Smashville’s Gran Turrismo – The Kyle Turris Effect

The success or impact of trades and other significant roster moves in the National Hockey League can never truly be measured until after the post-season. You know, that giant silver cup being carried around by bearded, toothless, sometimes crying and cussing men? That’s the only unit of measurement in the NHL. But in the case of Kyle Turris and the Nashville Predators, the effect has been immediate.

Since general manager David Poile got the Predators into the mix on the Matt Duchesne sweepstakes and landed Turris for defenseman Samuel Girard, forward Vladislav Kamenev and a second-round pick as part of a three-way swap on Nov. 5, there have been impacts both measurable and immeasurable that can be attributed to the veteran centreman’s arrival.

Kyle Turris Predators
A 200-foot-game has Kyle Turris and the Predators celebrating (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Measurably, the Preds’ are 7-1-1 with Turris in the lineup and his six points to go along with a plus-three rating and a slick shootout gamewinner on Thanksgiving Eve indicate some early statistical return on the trade. Immeasurably, however, the Turris effect on this lineup goes far beyond his point production and their record – let’s be honest, it’s not like he was joining a struggling team to begin with, and the intangibles in his game are the reason he had been a sought-after target for the Preds since early last season.

In Turris, the Predators drop a proven top-six centerman into a lineup that already has multiple scoring threats across the board, including what is probably the most mobile defensive core in the NHL. Turris gives this team not only a huge upgrade on their second line but a player who pushes the tempo offensively and plays a true two-hundred-foot game that culminates with his reliable play below the dots in his own end – an absolute must for a centerman.

Net Drive – Immeasurably Measurable

The Predators rely on their puck-moving defenseman to transition into a speed-heavy offense that really establishes a net presence not only on the rush but in-zone as well. We’re not talking old-school Dino Ciccarelli deflections and rebounds or Sean Avery paddycaking with Martin Brodeur in the blue paint, but Turris takes the quickest route from the blueline in and he simply gets there, which is sometimes all it takes. This is a natural fit for the proven Peter Laviolette system, and his foot speed allows him to establish that signature Nashville net drive. Going hard to the net has never truly been a measurable statistic in the NHL, but it has an instant effect on opposing defensemen and goaltenders. Turris’ quickness and willingness to drive the center lane and get to the net will push opposing defense back off of the blue line and allow his linemates an opportunity to enter the zone easily with possession rather than dumping the puck.

Ask any goalie at any level what it’s like having a player driving to the top of your crease over and over again, and then, the next time you’re watching a Preds’ game keep an eye on how often that player is Kyle Turris. He has been deployed between wingers Craig Smith and Kevin Fiala who both bring a game based on speed, puck pursuit and more speed to the line while their new centerman provides the distribution and reliability up the middle. Fiala, in particular, has benefitted from the new man on Broadway with eight points through their first nine games together and a noticeable swarm of activity in the offensive zone.

Adding Turris to the second power-play unit in Nashville also brought immediate results, as three of his first five points in the gold and blue came with the man advantage. Turris is a serviceable quarterback from the right side who adds a consistent one-timer element that the unit had been missing until now. An already potent Predators power play now has another bullet in the chamber, and those one-goal playoff games that can be decided by special teams just tilted a little more in their favor.

Back To The Wild Wild West

These are, admittedly, all best-laid plans and theories that don’t factor in the countless intangibles that could throw a wrench into the overall plan for Turris and the Predators. Injuries play a factor for every team in the league and competing in the rough and tumble Western Conference again where he had previously spent several years wallowing in Arizona may factor in on Turris’ durability and effectiveness come the post-season. Since his true debut in the league back in 2008, Turris has been relatively durable and productive despite being considered undersized (6’1″/190) by current NHL standards and fans of the Predators hope that remains true.

Yes, it’s early and this move by the Preds’ may look and seem a lot slicker than it is right now because everyone loves a shiny new toy, but by the time this team rolls into the playoffs we’ll all have a much better idea on the return this trade has provided.

Just as countless chefs around the world measure using cups, so do NHL franchises. And in this case the Nashville Predators and their fanbase hope the Turris effect gets measured by a Cup too.