Tag:Nashville Predators
Posted on: November 18, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 4:59 pm
 

Video: Joffrey Lupul vs. Predators fan

By: Adam Gretz

For as long as hockey rinks have been surrounded by glass, fans have been banging on said glass in an effort to make as much noise, and bring as much attention to themselves, as humanly possible. (Loud noises!)

Early in the third period of Toronto's 4-1 loss in Nashville on Thursday night, Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul found himself standing next to the glass following a stoppage in play when a Predators fan in the front row used that opportunity to give the glass a swift kick right next to Lupul's head, surprising the Toronto forward.



That's definitely a new one, and it appeared that Lupul had something to say to the fan.

On Friday, Lupul took to his Twitter account and asked his followers if they wanted to venture a guess as to what he said in response, before following it up with this:

"I can't remember exactly but I feel that the word "toothless" was my initial reaction. He only had 4 of em."

(H/T HockeyWebCast for the Video)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter

Posted on: November 17, 2011 11:16 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 10:59 am
 

Watch: Craig Smith's incredible empty net miss

By: Adam Gretz

Nashville's Craig Smith is an early contender, if not the early favorite, for the NHL's rookie of the year award, entering Thursday's game against Toronto tied for the team lead in scoring, as well as the league-wide in scoring among rookies with 14 points

Late in the third period of the Predator's 4-1 win over Toronto, he made a play that will probably be left off of his rookie highlight reel by missing an empty net from point-blank range, completely firing the puck over the cage ... and then celebrating what he thought was a goal, all while the goal horn went off in the background.



The "what?!" reaction of Predators coach Barry Trotz at the 10-second mark on the bench is incredible.

For years, Patrick Stefan's epic miss in Edmonton, when he was a member of the Dallas Stars, was the empty net miss that all others were measured against, but this one might give it a run for its money. The only thing Smith's has going for it to keep it below Stefan's was that Smith's didn't result in the other team taking the puck the length of the ice and scoring a game-tying goal.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 17, 2011 4:29 pm
 

Preds' Suter on contract: It's going to get done

By Brian Stubits

It wasn't long ago that the Nashville Predators sort of stunned the league and re-signed Pekka Rinne. It wasn't necessarily them re-signing Rinne that was so surprising, it was the fact that they gave the Vezina quality goaltender seven years and $49 million. Plus the timing was out of the blue, the negotiations were very quiet.

Plus it was just surprising the Preds would give him so much knowing there are two other big free agents to re-sign. After years of operating on such a low budget, many were guessing that meant either one or both of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber wouldn't be back, the team wouldn't be able to afford them all.

That was the prevailing thought by some. The general thinking was that if only one was coming back, it would be Weber. That would have left Suter on the outside looking in.

I have maintained that Nashville sees a window of opportunity opening to win and is willing to spend near the cap starting next season, thus it will do all it can to get the three all under contract long-term. That is starting to look more and more possible.

With Rinne already taken care of and Weber being unable to sign until January since he received his one-year contract this summer, all of the negotiating attention is on Suter. His agent, Neil Sheehy, has been in Nashville to work on a deal for Suter, who is due to be a free agent on July 1.

“I don’t want to get into the substance of the negotiation," Sheehy told Joshua Cooper of the Tennesseean. "The Predators are making every effort to sign Ryan and Ryan wants to be here, but there’s issues you address. I think it’s always best when you can address them with each other. You take a little bit of time to reflect on it and then you come back to further discussions.”

It sounds like most agent speak. Not a whole lot to take out of it other than they are working on a deal. Then there is Suter's comment.

“We’re just talking, trying to figure everything out and that we’re on the same page,” Suter said. “I want to be here, that’s the big thing and they want me here, and it’s going to get done.”

The last part is what really sticks out, a pretty definitive statement: "it's going to get done."

One thing to consider here is that the Predators announced on Wednesday that Canadian businessman W. Brett Wilson bought a five percent minority stake in the franchise. His addition could bring about a little influx of cash to the team.

It's easy to see why the Preds would want to lock Suter into a long-term deal. He is still just 26 years old (turns 27 in January) and if it weren't for his teammate Weber, would be their best defenseman. If he weren't overshadowed by Weber, he would likely be in the Norris Trophy conversation. This season in 17 games Suter has three goals and six assists while sporting a robust plus-11.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: November 10, 2011 12:23 pm
 

The growing rivalry that is Predators-Ducks

By Brian Stubits

It doesn't feel like there are a lot of rivalries left in hockey. Hatred like that between the Canadiens and Bruins still exists, but the rivalries born from play on the ice and ones that go beyond geography/history? Not too many. The Red Wings and Avalanche had one a while back, but that has petered out. Oh sure, fans, particularly those in Colorado, will tell you they still hate the other team, but the height of the rivalry? It's in the past.

However we might have a new one emerging. I'm hoping so, they make the games that much more fun and interesting.

The Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators seem like unlikely combatants being that they are two time zones apart and some 2,000 miles. But familiarity breeds contempt, and these two have been getting familiar since last season. In this case, let's say the relationship is moving at an accelerated pace.

"We got to know each other a lot," Preds coach Barry Trotz said following Nashville's 4-2 in Anaheim on Wednesday. "I don’t think we really care for each other."

Every win is nice in the NHL, I would never argue otherwise. But how often do wins just seem to be extra sweet in early November? Not a tremendous amount of them. But judging by Preds agitator Jordin Tootoo's response, this one was as sweet as candy.

“Yeah, you have to go in with kind of a ‘[forget] you’ attitude,” Tootoo said (with Cee Lo Green channeled). “They talk all the time and talk is cheap. It all comes down to results and tonight we got the two points so they can [chew] on that.”

Where exactly did this hatred begin percolating? Exactly where every good blood battle does.

“It started in the playoffs last year,” Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf said before the team's first matchup this season in October.

If the playoffs was the birth of the rivalry then that first meeting was a growth spurt. There was one play in particular that had Getzlaf in a rage. It came when Corey Perry legitimately slashed Tootoo, who fell to the ice in a pretty dramatic scene.

We won't rehash the entire story from that game, so if you want to read all of the quotes from Getzlaf, here they are. But they were rather incendiary, accusing Tootoo of flopping and lots of use of the word embarrassing.

Here's how you know that a rivalry is getting good. A coach even got in on the sniping back and forth. Trotz had this to say before Wednesday's game.

“They have some guys who aren’t exactly lilywhite, some of their tough guys,” Trotz said. “You watch them behind the play when the ref’s not looking, they do a lot of [stuff]. That’s just whining to me. Go on the ice, play and if you have a problem with someone, take care of it. Don’t go through the paper. That’s all.”

How great is that? Not only is a head coach joining in the barb tossing, but he's throwing in words like lilywhite? Just awesome.

A proposal for the NHL. When you reach your final realignment verdict, can we squeeze the Preds and Ducks into the same division? No? Tis a shame. Just when this rivalry is budding, it could be halted. Well, at least there are two more games this season and, if the Ducks get their act together, maybe another postseason series? I'll be waiting.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: November 3, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 7:18 pm
 

Was Rinne the right choice for Nashville?

RinneBy: Adam Gretz

There are few positions in professional sports that get as much attention and face as much scrutiny as  starting goaltenders in the NHL. There are also few positions that are as unpredictable, uncertain, maddening and completely random.

Tim Thomas, the winner of two of the past three Vezina Trophies, is probably the best one in the league right now, and he didn't become a full-time starter until he was 32 years old after being a ninth-round draft pick and bounced around Europe and the minor leagues for nearly a decade.

Pekka Rinne, the Nashville Predators goaltender who just signed a contract that gives him the highest average annual salary in the league at the position (seven years, $49 million), is another example as to just how unpredictable the position can be. During an interview back in 2006, former Predators assistant and current Penguins general manager Ray Shero told the story of how the team initially scouted Rinne prior to making him an eighth-round draft pick in 2004 -- they watched him during warmups in Finland because he rarely played in games for Karpat Oulu, a team in the Finnish Elite League. Actually, he appeared in 10 games, winning eight, during the 2004-05 season, but the first night Shero joined a scout, Janne Kekalainen, to watch him was during warmups. Said Shero in the interview: "I watch him and he's taking shots and I turned to Janne after warmup and said, 'It's your call, buddy.' I can barely draft a goalie during the game let alone warmup. "

Needless to say their decision to draft him has paid off, Rinne has become their starting goaltender, a key member of their core, along with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and now, one of the highest-paid players in the NHL.

But was it the right move to give him such a large contract?

I'm not going to deny that Rinne is an excellent goaltender, and based on the way the team around him has played so far this season he's probably their first month MVP. It's also encouraging that the Predators were able to secure one of their home-grown players, and perhaps it's a sign that they will maybe, hopefully be able to keep one -- or both -- of their other soon-to-be top free agents (Weber and Suter). But I'm just not sold on giving out such huge contracts to goalies because, again, the position is just full of so much uncertainty, and one that can be heavily influenced by the team in front of the crease.

Over the past eight years the Predators have had no trouble finding goaltenders that are able to play at a high level, and in almost every season have managed to post a similar save percentage and finish well above (or close to) the league average no matter what their primary goaltending duo has looked like -- whether it was Rinne and Anders Lindback, Rinne and Dan Ellis, Ellis and Chris Mason, or Mason and Tomas Vokoun.

(League average in parenthesis)

2010-11: Pekka Rinne/Anders Lindback -- .926 (.913)
2009-10: Pekka Rinne/Dan Ellis -- .910 (.911)
2008-09: Pekka Rinne/Dan Ellis -- .910 (.908)
2007-08: Dan Ellis/Chris Mason -- .911 (.909)
2006-07: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .922 (.905)
2005-06: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .916 (.901)
2003-04: Tomas Vokoun/Chris Mason -- .912 (.911)
2002-03: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .911 (.909)
2001-02: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .903 (.908)
2000-01: Tomas Vokoun/Mike Dunham -- .917 (.903)

I'm not sure Rinne can consistently duplicate the .930 save percentage he recorded last season when he finished as a runner-up for the Vezina Trophy, and if he's back around the .915-920 area that is his career average, how much worse would they have been with a combination of Lindback and a free agent signing at a fraction of the price next season?

Like the situation in Phoenix with Mike Smith replacing Ilya Bryzgalov, there would have been a drop, but probably not as large as most would expect, or as large as the gap in salary would indicate, especially given the amount of success players like Mason and Ellis have been able to experience in Nashville (and how how much they've struggled away from Nashville). Keep in mind, Ellis, Mason and Rinne all experienced seasons with the Predators where they finished in the top-10 in the NHL in save percentage. They've consistently been able to find productive goaltenders without breaking the bank, why couldn't they continue to do it?

In the salary cap NHL every dollar counts and the wrong contract can have a large negative impact on a franchise, especially when it's a team that may or may not have an endless supply of money to keep other core players. I guess, in the end, it just goes back to my dislike of such large contracts for a position that is so unpredictable, even with seemingly established players, combined with the belief that players like Weber and Suter are simply more valuable to what they do for the long-term.

As E.J. Hradek pointed out on Twitter earlier in the day, it's a lot easier (and cheaper) to find quality goaltenders than it is to find franchise defensemen.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: November 3, 2011 3:52 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 3:56 pm
 

Shanahan on suspensions and non-suspensions

By: Adam Gretz

When Brendan Shanahan handed out nine suspensions during the preseason the biggest question on our minds was whether or not that torrid pace would continue in the regular season, or if that was simply the message sending and adjustment phase.

A month into the regular season and, as of Thursday morning, Shanahan has issued just four suspensions that have totaled 11 games, while also issuing just two fines. For a comparison, on the same date last season under former NHL disciplinary czar Colin Campbell, the NHL had issued seven suspensions during the regular season that totaled 17 games, along with six fines.

After four suspensions for an illegal hit to the head during a one-week stretch in the preseason, we didn't see our first suspension for a similar play until this week when Edmonton's Andy Sutton received a five-game banishment for his hit to the head of Colorado Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog. Are the players getting the message that was sent out during the preseason and starting to figure out what they are and aren't allowed to do? Or has Shanahan simply softened on what's worthy of a suspension? I think it's a combination of the two, and according to players like Nashville's Mike Fisher, who was on the receiving end of a questionable hit this past week, there is still some confusion from the players perspective.

I do think, simply based on nothing other than my own observations, that we have probably seen a bit of decrease in the number of blatant hits to the head. Whether or not that's because of the run of suspensions during the preseason, combined with the steady stream of video's breaking down each punishment, as well as the videos sent to each team demonstrating legal and illegal hits, is certainly up for debate. There just doesn't seem to be quite as many questionable hits as there were in recent seasons that have left us asking, "is this guy going to get suspended?"

But while they don't seem to be as frequent, they do still exist. Over the past week, for example, there have been a couple that drew some attention that resulted in no punishment from the league, including a play that involved Fisher getting hit by Francois Beauchemin, as well as Rangers forward Wojtek Wolski and his hit on Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson.

Shanahan appeared on NHL Live on Wednesday afternoon and addressed them.

"The first thing players want to know is what can't I do," said Shanahan. "And then the next, maybe just as important question is what can I do. And so we worked really hard in the offseason, players wanted us to get rid of illegal head shots, general managers wanted us to get rid of illegal head shots and I think the fans do to. And I think it's going to trickle down into minor hockey as well, so we talked a lot about this and we worked with the NHLPA, and players contributed to this, we talked about making a full body check."

At that point Shanahan went into a full description of why there was no discipline for Beauchemin:
"We felt that Beauchemin worked hard, right here he's blowing snow, he actually gets in front of Fisher, and he's blowing snow and digging in and he's hitting him in the chest, shoulder and unfortunately there is some incidental contact to the head, but we feel that's a full body check. We've asked the players to do hat, Beauchemin worked really hard to get in front of Fisher, maybe a year ago he doesn't and he hits him from the blindside. Even though he approached from the blindside he didn't deliver the hit, you saw the snow blowing, he got in front of him, stopped, dug in, kept his elbow down, kept his feet on the ice and delivered a hard hit."
And then on the on the Wolski/Alfredsson hit:
"Wolski's not a dirty player, and has no history of being a dirty player. There are collisions that occur on the ice where, unfortunately, one player sees it just prior. On this play here, Wolski has got to get out to his point. You see here, Gaborik, the left winger, has to come all the way to Wolski's point on the right side because Wolski's not there. He ran into Alfredsson trying to get there."

"We've seen enough of these now, and I don't like these, but we've seen enough of them where when one player sees the hit just prior, he tenses up. And sometimes he even leans in because he's bracing for an impact. When both guys see it, it's two guys tensing up and they bounce off each other and everybody's fine. It's really unfortunate here, when one player doesn't see it and the other guy does."

"Now, if I felt this was intentional, or if it wasn't at the last instant, just prior. If I might have felt there was any kind of sneakiness or history of these types of offenses for Wolski, he would have been suspended."
Shanahan's emphasis on prior history, and whether or not a player has a reputation for being a dirty player or a track record of illegal hits has sparked some discussion as well as the concern that there is still way too much inconsistency when it comes to player discipline. Should it really matter if a player has or has not been guilty of an illegal hit in the past when he does eventually commit one? Of course not. An illegal play is an illegal play whether or not it's delivered by Wojtek Wolski, a player with no prior history, or Daniel Carcillo, a player with a lengthy history. Not suspending a player like Wolski because he's never done it before almost seems as if it's giving players one free pass before they get punished.

It's either legal or it's not.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: November 3, 2011 12:56 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2011 4:05 pm
 

Predators sign Rinne to 7-year, $49M extension

By Brian Stubits

The Nashville Predators made a huge splash by giving goaltender Pekka Rinne a boatload of cash on Thursday. As in $49 million over seven seasons.

“It’s just a big day for me and obviously I couldn’t be happier right now," Rinne said (from the Tennesseean). "It’s the organization that drafted me and now I have a chance to play next seven years here in Nashville. It feels great and I’m so happy right now.”

The Vezina Trophy finalist goalie was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this coming summer along with Ryan Suter while Shea Weber is facing restricted free agency again, so getting one out of the way this early is huge and makes the task of keeping the three players around long-term a little less daunting.

Or perhaps even more daunting now, some will argue. Committing $7 million a season to Rinne is a massive, massive commitment, particularly to a goalie. The Preds just gave him the highest cap hit in the league for netminders as well as the highest deal in their franchise's history.

This means if they want to keep their core three, they will have to invest around $22 million in only three players as Weber is making $7.5 million this season and Suter, at $3.5 million now, is due for a very big raise, particularly with these two deals on his team.

“Today’s signing is further evidence of our ownership’s commitment to keeping our core intact,” Predators GM David Poile said. “This is the first step of a process designed to retain our key players and leaders. Pekka has grown with our franchise, just recently established our franchise record for career shutouts and is now recognized as one of the game’s elite players. We’re thrilled to know that he will be backstopping our franchise for several years to come.”

If that's the case, the Predators just announced a major change to their organizational approach. Nashville has consistently had one of the league's lowest payrolls. This season they are the third lowest with a shade under $50 million, according to Cap Geek. To keep the core three there, they will have to raise their payroll substantially, probably living closer toward the cap instead of the floor.

Again, this is an extraordinary commitment to a goaltender, one I think caught many off guard. Fact is, the Predators are an organization that hasn't had a tough time finding quality goaltenders. If there were any organization in hockey that might have had the idea that it can always find a good goaltender, it is Nashville with coach Barry Trotz's system. This shows they would beg to differ.

None of that is to say that Rinne doesn't deserve to be in the discussion of best goalie in the league. He definitely does, without a doubt. THe Predators just made their feelings on the matter perfectly clear, making Rinne the top-paid 'minder in the league, as far as cap hit goes. Rinne's agent, Jay Grossman, said that wasn't necessarily the intention of the negotiations, but I'm sure it's a side effect Rinne and crew will take.

In 11 games this season, Rinne has a 5-4-1 record with a 2.50 goals against average with a .922 save percentage. In the early going, Rinne was the only force keeping the Preds in games as the offense struggled. Now he has a very handsom reward.

Rinne, a native of Kempele, Finland, was second in voting for the Vezina Trophy and fourth in voting for the Hart Trophy earlier this year after helping the Predators win their first playoff series. He ranked second in the NHL with a .930 save percentage, third in goals-against average (2.12) and tied for sixth with six shutouts.

He leads the NHL with the most shutouts since 2008-09, and his 22nd last weekend against Anaheim also was his 100th career victory.

Nashville, which started play in the 1998-99 season, drafted Rinne in the eighth round in 2004 with the 258th pick overall. Rinne also has played for Finland in the World Championships in 2009 and 2010.

Some are wondering if the Predators didn't do things in the wrong order here, if they wouldn't have been wiser to sign Suter or Weber first instead of Rinne. To that I say, does it really matter? If the plan is to sign all three players, which it certainly seems to be, then I see little significance to the order of which the signings happen. It isn't always easy reaching long-term deals with players, so if one is ready to sign, then strike while the iron is hot. Not to mention that signing one sends a message to the other two that the team is willing to commit and try for a winner. That's an extra bargaining chip the Preds can use with Suter and Weber.

“Yeah, it’s a great sign," Weber said. "It’s a huge commitment by the team, showing they’re committed to the guys they brought up in the organization. Obviously we’re not thinking about that right now. We’re trying to win games and I’m sure the rest will sort itself out.”

Negotiations with Suter's agent are expected to pick up in mid-November, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. I have to think this Rinne deal will help Nashville at that time.

“Yeah, we are good friends, but I’m the first one to sign, and hopefully those two sign after me," Rinne said. "I can only talk for myself, but it’s no secret we all need those two guys. I’m the first guy to sign, I feel confident they love it in Nashville, but I don’t want to comment on behalf of them.”

So this deal seems good when you are looking at it just through the prism of keeping the three would-be free agents. There is plenty of cap space in Nashville. But when you step back from that narrow approach and see how these three will command more or less 1/3 of the salary cap themselves, you begin to wonder how it effects the rest of the roster. If the Preds are able to keep the rest of their players on the cheap and stay thrifty, then it might not be an issue.

The deal is jaw-dropping. That I get. I mean seven years for a goalie? Only Rick DiPietro and Roberto Luongo are signed for longer terms than that. So I'm sure Islanders and Canucks fans have some feelings on the matter.

But I'm not convinced it's as bad of a deal as many are saying. The big IF in the equation is if the Predators are OK with spending a lot more annually. If they are and then are able to sign Suter and Weber to deals too, then Nashville has a great core on the defensive end to play behind for years. I do feel uneasy about giving a goalie so much money and so many years, but if this is what it takes ...

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:32 pm
 

Handing out some first month grades

octgrades

By: Adam Gretz

The first month of the NHL season is in the books and we're still trying to figure out which teams are good, which teams are bad and which hot start is for real and which one is simply an early season mirage. Let's check in with a progress report on some notable players and teams for the month of October.

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs: Let's pretend, just hypothetically, that Phil Kessel is able stay near the top of the NHL's scoring list all.

Now, you shouldn't expect him to maintain his current pace (his shooting percentage is currently 26 percent -- that's probably not sustainable for a full season), but what if he were to do something completely unexpected like, say, win the NHL's scoring title and help lead the Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. Would that do anything to change your opinion of the the trade that brought him to Toronto? Should it? Brian Burke has already said Boston won the trade because it has a Stanley Cup, but that trade -- which landed the Bruins two first-round draft picks, including a No. 2 overall selection used on Tyler Seguin, and a second-round pick -- had little to do with that championship. Seguin played about 12 minutes a game and scored 11 goals during the regular season, and only appeared in two postseason series. It's not like he was the driving force behind that cup run. The steep price Toronto paid still overshadow the fact that Kessel is a pretty darn good (three straight years of 30-plus goals) player and still only 24 years of age.

Even if he doesn't maintain this current pace he's been the most dangerous offensive player in the NHL this season and one of the biggest reasons the Maple Leafs are off to their best start in a decade, and that's worthy of a top-grade for the first month.

Other players and teams earning A's for the month of October

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) -- had one of the best months of any goaltender in the NHL, including three consecutive shutouts; James Neal (Pittsburgh Penguins) -- for a Penguins team that continues to deal with injuries, Neal has been their best overall player and looks to be the young goal-scoring winger they've been searching for for years; Nikolai Khabibulin (Edmonton Oilers) -- He leads the NHL in save percentage and goals against average for what has been, so far, the toughest team in the NHL to score against; and the Dallas Stars -- winners of eight of their first 11 games, thanks in large part to the play of Kari Lehtonen.

Ottawa Senators: For the first two weeks of the season the Ottawa Senators looked to be every bit as awful as they were expected to be.

Over the next two weeks? They won six games in a row and end the month two game over .500. Even through the awful stretch to start the season the Senators were impressive with their determination to never quit in a game, regardless of the score, resulting in acouple of late come-from-behind victories (against Minnesota and the Rangers).

They've been outscored 27-15 over the first two periods but have outscored their opponents 21-18 in the third period. It's not likely they'll be able to continue to rely on huge third period comebacks to get wins, and they're going to have to start getting some better starts in games so they're not constantly trying to play catch up, but a 7-5 record at this point is more than could have (or should have) been expected.

Other players and teams earning B's for the month of October

Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) -- He's been the best player on a Nashville team that is losing the possession battle just about every single night and is facing more shots than any other goaltender in the league. He's keeping the Predators in it while they search for some offense; Jaromir Jagr (Philadelphia Flyers) -- Three years away from the NHL and at 39 years of age Jagr opened the season and showed everybody that he can still play at the highest level with a point-per-game pace for the Flyers.

Detroit Red Wings: The A-plus honor student that brings home the rare and unexpected C. You know they can do better, and you expect them to do better. (And they will do better.) But after starting the season 5-0 the Red Wings dropped four in a row by a combined margin of 16-4. That streak includes a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Washington Capitals, a game that was followed by a 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets for their first victory of the season. Their defense definitely took a hit when Brian Rafalski retired over the summer, and they're not the defensive stalwart they were a few years ago, but they should be better than they've looked over the first month.

Other players and teams earning C's for the month of October

Montreal Canadiens -- Injuries to their defense, as well as top forward Michael Cammalleri, didn't help, but a rather uninspiring start for the Canadiens that only started to turn around when an assistant coach was forced to take the fall.

Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula spent a ton of money this summer in an effort to make the Sabres a Stanley Cup contender, and one of his biggest investments, Ville Leino, has been a complete non-factor through the first month of the season. In 10 games the 28-year-old Leino has scored just one goal to go with one assist and has recorded just five shots on goal, or one every other game. He's definitely talented, but based on what he's actually produced at the NHL level the six-year, $27 million contract was, at the very least, one hell of a gamble. And so far it's a losing one.

Other plays and teams earning D's for the month of October

 Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis Blues) -- And he's probably right on the line between D and F. Let's just say this: the only goaltender in the NHL that has a worse save percentage entering November is Ottawa's backup, Alex Auld.

Columbus Blue Jackets: An offseason with such excitement and a season that seemed to have so much promise was opened with … the worst start in franchise history and the worst record in the NHL. There is obviously time to turn it around -- and I still believe the Jackets can -- and the two big offseason acquisitions have been limited so far, which isn't helping things. James Wisniewski was suspended for the first eight games of the regular season, while Jeff Carter, acquired from the Flyers, was limited to just five games in October due to a foot injury, scoring zero goals. Still … the worst start in franchise history?

Other players and teams earning F's for the month of October

The Boston Bruins -- Defending champs with the second-worst record in the league.

Photo: Getty Images

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com