Nashville Predators 2005-2006
David Poile, Sixth season with the Predators
Barry Trotz, Sixth season with the Predators (holds the longest tenure of any expansion coach – second longest tenure of any current NHL coach.
Tied up the core of the team with long-term deals for Scott Walker, Tomas Vokun, and Kimmo Timonen. Most of the veteran players were not tied up past the 03-04 season. Had plenty of breathing room under the cap to sign young RFA’s and be somewhat active in the UFA market. They did not have to make a lot of changes because of the talent pool that has been developing in the farm system. David Poile has been blessed as a patient GM with a patient owner in Craig Leopoild.
Playoff mode – The team had its first venture into the playoffs last season and took Detroit to six very physical games. The team is stocked with young, speedy talent.
TO TAKE CHARGE!:
Scott Walker – although he is just one of the alternate captains he is the lightning rod for the team. He has gone from being a grinding pesky forward to one of the leading scorers on the team. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is a good counterpoint to the low key captain Greg Johnson Walker need to help set the tone for the younger rising talent. He is the attitude the team should take.
ON THE RUSH :
Paul Kariya is the big name added to the roster this year. The question is – with a year off to completely heal from his disastrous Colorado experience will he return to his Mighty Duck form when he had five of nine 80+ point seasons. All indications are that the year off may have actually helped him and that his selection of Nashville over many larger market/ bigger name teams may have given him an extra boost in bonding him with his teammates. The new rule changes seem to support his return to form.
David Legwand is the player originally drafted to build the franchise around. His seasons have steadily and slowly improved. The initial expectation for him was to be one of the top two centers – a Mike Modano type of player. This may well be his breakout year, as he finally has the talent around him to take him to the next level.
Steve Sullivan was the key to Nashville reaching the playoffs last year. He is resigned to a 4 year contract with the team. The possibility of a Kariya-Legwand-Sullivan Line would be one of the fastest in the NHL. It would mean that Sullivan would have to move to right wing. He has scored over 20 goals and 60 points in his last five seasons. In his first three games as a Predator he scored ten points – tying the record of Wayne Gretzky in his debut with the Kings.
Martin Erat has continued to develop for the Predators, notching personal career highs for the team in the 03-04 season (16g-33a.) It is hoped that he will consistently break the 20 goal mark. He has done well in the past when paired with other European players (Orzagh, Tenkrat, Arkipov.) His coaches have noted he needs to go to the net more aggressively, as good things happen when he does. He tends to hold the puck a little long. He is the more likely matchup on the first line with Legwand and Kariya.
Scott Walker is one of the players capable of motivating a team by his actions. He seems to be the pest of the team when initially selected in the expansion draft. He has matured into a scoring leader on the team. 03-04 he set career marks with 25g-42a. Has the historical distinction of being the first player to score a NHL goal outside of North America – in Tokyo, Japan while with Vancouver.
Yanic Perreault has been invited to Nashville on a tryout basis and seems to have possibly earned the second line center spot. He has always been considered one of the NHL’s top face-off specialists. If he takes the second line- he stays, if not he is gone. His skills overall training camp will be evaluated. He must come with a complete game to stay.
Scott Hartnell is another young first round draft pick of the Preds who is maturing well. He earned his way onto the roster in his draft year and has never looked back. He is regarded as a possible future captain on the team. He has scored 30+ points in his last three seasons with Nashville. He is a physical presence on ice. Last season he won the league Championship in Norway and led all players in playoff scoring.
Greg Johnson The team’s Captain and one of the last 3 expansion draft players on the team. He will probably move centering one of the top two lines to the third line checking role. He has been overlooked by many about his speed and puck-handling skills. He has a scoring touch, but pays a solid defensive game.
Adam Hall was drafted in the 2nd round of the1999 NHL Entry Draft. He has been developing well. He has become somewhat of a power play specialist. Scored Nashville’s first-ever playoff goal.
Darcy Hordichuk was signed to add size and toughness to a small team. He seems to have some skating ability, and is not a liability on the ice. Lets face it – he is there to drop the gloves.
Scott Nichol will center a line designed to draw penalties and throw opposing lines off of their games. He has had and up and down career with other teams, but will fill a need at center for the Preds. He has been limited in training camp with a groin injury – this may pave the way for another center – which they really do not have.
Jordin Tootoo was the first player of Inuit descent drafted by a NHL team (6th round 01) He led the team in penalty minutes (137) and fighting majors (15.) When he made the team out of training camp there was an immediate media circus around him because of his heritage. He was one of the most popular players for the Brandon Wheat Kings. He immediately became the fan favorite in Nashville with his no-holds-barred style of play. He has skill at drawing penalties. Last season was disappointing in Milwaukee for him – he may be on the bubble. He must prove himself to be more than a pest – he must show he can score also.
COVERING THE D-ZONE:
Kimmo Timonen is the all star on the blue line. He developed through the Predators system, and has become one of the top ten defensemen in the league. He is young, plays in all situations on defense, and has scored over 40 points in his last 3 NHL seasons. He helped establish Nashville as one of the top power play teams in the league in 04-05.
Marek Zidlicky made a splash in his 03-04 NHL debut with the Predators. Was the third leading scorer on the team in his rookie season when he finished fourth in the NHL in power play points (35, 9g-26a), tied for third among NHL defensemen in power play goals, tied for fourth among NHL defensemen in points and assists, and tied for eighth in goals. He rapidly became one of the most respected offensive defensemen – easily erasing worries the Nashville had traded away Mike Dunham for nothing. Rangers fans must still be screaming about this one.
Danny Markov is the second largest trade in the free agency period. Philly had to clear some cap room and Nashville was able to scoop him up for a third rounder. He adds a physical presence to the team that is sorely needed. He also adds depth in playoff experience and leadership for the team. He has not been a prolific scorer, but is a high energy character in the D-corps.
Dan Hamhuis may have gotten exactly what he needed during the lockout – more time to mature as a top four defenseman. He was arguably one of the best young defenseman in the AHL last year as he ranked second among AHL defensemen in scoring with 51 points (13g-38a) and tied for third among AHL blueliners in power-play goals (8). Building from his NHL rookie year, he was able to further hone his skills with the Admirals. He may be on track for a breakout year with the Preds.
Mark Eaton adds a stabilizing presence on the blue line – he protects his zone well and over the last NHL season he registered career highs in goals (4) , assists (9), points (13), games played (75), average ice time (20:55) , and plus-minus rating (16). The 16 +/- rating was a record for any Predators player ever. He did ruffle some feathers in the management when he signed to play with the Detroit AHL team before consulting with team management.
Ryan Suter will probably break into the roster this year out of training camp. He turned pro last year and had a good season in Milwaukee (7g,6a) and a strong season on The US junior team where he led the 2005 World Junior Championships defensemen in scoring (1g-7a-8pts), tying for second on Team USA in points and tying for third in the entire tournament in assists. He also served as captain on that team. We will be seeing him on the team USA roster for years to come. His father, Bob, played on the Miracle on Ice team and then played minor league hockey for the Nashville South Stars – I remember those awful green uniforms, and some of the best fights I’ve ever seen in a hockey game.
Jamie Allison has been a physical presence for the Preds. He is often carried as the 7th defenseman.
GUARDING THE NET:
Tomas Vokun won gold for his home country at the world championships last year. He was one of the most durable goaltenders and has proven he deserves the #1 status given to him after the trade that sent Dunham to the Rangers and brought Marek Zidlicky to the Predators. He seems to have a passion for playing as many games as possible. The smaller pads do not seem to bother him as he is an athletic goalie – the biggest adjustment for him will be the restrictions in playing the puck.
Chris Mason has been a capable backup – when he has been needed- which has not been often. They may dip in to the Milwaukee pool to get Finley some experience at the NHL level
TALKING ABOUT MY GENERATION!:
Brian Finley if the keeper of the future – he may get some opportunities this year to back up in Nashville. He did well in Milwaukee last year as the starting Goalie. His injury problems from juniors and the minors seem to have diminished as he is beginning to show the form Nashville hoped to see when he was drafted in the 1st round (6th overall) in the ‘99 draft.
Alexander Radulov was the last junior player sent down this year from training camp. Has speed, skill, and determination to make it in the NHL. Coaches loved his work ethic and drive. Made a strong case this year and will be one to look out for. Chose to play in the Canadian Junior system so he could learn the North American system and overcome the language barrier. Selected by Nashville in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (1st pick, 15th overall.)
Sullivan -Perreault- Walker
Hordichuk -Nichol- Tootoo
EXPECTATIONS: This team has gone unnoticed by many – Small market, small budget, group of lunchpailers. Many in the media seem to see this team in the mid to lower level of the pack in the Central division, just making or just missing out on the playoffs. While Saint Louis and Detroit have taken steps back under the new CBA, it is not certain they have lost the ability to remain at the top.
PROJECTED: Second in the Central – 5th overall in the Western Conference. Yes, Nashville made a small splash with the signing of Kariya and Markov, but they really did not need to make many moves to improve a team that is developing well. Sullivan’s acquisition directly led to the playoff appearance in ’04. It is the story of the draft for Nashville as they are deeper in wing and defense than ever before. Nashville has arguably the best defensive corps in the league – that no one ever talks about. The noise will get out this year with the continued development of Zidlicky, Hamhuis, and Suter, under the leadership of Timonen and Markov. Forwards should have increased opportunities for scoring as this is going to be one of the fastest teams in the league. This is a franchise built around a team spirit – from the core of expansion draft players that was slowly supplemented through smart drafting. Now a couple of smart free agent signings and trades have brought some of the final components to Nashville beginning to make a solid playoff run. This is a team that will begin to be talked about more seriously. The lack of national TV exposure may have helped this team slide under the fans radar. This is a team that is going to be exciting for fans to watch in the upcoming season.