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The Brunette Effect: Predators HC Has Taken Filip Forsberg To Another Level



Photo of Filip Forsberg by John Russell/Nashville Predators

Before the 2023 season began, Nashville Hockey Now had a roundtable debate about whether or not Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg was a top-20 winger.

The question has always been a polarizing one as Forsberg’s reputation has always been more favorable with those familiar with the Central Division than it is nationally.

But given the kind of season the 29-year-old Swede is having, there may not be much of a debate anymore, and Forsberg’s ascension to the NHL’s top tier of elite scorers can largely be attributed to first-year head coach Andrew Brunette.

“He’s playing great; he’s been MVP worthy,” Brunette said. “…What he means to our team and how he drives our offense…is pretty remarkable every night.

“[Forsberg] doesn’t get the press, but if we keep winning, maybe he does. … When there’s a time when the game needs to turn around, and he’s kind of the guy that turns it around for you.”

Brunette has relied more heavily on Forsberg to drive offense than his predecessors. His ice time is 45 seconds more under Brunette (18:50) than it was under Peter Laviolette (18:05), and more than a full minute higher than it was under John Hynes (17:45).

Brunette’s offensively aggressive system feels like it was tailor-made for Forsberg.

Under Brunette, he’s scoring at a higher clip (1.14 points per game) than he did under Hynes (0.96 points per game) and Laviolette (0.86 points per game) and he’s shooting the puck more frequently — 4.08 shots per game in Brunette’s system, compared to 3.20 shots per game under Hynes and 3.10 shots per game under Laviolette.

Among all NHL skaters, Forsberg ranks ninth in goals (41) and 13th in points (83). He’s just three goals away from breaking Matt Duchene’s single-season record for goals (43) and 14 points shy of Roman Josi’s record for single-season points (96), though that one is likely less attainable with just nine games left in the regular season.

With his third-period goal in Thursday’s 8-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes, Forsberg now holds the record for the longest goal streak in team history (seven games), and he became the only player in franchise history with multiple 40-goal and 80-point seasons.

“I feel like he’s taking games over at times,” Josi said. “…I can’t even count the amount of important goals he’s scored for us this year. I just feel like obviously on that stuff, he’s been unbelievable. … He wants to be that guy who makes something happen.”

A notable difference can also be seen in Forsberg’s power-play numbers.

Though his power-play shooting percentage is lower under Brunette (11.1) than Laviolette (14.5) and Hynes (14.3), Brunette’s coaching philosophy has allowed Forsberg to produce a higher volume of power-play shots per 60 (18.7) while seeing an increase of more than 30 seconds per game on the man advantage compared to Laviolette (14.7 PP shots per 60, 2:55 PP ice time per game) and Hynes (15.7 PP shots per 60, 3:00 PP ice time per game).

Forsberg is on pace to finish with 46 goals and 93 points, provided he plays in Nashville’s remaining nine games. There’s also a good chance he could finish in the top 10 in the NHL in goals. Under Brunette’s guidance, there’s no reason why 40-goal seasons can’t become the new norm for Forsberg.

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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