A Tale of Two Forsbergs
By: Miranda Martin
It has been six years since the name of Forsberg has graced the back of a Nashville Predators jersey, and while most has stayed the same, a lot has changed.
Peter Forsberg, who joined the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline in 2007, is certainly a hall of fame inductee in the near future. Forsberg, who was a 6th overall draft pick for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, he currently holds the fourth-highest record of assists per-game in the NHL, just behind Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Bobby Orr. He retired just before his short stint with the Colorado Avalanche, the team he won two Stanley Cups with, in February 2011. His jersey was retired by the Avalanche organization in October 2011.
Twenty-one entry drafts later, Filip Forsberg was drafted 11th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. At a ripe age of 18, he is the third youngest Nashville Predator to ever start a game, just one day older than when David Legwand made his debut with Nashville. He is one of the highest rated European players. This year, he played in the second highest Swedish leagues—the same league Patric Hornqvist played during the lockout
Now, it would be slightly unfair to currently compare the two players as players. There’s no relation—literally. Amidst the draft, fans were constantly reminded that there was no family tie to Foppa. Filip Forsberg had just been born the same year that Peter Forsberg made his NHL debut as a Quebec Nordique. There are only three major comparisons the two players can get: they’re from Sweden, they’re both forwards, they were both first round draft picks, and they both were acquired by the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline. If Filip wrote his name like an Englishman, they’d have the same initials, even, but that’s where the comparisons need to stop for now.
What can truly be compared are the states of the franchise in 2007 and 2013. In 2007, amidst one of the best records in the NHL and dancing with the Detroit Red Wings for the number one seed in the division and conference. It was time for the Nashville Predators to be taken as a true hockey contender. The Predators not only wanted to prove it to the NHL, but the team desperately needed to attract attendance to the games. A big name could easily do both. David Poile worked his magic, trading then Predator Scottie Upshall, prospect Ryan Parent, and a first round draft pick for Forsberg Februrary 15, 2007. It was a major risk for the Predators to take, but it ended up being a last-shot chance to loosen for then-owner Craig Leipold to loosen the wallet and get the Predators the hype they deserved.
Peter Forsberg’s time in Nashville was forever immortalized when he scored the overtime game-winner against the Detroit Red Wings on February 24, 2007, as the Predators once again took over the first spot in the division and franchise. However, Nashville would fall back to 4th place, and, even with the NHL all-star, the Predators saw yet another first round exit in 5 games. As for scoring, it was the lowest production that Forsberg had seen in his entire career. He had been struggling with a foot injury, so there was definite risk, but it felt like the Preds luck had run short. The team had climaxed at his overtime win, and quickly fell into turmoil of firesales and relocation rumors in the summer of 2007.
The Nashville Predators since 2007 have found their grounding in the NHL. The team has now seen the Western Conference Semi-finals twice, and instead of hunting big names, the Predators have two huge names in Norris-finalist Shea Weber and Vezina-finalist Pekka Rinne. More so, the franchise has become much more stable under new ownership and front office staff, and fans pack the arena in a sea of gold nearly every game. Under the new ownership of the team, the franchise even recently had 29 consecutive sellouts—something that would have only been dreamt of in Peter’s time of Leipold’s whining.
Unfortunately, Filip’s debut was a whole new story on the ice. Even with the incredible work of the Predators front office to make the team successful, the franchise is amidst more trials and tribulations on the ice. In this shortened NHL season, the Predators have gone 15-20-8 in 43 games. The team is ranked 29th in the league for total goals (only New Jersey sans-Parise has less goals), and the team comfortably sits in last on shots per game. David Poile was once again able to work his magic after Martin Erat had quietly requested a trade before the April 3rd deadline. According to Poile, he asked for a big trade, and that’s what he got. The news didn’t even break until the deadline had ended. It was a major message to the future of this team: Poile and staff are ready to rebuild with a more offensive touch, and youth is going to be a major component.
With the Swedish leagues ending, it gave an opportunity for Filip to get his feet wet in the NHL, and he showed his potential. Shots were taken from hard angles—even between his legs—and forward Taylor Beck definitely fed off of his new linemate. If the team was 100% healthy and not playing a vast majority of the Milwaukee Admiral’s roster, Forsberg would have still been a major addition. He reads the puck very well. More so—the media already loves him.
It’s a similar tale between the two Forsbergs. Once again, the Predators are facing the rollercoaster of success. But Filip is far from a one-time rental for a last minute push. He is the first step in the rebuilding of a team that has lost its touch.
Maybe this time, a Forsberg is the right answer.