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VOL. 41 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 22, 2017

Turris trade turns so-so season into something special

By John Glennon

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Kyle Turris, center, has proven to be the Stanley Cup Final hangover cure the Predators were looking for. The Predators, 8-5-2 and struggling offensively before Turris’ arrival, were 13-2-2 in the first 17 games since his arrival.

-- Photo By John Russell/Nhli Via Getty Images

If recent trade acquisition Kyle Turris keeps playing this well for the Nashville Predators, we might have to divide the history of the franchise into the pre- and post-Turris eras. Predators general manager David Poile has pulled off plenty of impressive in-season trades in the past, adding the likes of Cliff Ronning, Steve Sullivan, Peter Forsberg, Mike Fisher and Ryan Johansen to Nashville’s roster over the years.

But a strong case can be made that the Turris trade trumps them all – to this point, anyway.

Heading into this week, Turris was scoring at a point-per-game clip for his new team, with 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 17 games.

His line – Turris, left wing Kevin Fiala and right wing Craig Smith – has exploded, totaling 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) in Turris’ 17 contests.

Most impressively, Turris is making the entire team better, as the Predators produced a 13-2-2 record – best in the NHL – during his first 17 games wearing the Nashville jersey.

“To this point, in the short run, it’s worked out as good as we could have thought,” Poile says.

“He’s just a really good player that can play in all situations and he’s always been very helpful to his linemates. That’s probably the best compliment you can give to any player is to say he makes other players better. In the time we’ve had him, that’s exactly what he’s done.”

Earlier this season, the Predators looked as if they might be dealing with a Stanley Cup hangover following the team’s exciting run to the Cup Final last June.

They were just 8-5-2 through the first 15 games of this season and had scored 40 goals, ranking 25th out of 31 teams in the NHL.

It was clear the Preds needed more offensive punch following the offseason departures of James Neal (taken by Las Vegas in the expansion draft) and Mike Fisher (retirement).

They’d long been interested in Colorado center Matt Duchene, but a three-way deal with Ottawa and Colorado brought them Turris, who’d topped 20 goals in three of the past four seasons.

The Preds were so sold on what Turris would bring they instantly signed him to a six-year, $36 million deal.

“I can just tell you organizationally that we really felt confident in this deal and the player, the person,” Poile adds. “We probably scouted him for the last 10 years, and have always been impressed by how he played and always heard good things about him as a person. I can’t say it any different way – we felt really good about it.”

Turris says the trade is working for him.

“It’s such a good team depth-wise, and the style they play is so fun that I was really excited at this opportunity,” he says. “I just want to prove I can belong and prove Nashville was correct in showing faith in trading for me.”

‘Always in the right spot’

Turris’ impact has been tremendous for the Predators, who were also aided by the addition of previously injured forward Nick Bonino. The offseason, free-agent acquisition entered the lineup one game prior to Turris’ arrival.

Heading into this week, the same Predators team ranked 25th in goals scored through the first 13 contests had erupted for a league-best 65 goals through the next 17 contests.

The Turris-led Predators were outscoring the no-Turris Predators by an average of 3.82 goals to 2.67 goals per game.

“He’s such an intelligent, smart hockey player that he’s a quick learner,” says Johansen of Turris. “He learned our system real quick, he’s always in the right spot and makes it really easy for him to fit in and work with other guys. Everyone he’s on the ice with knows what to expect from him.”

Turris’ linemates certainly won’t argue that point.

In the 14 games he played before Turris arrived, Fiala had totaled zero goals and seven assists. In the first 17 games after Turris arrived, Fiala posted eight goals and eight assists.

The numbers are similar for Smith.

In the 15 games he played before Turris’ arrival, Smith had four goals and one assist. In the first 17 games after Turris arrived, Smith produced eight goals and eight assists.

“Everybody is fast on the line – everybody wants to shoot the puck and we can make plays,” Fiala points out. “We just have a focus to score goals, and to go to the front of the net.”

Adds Smith: “When he has the puck on his stick, you gotta’ be ready. He’s looking. He’s also got a great shot, so he’s been a good fit with us. We all try to play as fast as we can and that definitely creates some havoc down the other end of the ice.”

Opponents now have to concern themselves at least as much with the Turris line as they do with Johansen’s line, stretching their resources and often times leaving them overwhelmed. The Predators scored at least four goals in nine of Turris’ first 17 contests.

“With him coming in, it’s another threat,” Johansen acknowledges. “Teams have to be aware of him when he’s on the ice because he’s obviously a known goal-scorer in this league. So, for sure, it opens up more room for my line and whoever else I’m playing with.”

Best in-season trade?

Poile has made at least a handful of other big in-season trades dating all the way back to the first month of the first season, when he brought Ronning on board. The feisty little center would lead the Preds in scoring in each of his four seasons in Nashville.

Then there was Forsberg, who notched 15 points in 17 regular-season games and guided the Preds to a 10-4-3 record when he was in the lineup down the stretch of the 2006-07 season.

Moving forward, players like Fisher and Johansen helped push the Predators toward milestone achievements.

Only months after Fisher arrived, he steered the Preds into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Johansen’s high-quality play as a first-line center was a big reason the Preds advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 2017.

But as far as instant impact is concerned for the Predators, only the Sullivan trade can hope to compare with the Turris acquisition.

Sullivan burst out of the gates with a hat trick and an assist in his very first game after being acquired via trade from Chicago.

“I’d say that’s a pretty good immediate impact,” says Preds forward Scott Hartnell, who was on that 2003-04 team. “You couldn’t have asked for a better start.”

Sullivan would go on to produce 10 points in his first three games for a new team, tying an NHL record held by Wayne Gretzky. It didn’t stop there, as Sullivan piled up 30 points in 24 regular-season games with the Preds in 2003-04, giving Nashville the boost it needed to earn its first playoff berth.

“He was always a guy you could look to for a big play offensively,” Hartnell adds. “He really made a difference on the power play.”

But not even Sullivan, who was playing on a less talented Preds’ squad than the current version, could impact the team’s record as quickly as Turris has. In those 24 regular-season games of 2003-04 with Sullivan, the Predators went 11-7-4-2 (the last two numbers are ties and overtime losses, respectively).

With Turris on board, the Preds won 13 of their first 17 contests, capturing an overtime point in two other games.

“Sully was a great forward, just like Kyle is,” Hartnell says. “But you now also know that Kyle is going to be here for at least another six years.

“He’s not going anywhere. So, with him and (Johansen) here, that’s as good a one-two center combination you’ll find in the league.”

Reach John Glennon at glennonsports@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.

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