Some random thoughts on the day after:
Kudos to Barry Trotz and his staff for the coaching job they did this season. Consider all the obstacles they faced- the loss of Radulov and his scoring and the numerous injuries this team endured- and many teams would not have been competitive much less vying for a playoff spot. Trotzy got the most out of this group, proving that the team was greater than the sum of its parts. The team took on the persona of the Head Coach- "just shut up and play", and play they did.
The play of Jason Arnott after returning from a concussion was nothing but heroic. Arnie put the team on his back and nearly carried them into the playoffs. The Captain led by example, and showed that he was worthy of the "C". Arnie netted 33 goals, a Predator scoring record, and had 57 points in 65 games this season.
Shea Weber has emerged as a force on the blue line. Webs scored his 23 goal of the year last night, and his cannon shot from the back end is fearsome. His steady physical presence solidified the Preds blue line and his is an emerging star.
The best bang for the buck had to be Joel Ward. Wardo signed a tryout contract with the Preds, and stuck with the club. He was consistently strong on the boards and in front of the net, and tallied 35 points for the Preds (17G, 18A). Great to see a really good guy have success in this league.
The D corp continued to be the strength of this club. Along with Weber, Ryan Suter, Greg Zanon, Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Klein, and Greg de Vries had a solid campaign. This will continue to be the strength of this team for years to come.
Scoring was and will continue to be an issue for this team. For continued success, scoring from our forwards has to improve. After Arnie's 33 goals, the second leading forward scorer for the Preds was David Legwand with 20 goals (granted, Sully didn't have a full season). Production from our best players has to ramp up next season.
What can you say about Pred fans? The 7th man rose to challenge on many occasions and practically willed the team to victory. I have had the good fortune to watch games in many barns, and there are no better fans.
We are fortunate to have a broadcast tandem like Pete Weber and Terry Crisp. I have listened to a lot of broadcasters for other teams, and these guys are some of the best.
Pred fans have a lot of reasons to feel good about the past season. Although it didn't end the way we wanted, we can take solace in the fact that the team played with heart and never quit; we have emerging stars and returning talent; and we have an exceptional coaching staff. I was talking to my good friend Claudia Weber this morning, and she made an excellent point about this season. She said we have a number of young guys on the roster, and they have been through an arduous campaign trying to get to the playoffs. They now know what it takes to be successful, to get to the post season, and the abject disappointment of falling short. This experience, painful as it is, will serve this group well in the coming seasons.
There are still a lot of hockey related matters that will interest Pred fans. What will we do with our unrestricted free agents? What will we do in the draft? Will we be active in free agency this summer? Questions to be answered that will shape this team for next season. I will address those in future posts.
Take heart Pred fans. We have a number of positives on which to build. The disappointment of the morning after will translate to a hunger for success in the future.