Is there Such a Thing as too Many Players?
The Preds may have a slight problem going into this year’s training camp. Some teams would love to have this problem, while for others it is the reason for their cap issues. The problem being too many NHL or NHL-ready players and not enough roster spots to go around. For the Predators this may be a blessing in disguise as the team can benefit from everyone having to fight for a spot and having to keep fighting to stay there.
Currently the main problem for the Preds may be that they have too many forwards, I know what you’re thinking now, Nashville has forwards? They may only light the lamp every couple of games, but they do their job. In all seriousness, in my mind the centre positions for Nashville are locked up depending on where Colin Wilson plays. If he takes his natural position of centre he could either be on the third or second line switching with most likely David Legwand. Lombardi should be penciled in for the top spot as that is what he was acquired for and his speed and play-making skills will open up the ice for his wingers. If Colin Wilson takes the wing like he did at the end of last season, we may see O’Reilly get the nod to be third line centre. Goc should be a fourth line centre as he is mostly a defensive centre with small offensive upside. On the wings is where the trouble happens, as there are 5 of 8 spots already filled. The likes of Sullivan, Erat, Hornqvist, Dumont, and most likely Kostitsyn unless his work ethic and questionable attitude lead him to not make the team. With only the three spots left players like: Tootoo, Ward, Belak, Andersson, Smithson and possibly both Halischuck and Geoffrion all battling for three spots. This is where it gets tricky and knowing Trotz, Ward will get a place because he is a battler and plays well with Goc and can even take a spot on the second PP unit to provide screens. Then Andersson has a one way contract, so unless he screws up majorly in the pre-season I can’t see him not making the team. Smithson also has a one way contract but I would rather see a player like Halischuck get the spot instead of him as he has more upside and can fill the same role. With all these extra players the line combinations are endless, but here is an example of what I think they should be like:
1st: Sullivan – Lombardi – Erat
2nd: Kostitsyn – Wilson –Hornqvist
3rd: Andersson – Legwand – Ward
4th: Tootoo – Goc – Halischuck
The Predators defense wins them games; it’s their bread and butter along with goaltending. With the loss of Hamhuis more youth is going to have to step up and take a second pairing, high-minute role to replace what Hamhuis did. The defense is almost just as confusing as the forward position. The Predators are known for having great depth at defense with tons of prospects that would make most other teams but are stuck in line with this team. Let us start with the obvious names that come to mind when looking at defense. The names for most that come to mind are Weber and Suter who are arguably the best young d-pairing in the NHL. Unfortunately for Nashville this year it drops off from there a little. Next in line is Kevin Klein, who is not a household name but is a decent second pairing guy, who has some offense and has displayed it before. For those who have not heard of him much may know him for the #28 pairing when he was with Hamhuis. That pairing cost us many a games last season and was probably one of the key factors in the penalty kill troubles for Nashville last year. Bouillon is another player that returns from last year’s core. He is the oldest of the defense at the age of 34 but is still a steady force. He will most likely pair with either Klein or Franson (assuming he is re-signed). Franson showed a lot of promise last year, leading all rookies in +/- and had 21 points in 61 games. He also got good powerplay minutes near the end of the season and helped it quite a bit. Personally, he should get the second pairing with Bouillon, as he will be able to focus a little more with offense as Bouillon is a stay-at-home defenseman and has more up-side than Klein has. Than the last spot will probably be taken by newly acquired Parent for the departing Hamhuis. Parent, who was originally drafted by the Preds, was sent to Philly in the Forsberg trade. He has had some back problems but with that hopefully sorted out should get third line duties with Klein, as he does not tend to focus on offense, which should take the shackles off Klein. With the possibility of someone getting injured there are many players who could step-up, I would like to see Blum or Josi given the opportunity rather than Laakso or Sulzer, as they seem to be better prospects. With this said the D-pairings should look like this:
1st: Weber - Suter
2nd: Bouillon – Franson
3rd: Parent – Klein
Finally, we come to maybe the most important position in hockey. The Nashville Predators have an elite NHL goalie in Rinne, but the real question is who will take the other 15 to 20 games next season. They have a wealth of prospects but none have an NHL games under their belt, so the question is do the Preds have to go out and get somebody or do they trust in the youth. My answer to this is to trust in their youth, as they eventually have to find out whether or not they can handle the NHL. The most likely prospect to get games is Dekanich who just signed a one-year deal probably so they can tell whether or not they want to keep him as they have Pickard waiting and learning in the AHL.
There you have it, a look at all the possibilities the Preds have in this up and coming season. And remember only 48 days till the Preds start the season.