Welcome to another edition of Nashville Predators report cards. We’re nearing the end of the series, so I’m reviewing the players towards the lower end of the results spectrum. However, it doesn’t mean that they are any less interesting. Even though the sample size might be smaller than most other players, let’s dive in!
Colton Sissons was the resident “veteran” on “The Herd Line.” He helped bring the younger players that appeared with him — Yakov Trenin, Tanner Jeannot, and Mathieu Olivier — up to speed in the NHL and was the steady defensive presence among the three. He ended the regular season with just 15 points in 54 games, but the number doesn’t accurately reflect what he brings to the bottom six. He was fourth out of 29 players in total defense goals above replacement (Def) and tenth in expected total defense goals above replacement (xDef) per Evolving-Hockey. It’s not as big of an impact as he has made in the past, but his offense was better. Overall, he ended with the seventh-best goals above replacement (GAR) and the 19th-best expected goals above replacement (xGAR). His actual results were precisely what most Predators fans expected them to be.
As for the playoffs, he wasn’t anywhere to be found like his other constituents on the fourth line. He had two points, both of which were assists, and his expected goals for percentage (xGF%) was at the bottom of the barrel. He had the worst number out of all Predators players at an even 32 percent. To say he was awful would be an understatement. He did have some hard matchups, but not hard enough to warrant that percentage being acceptable by any means. It was not a good showing for him at all.
Overall, Sissons had a very solid regular season and was the backbone of an integral piece of the miracle resurgence. However, he hardly contributed anything positive to the playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Overall grade: C
I don’t think anyone would’ve thought at the beginning of the season that the 5-foot-6 Rocco Grimaldi would’ve stirred up as much controversy as he did. The small and speedy winger was healthy scratched frequently, especially towards the end of the season, which made many fans extremely angry considering his contributions to the offense. While he ended the season with only 13 points, 10 of them were goals, tied for fifth with Viktor Arvidsson and Luke Kunin. While some, including myself, believe the total is a bit misleading due to a four-goal outing in one game, there’s no doubt that he did help the offense in many shapes and forms. The analytics don’t like him as much as the goal column does, as he placed 25th in GAR and 12th in xGAR. His defense was a real detractor from his overall numbers, and it was the main reason that many people believed he shouldn’t be in the lineup.
As for the playoffs, Grimaldi got zero playing time. He didn’t see the ice, which also made people question John Hynes‘ decision-making. I doubt he would have made a tangible difference in the outcome of the series, but giving him a shot might not have been the worst thing in the world. Putting Nick Cousins in against the Hurricanes over Grimaldi was the correct choice due to better defensive numbers, overall physical stature, and fiery presence. However, not giving Grimaldi a chance to prove himself doesn’t help anyone.
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It was a bizarre year for Grimaldi, from being a lineup regular to being a healthy scratch. However, his overall output wasn’t good enough to justify a high grade. It’s unfortunate because a showing in the playoffs could have boosted his grade, but instead, he had to watch from the press box.
Overall grade: C-
Erik Gudbranson didn’t spend much of the year with the Predators, so this review will be a little shorter than the others. General manager David Poile confusingly acquired him at the deadline to help the defense core be a bit more physically imposing. While he completed that task, Gudbranson didn’t offer much of anything else. He tallied only one assist in nine games, and his advanced metrics were not good either. He was 27th in GAR and 26th in xGAR in only nine games. I imagine the numbers would have only gotten worse had he played any more. It was not a good showing for him, and it was what fans expected. By no means does he fit the role of a solid third-pairing defenseman. Instead, he’s just a big body that can sometimes lay an effective hit.
In the playoffs, he was paired with Ben Harpur for two games, and that was an absolute atrocity to watch. Both of them are awful at transitioning when faced with a rush attack, and against a team like the Hurricanes, that’s not optimal. It was a short and very negative stint for him in the playoffs, just as it was in the regular season.
I was not too fond of the move to begin with, and Gudbranson proved why. He hardly did anything of value, and his most notable play was a whiff on a sweet feed from Matt Duchene on an odd-man rush. He didn’t play the entire year until the Predators gave him a shot, and he showed exactly why he wasn’t getting any time. As much as I’m sure he’s a good presence in the locker room and commended for sticking up for his teammates, his overall results were not good. They aren’t what you want from a trade acquisition.
Overall grade: F
Dante Fabbro came into the season looking for redemption. After a highly underwhelming season in 2019-20, fans showed tons of unrest that the prized defensive prospect who was asked to fill P.K. Subban‘s wasn’t living up to expectations. He started the year off strong and was arguably the best defenseman due to underperformance from the big three of Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm. He led the team in GAR at one point but quickly fell off a cliff. The mistakes he was making were glaring. Turnovers in his own zone or missing plays to keep the puck in the offensive zone that led to odd-man rushes were consistent and evident. The gradually rising high-danger chances against while he was on the ice tanked his GAR to 21st and xGAR to 15th. It’s an improvement, and his confidence did look elevated throughout the season, but it looks as if more experience will be necessary to get his feet under him.
Fabbro didn’t play during the playoffs, which was perplexing considering the players that were given minutes on the power play over him. It was hard to believe that Gudbranson and Harpur were given more leeway on the back end than he was, but that’s what happened.
Fabbro had another tough season, but it definitely could have been worse. There was a tangible improvement to his game, which is exciting to see considering the circumstances that he was in during the 2019-20 season. Any improvement at all to his game, however small it may be, is all-important right now.
Overall grade: D+
These four players all had varying degrees of struggle during the season. Some will be on the roster next year, and others won’t be. It’s up to Poile to make the right personnel decisions with these depth players. There’s only one more report card article left to come for this past season, so be sure to look out for it.
Jeff is a consistent source for Predators and Red Wings content here at The Hockey Writers. He enjoys watching all sorts of hockey from juniors to the pros and playing for his high school and local teams in Nashville. He’s a big proponent of hockey analytics, and you’ll often see him using lots of statistics and data to back up his main talking points. You can find his work here, or check out his contributions on his own Substack, or at Last Word on Hockey and On the Forecheck. Lastly, you can listen to him on the Youth Movement Podcast presented by On the Forecheck or the Triple Shift Podcast. For any inquiries about interviews or questions about statistics, analytics, or just general hockey opinions you can message his Twitter, @jjmid04.