Hockey

Game #11 – Hawks vs. Predators Spotlight: Gran Turris-mo

If you feel like the Predators acquire a tweener center every season — one who’s not quite a #1 but can be more than a #2 pivot — you’re not alone. Three years ago it was Ryan Johansen. Two years ago it was Kyle Turris. Now it’s Matt Duchene, whom they got because they weren’t sure what they had in more in the second one of those. Or maybe they realized Johansen isn’t what they claimed either. Maybe it’s both. Or maybe it’s the Preds just have to have all the lightning quick forwards with faces you want to turn into ground chuck. It’s a rich elixir.

The Preds were always rumored to be after Duchene, and he them, for years. So that signing might have happened no matter what kind of year Turris had last season. It gained more urgency when Turris played most of the year as if he was hit by a bus. When he wasn’t injured, he was terrible.

Turris only put together 23 points in the 55 games he claimed he was upright for, and missed the rest. The two points in the Predators’ playoff loss didn’t really do much to put any kind of gleam to it, either. Digging deeper, the look only gets worse.

Hockey doesn’t have a “chances created” category really yet, like soccer does. So it’s hard to suss out how far Turris’s passing game went into the toilet. We can fairly assess how much his scoring became El Disparu. His goals/60 was a career-low 0.17. His individual expected-goals per 60 was also a career low 0.37. Scoring chances, shots, attempts, whatever you want to look at were all the worst marks of his career.

On the flip side, the team’s overall numbers with him on the ice weren’t staggeringly bad. So Turris was either still doing some of his old work, or his teammates were carrying him around like a pool noodle.

No question Turris struggled with injuries. He had two separate stints on the IL to total those 27 missed games, both to his legs. Perhaps he just couldn’t get around the ice as well as he would normally.

Things have turned around of Turris this year, though. His goals/60 so far in 11 games is the highest of his career, though that has a little to do with the highest shooting-percentage at evens and overall of his career as well. But his individual expected goals is back to where it was in his halcyon days in Ottawa (if such a thing can exist in Ottawa), and his individual attempts are the highest he’s managed as well. Turris has never been a great sniper, as his career 10.9 S% would show you. So the volume of attempts and chances has to go up for him to score.

Health is certainly part of it, as thanks to the Preds’ first-round hairball against Dallas he had plenty of time to heal whatever fell off of him last year. It could be linemates as well. Last year, Turris spent most of his time with Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala. Smith is a fine player but something of a battering ram, and Fiala sucks and you know he sucks because he ended up in Minnesota. This season, Turris is playing between Mikael Granlund and Rocco Grimaldi. Grandlund has by far more verve and dash to his game, which means Turris doesn’t have to do all of the creating. Grimaldi’s speed, when not carrying his cross around to wave in everyone’s face, opens up more space than Smith and Fiala could have managed.

Maybe it’s also getting to slot behind Johansen and Duchene, when Duchene plays center at least. All of it must be a relief to the Preds, who watched Turris eat it in the first year of his $6M-a-year extension. Turris was, and might still be in the near future, looking at being a cap casualty. The Preds have $22M in space next year but they also have Roman Josi to sign, and he’s going to be looking for quite the raise from his current $4.5M hit that gave the Preds one of the biggest bargains in the league for years. They’ll have some holes at forward as well to fix with the rest of it.

At worst, if Turris plays himself into a useful trade piece, that’s probably enough for the Preds, who can roll with Johansen and Duchene 1-2 from here. Which makes it seem like this has to be the year for Nashville, or it’s never going to happen.

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