When you think about top line candidates for the Nashville Predators you tend to think of names like James Neal, Mike Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith.
A name you don’t think of is Gabriel Bourque.
That’s not a knock on Bourque, he’s just never been considered in that class. Going all the way back to junior, he’s never once led a team in scoring and he’s only led a team in goals once (Moncton Wildcats, 2010 playoffs).
But, as Head Coach Peter Laviolette points out, it’s not always about stats.
“You talk to some guys who can make plays and some guys who can score goals and a lot of times they like a bull out there with them,” Laviolette said. “A guy who can get in on the forecheck and create turnovers, a guy who can get to the front of the net and cause some havoc. What that does is it opens up space and creates room for his linemates.”
And that will help. Neal is a former 40-goal scorer and Ribeiro is a five-time 60-point scorer. If they expect to reach those numbers again, they’ll need space. When the two spent two and half seasons in Dallas together, Neal notched 72 goals and Ribeiro amassed 180 points. Bourque creating space for them could help rekindle that chemistry.
“I just need to think how the coach thinks,” Bourque said about the way he approaches the game while he’s on the top line as opposed to other lines. “If I execute the system and they execute the system, we’ll all be pulling in the same direction and we’ll be fine.”
Bourque spent some time on the top line during the pre-season and skated with Neal and Ribeiro on both Wednesday and Thursday morning. Forsberg also skated with the top line during the pre-season and could swap positions with Bourque early in the 2014-15 campaign.
“We moved the lines around in training camp a little bit,” Laviolette said. “When Filip was up there, the line did well and Filip did well. Gabby’s been there for the past five or six days. I would think that the lines would continue to move through the first 10 games or 15 games as we look for production and continuity and chemistry.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Sarah Fuqua