Much attention has been focused on the number of injuries the Nashville Predators sustained to their group of forwards in the recently completed 2012-13 regular season. And there is no question that injuries to the likes of Colin Wilson, Gabriel Bourque, Paul Gaustad, Patric Hornqvist and others took their toll on the team, but the fact is that there were other forwards on the team who stayed healthy over the course of the lockout-shortened four month long season, but produced virtually nothing on the offensive end of the ice.
At Sunday’s press conference to wrap the season, Predators head coach Barry Trotz alluded to the injury bug that ran through the locker room pretty much from the time the first puck dropped to start the season back in January.
“We had basically our skill core wiped off because of injuries and therefore we didn’t get off to where we wanted to be,” Trotz said. “I think we had some subpar performances out of the gate. We weren’t able to score a heck of a lot. We could defend great, but we weren’t scoring a lot.”
Truth be told, two forwards who were in the lineup just about every night but could not find the back of the net all season were Craig Smith and Sergei Kostitsyn.
In 44 games played this season, Smith had just four goals and eight assists. Half of Smith’s goals came on the power play. As low as those numbers look, they actually were boosted somewhat significantly by the fact that in Nashville’s games 46 and 47, he totaled a goal and two assists. A forward getting one quarter of his season’s points long after the team has been eliminated from playoff contention does not do a whole lot of good though.
Smith did not score his first goal until his 17th game of the season. He had a 21-game goal-scoring drought that stretched from the beginning of March until the Predators’ penultimate game on April 25th.
Coming off a rookie season where he posted 14 goals and 22 assists in 72 games played, the Predators were looking for much more out of Smith in his sophomore campaign.
Just prior to the start of the lockout, Nashville signed Smith to a two-year, $4 million contract extension. That extension will not kick in until July, meaning Smith is signed through the 2014-15 season.
Much like Smith, Kostitsyn never seemed to gain any traction this season. He had three goals and 12 assists in 46 games played. He failed to record a goal over Nashville’s last 15 games. His last goal came March 25th, and that tally ended a 14-game goalless stretch.
In 2012-13, Kostitsyn played the first season of a two-year, $6 million contract.
“We expected production from Sergei and Craig Smith and we got none,” Trotz said. “Both those guys, we were looking at them to be top-six, top-seven forwards and we got no production. Craig Smith and Sergei were on power plays all year. I did it to try to get them going. I tried different things to get those guys going. I knew that we needed them because we score by committee and we had some committee members that didn’t get ‘er done.”
During his time with the microphone Sunday, Predators general manager David Poile referenced the fact that, going forward, the team needs to find players who can score goals.
“We scored two goals or less in 27 of 48 games,” Poile said. “In those games, we only got three wins. We were 3-17-7 in those 27 games. When we reached three goals, we were 13-6-2. Now it doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s what we’ve got to get to. That’s what we had last year. A 3-2 game is a winning formula for the Nashville Predators. We were a goal short every game. We’ve got to get better in that area.”
With the Predators on the hook for a combined five million dollars to Smith and Kostitsyn next season, they certainly hope that those two players help them get better in that area. If they don’t, 2013-14 could be another disappointing season.