Editor's Choice, Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators

Predators’ Forsberg Still Needs to Prove He’s Elite

NHL.com released a top-20 current wingers and no Nashville Predators made the list, not even Filip Forsberg. In addition to the top-20, the site released a “wings the bubble” list, which included five more players, and again, no Predators made that list either. Therefore, out of the top-25 wingers in the NHL, Forsberg is not deemed to be one of them, and it might not be that crazy considering the number of points those who made the list recorded last season. If Forsberg wants to be considered as a league elite at his position he needs to prove it, and prove it sooner rather than later.

It may be hard for Predators fans to hear that he isn’t quite an elite level talent in the league. After all, the 25-year-old has been a fairly reliable scorer for the Predators. But, unfortunately, being a “reliable Predators scorer” isn’t exactly a high bar. The franchise has never had a 40-goal scorer, Viktor Arvidsson holds the franchise record with 34 set last season. The team has also never seen one of their players record 100 points in a single season, Paul Kariya has the most with 85 back in 2005-06.

Predators left wing Filip Forsberg
Predators left wing Filip Forsberg (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Reviewing the list (and the player’s point totals last season), in particular spots 15-20, as that’s where Forsberg would have the best chance of fitting in, the list includes:

  • 15. Taylor Hall – 37 points (in 33 games)
  • 16. Jonathan Huberdeau – 92 points
  • 17. Matthew Tkachuk – 77 points
  • 18. Gabriel Landeskog – 75 points
  • 19. Patrik Laine – 50 points
  • 20. Phil Kessel – 82 points

Other than
Kessel, who some could make the case he’s aging out and making the list was a
little generous, every player has had several strong, consistent seasons making
it difficult to put Forsberg on the list.

Forsberg’s Inconsistency

Since his NHL debut back in 2013, Forsberg has recorded 64 points twice, which is his career high. The major problem with him appears his consistency when it comes to point production. He has shown that he has potential of asserting himself in that elite category with the pace of which he can score. In his best point-per-game season, which came in 2017-18, he recorded 64 points in 67 games, 30 of which were tallied in the final 30 games after returning from injury. In 2014-15, the Predators sniper started the season with 25 points in the first 25 games, but his pace after that slowed down and he finished the season with 63 points after suiting up for all 82 games.

Filip Forsberg (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

It gets even worse when looking at the goal production from Forsberg. During the 2015-16 season, the Östervåla, Sweden native started with just five goals in the first 25 games, and by the half-way mark of the season, he had tallied just 11 goals. However, the Predators sniper still finished the season with 33 goals after going on a goal-scoring surge, scoring 23 goals in the second half of the season as opposed to the 11 in the first half. Unfortunately, that inconsistent season was not an anomaly for him as the 2016-17 season was even more drastic. He only managed to tally two goals in the first 25 games, and by the half-way point he had mustered just nine goals. Again, similar to the previous season, he was able to finish the campaign with more than 30 goals, ending with 31.       

Related: Reviewing Predators’ 2018-19 Season: Forwards Edition

There just seems to be a real contrast between the first half and the second half every season. There is no doubt that Forsberg has the skill to be considered a top winger in the league and that he can even keep pace with the NHL’s elite. But, often it is the first half of the season that is diluting how good of a player he really is.

Nashville Predators Filip Forsberg
Nashville Predators’ Filip Forsberg celebrates after scoring the overtime winners against the Chicago Blackhawks (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

If Forsberg can put it all together and be equally good in both halves of the season, then Kariya’s franchise record may not be standing for long.

The Disconnect Between Skill and Stats

Forsberg passes the “eye test,” you only have to watch him to know he’s a game-changing talent. Fans are excited whenever he’s on the ice because anything can happen. He is an absolute magician with the puck, case and point:

Filip Forsberg dazzles on penalty kill with terrific puck control

The problem is, his skill and highlight reel moves do not always translate on to the score sheet, as we’ve seen with Forsberg’s first half vs second half stats. We live in a sports world where there’s more importance placed on statistics than ever. With the various analytics and metrics recorded, fans and critics live by the numbers, so is it not only fair that NHL.com uses those numbers to influence who makes their top-20 lists?

Forsberg finished the 2018-19 season tied for 50th in points among wingers and 27th the season before. Granted, he did not play a full season in either, but his points-per-game were ranked 35th among wingers last season and 14th in 2017-18. Now, being ranked in the top-15 for points-per-game should in theory land him in the top-20 list, the problem is those seasons are not being delivered on a regular basis, elite players don’t have such problems.  

Related: Filip Forsberg Trade Revisited

Predators fans who watch Forsberg night after night will argue he’s a special talent and, after watching him, it’s hard to argue the contrary. However, the fan who just looks at the stat lines and results the morning after may say, he is a good player, not a great player.

Desperate for Elite Forwards

Predators fans may see Forsberg with a skewed perception. This is a franchise that has been starved for a true superstar forward. The closest they’ve had is Kariya, but his stay in Nashville was brief, lasting just two seasons. Peter Forsberg doesn’t count because his stay was even shorter, suiting up for just 17 games, plus he was in his decline by the time he arrived in Nashville. Predators fans never really witnessed his greatness when he was sporting the Predators uniform.

Peter Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Peter Forsberg (Photo: jroper/Flickr)

The Predators faithful may not have a great measuring stick when it comes to elite forwards, so it’s only natural they view talent differently when evaluating their favorite players. However, defensemen are different. The fans have a better perspective because they’re used to elite defensemen playing for their team, with great talents such as Shea Weber, Kimmo Timonen and, despite fan’s current feelings towards him, Ryan Suter, all passing through the organization.

This is in no way saying Predators fans do not know elite talent when they see it, of course they do. This is just to say that with the drought this team has experienced when it comes to top forwards, it has led fans wanting an elite forward so badly that they have convinced themselves they have one when in reality he’s not quite there.

This is not an anti-Forsberg article or a piece arguing he is an average or sub-par player. He is one of the best players to ever play for the Predators and he’s more than capable of being in the top-20 in the near future. He has more points than anyone from the 2012 draft class, so he’s well on he’s way to becoming recognized as top talent. However, he needs to find a way to translate that talent to the score sheet on a more consistent basis. It’s easy for critics and casual fans to ignore your game when you don’t have the stats. It’s easy for analysts to argue against you when the numbers don’t support you. It’s time for Forsberg to really make the league take notice and the only way to do that is to impact the place people care about the most, the stat line. You can’t ignore the guy who plays a full season and is a point-per-game or better player. Forsberg can be that type of player and the Predators need him to be. 

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