Smith to return to form in the month of December. With Viktor Arvidsson on the shelf and the rest of the offense starting to wane, Smith is a guy that could bring balance to the offense. He’s still working hard out there, he just needs to start putting the puck in the net.

Dante Fabbro

I’m not sure what other option the Preds have than to give top four minutes to Dante Fabbro every night. Trading P.K. Subban sort of forced their hand, though I suppose if they wanted to, they could make another trade or call up another young defenseman from Milwaukee.

But for a guy expected to be more of an offensive defenseman, he’s not been good enough this year.

With only six points in 26 games, Fabbro just isn’t getting the results you normally see from a Nashville blueliner. Granted he doesn’t have the benefit of power play minutes like Ryan Ellis or Roman Josi. But at 5 on 5, Fabbro just isn’t driving offense very well.

Here’s a look at where the Nashville Predators get unblocked shot attempts when Fabbro’s on the ice (red = good, blue = bad).

With Fabbro on the ice, there’s virtually no shots generated from the dangerous areas of the ice. That “threat” number in the middle demonstrates the relative danger of scoring a goal for the Preds. A number in the negative is below average, and a number that low is downright awful.

If the Preds want to climb out of the hole they are in, they need their defense to continue to contribute offensively. With Josi, Ellis, and Ekholm all pulling their weight, it’s time for Fabbro to step up.

Pekka Rinne

I’ve been beating this drum for a few weeks now. Does anyone really think the Predators can be a contender in the Central without Pekka Rinne in full form?

Juuse Saros answered the call for one of the Preds’ goalies to step up, but is still hovering at a below average goalie right now. It looked like Saros might be the starter going forward, signalling a larger change in the context of the franchise, but then Rinne put together that nice 31 save shutout in Carolina.

Rinne has nothing left to prove to Nashville Predators fans. He’s already won them over and is very clearly the most popular Preds’ player in franchise history. But in the context of this season and this team, the Preds need Pekka Rinne to return to his usual form to help them climb back to the top of the division.

Preds Quote of the Week

“There’s no part of him that has an attitude problem… I think he’s past frustrated.”

-Julie Turris, wife of Kyle Turris, on the situation behind her husband being healthy scratched for the Preds.

If you have time, you really should go listen to the full episode of her podcast with Ida Ekholm (Mattias Ekholm’s wife). There’s a lot of great insight on what the Turris family is going through with all this.

GIF Me That Good Stuff

Filip Forsberg continues to amaze me with his ability to play hockey. This no look pass to a wide open Calle Jarnkrok is remarkable.

Let’s Do That Hockey

Look who is going to be back in Nashville on Saturday night!

  • Tuesday, December 3rd vs Tampa Bay Lightning (7:00 PM; NBCSN)
  • Saturday, December 7th vs New Jersey Devils (7:00 PM; FS-TN)

Final Thought

Though David Poile and Peter Laviolette would love nothing more than for the Kyle Turris story to go away, their own actions continue to prevent that from happening.

First you had Laviolette refusing to give more than five words (“Just made a lineup decision”) on the subject, despite the results of those lineups not exactly producing consistent wins. Kyle Turris has been scratched for seven straight games, having not played since November 16th against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Preds have gone 3-3-1 in those games, getting only seven points of their last 14 possible.

Then on Wednesday, David Poile finally spoke on the matter, reiterating Laviolette’s “just a lineup refrain” but adding some trademarked Poile confidence:

“I can absolutely look you in the eye and tell you that there’s nothing to this other than the roster decision of what we think and specifically our coaching staff feels is our best lineup for every game. And I guarantee you, 100 percent guarantee you, that that’s going to change many times during this year. I am very confident that Kyle’s going to get a chance to play. Hopefully, he’s in a position to take advantage of it, and we turn the page on that.”

Turris not on the trade block

It would appear that Poile isn’t trying to trade Turris. It would appear that Laviolette thinks Turris isn’t a key player to making a good lineup. It would appear that Turris has some role in whether or not he plays again.

And it would appear as if it really is just a lineup decision. That the coaching staff feels Kyle Turris just isn’t a good player anymore. That a bottom six forward in Milwaukee (Mathieu Olivier) is a better option than a $6 million top six winger in the NHL.

To me, this is a massive problem and one that the Nashville Predators must fix moving forward. Whether that means a trade or a buyout, they’ve got to figure out this Kyle Turris situation. And these courtesy quotes to the media? Not only are they not helping the situation, they are only making it worse.

— Featured image via James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports —