So guys, who will be be the biggest surprise for the team?
I think everyone is hoping for Bergfors to be this season's Sergei Kostitsyn. Of course, that would be a good thing -- a very good thing. I think Kostitsyn continues to be the surprise as this season his production will equal if not surpass that of last season's making him the star in the NHL he kept telling Montreal he was ready to be. While last season was considered a breakout season for the youngster, Kostitsyn broke his toe at the start of the season and never found his stride until almost December.
Nick Spaling in a positive way. With all of the departures up front, and with Spaling being a guy Trotz and company trust, he will inherit a lot of minutes outside of what we have seen of him so far in Nashville. He put up big offensive numbers in juniors and has the ability to score goals. I don’t see him potting 30 or anything, but I do expect to see him contribute on the score sheet more than others may think he is capable of doing based upon his first 100 or so NHL games.
I'm surprising myself a bit when writing this, but I'll go with David Legwand. With a full season of having Mike Fisher in the lineup, I could see Leggy benefitting from softer matchups and having one of his better seasons
My bet is that Mike Fisher will have a near-career season for the Preds. What most commentators (and fans) have under-appreciated in my opinion, is that Fish played the entire second half of the season with a painful shoulder injury, suffered while he was still with Ottawa. That's what he underwent surgery this summer to have fixed. I think he's gonna come back to the ice like gangbusters this year and make General Manager David Poile look even smarter for acquiring him last season. And again, just one guy having a better-than-average offensive season could create a cascade effect for the rest of the guys who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders to be the offensive producers. I think Fisher is the one key veteran to the team's success. (hey, no pressure there, Fish, just sayin...)
I will pick Sergei Kostitsyn going both good and bad. He is a real wild card as I think the Preds clearly overpaid him as a result of the bungled contracts. What he did last season was a bonus based on his salary. If he does not progress and show up in the playoffs, he will be a bust.
On the flip side, I do not expect a progression so if he does improve, It will be a surprise to me. For what he is being paid, it is time for him to step up and take more of a prominent role in the offense by shooting the puck more often.
Nick Spaling will rediscover the scoring touch he had in junior when he inherits Joel Ward's spot on the second line. If Martin Erat and David Legwand can actually find the box score before the month of December, that line could be lights out and send all three players on to career years.
I expect the surprise player for this season to be Colin Wilson. After a decent rookie season, he spent the majority of last year in Barry Trotz's doghouse. It's a little surprising to find out that he played in all 82 regular season games last season since he appeared to be absolutely nonexistent after February (and obviously during the playoffs when he was a healthy scratch for the majority of the games). If Wilson wants to stay in Nashville, he needs to step his game up this season and I think he will. Otherwise, I think he'll be out the door around the trade deadline...and probably for not very much in return.
I don’t know if this qualifies as a ‘surprise’, because everyone expects him to eventually break out. But I think this is the year Colin Wilson starts to put everything together. He played all 82 games last year and then was benched in the playoffs. That could spark something in Wilson. We’ve all seen his talent on display, but in an inconsistent fashion. This is a big year for Wilson and I see him stepping to the forefront as a key offensive player.
I think Nashville is going to get a pleasant surprise from Jordin Tootoo this season. Tootoo had a great season last year and is starting to solidify himself as not just a hard hitter, but with an offense presence and a very strategic mindset. Tootoo has the ability in himself to score goals and cause his opponents to take unnecessary penalties. After his voluntary stint in the NHL’s Substance Abuse program last year that caused him to miss nearly a quarter of the season, Tootoo came back in what you can only describe as the BEST Jordin Tootoo the Nashville Predators have ever seen. Combine a clean Jordin Tootoo with him being in a UFA contract year? I would expect an explosive 8th season from the “Tootoo Train”.
The View says that it is interesting to see several of our particpants say Nick Spaling. At the Skate of the Union, GM David Poile said that Spaling was poised to have a breakout year and be a star player.
And now on to our second question, "Who will the Preds miss the most?"
Steve Sullivan. One of the oldest members of the team last year and still able to contribute 22 points in a injury-shortened season of 44 regular season games, the Predators aren’t just losing one of the veterans, but a natural left-winger which is hard to come by for the Predators now-a-days.
Now, without Sullivan (who, mind you, could have been re-signed for cheap), the Predators will be with two natural left wingers (unproven Bergfors and team-leading scorer Kostitsyn) and an obvious hole in their lineup. Of all the players that Nashville decided not to bring back for next season, Sullivan is in my book the one loss that will come back to bite the Predators.
Shane O’Brien. David Poile opted not to re-sign SOB and failed to replace his spunk on the blue-line. O’Brien does a lot of the dirty work on defense and sticks for his teammates. He was valuable on the penalty kill, which was shown in the Anaheim series. Also, he’s a great character guy and was popular in the Preds’ locker room. The Preds aren’t going to miss his occasional turnovers, but they’re going to miss everything else.
Joel Ward. Although he did not put up the goals last regular season, his consistency in all facets of the game will be missed. He does a lot of things that do not necessarily show up in the statistics, but as a fixture on the team’s shutdown line the last few seasons, his role is one that the Predators do not likely have someone ready to step into right away.
Marcel Goc. You could plug that guy in anywhere and he'd make an impact. Joel Ward had a down season until his gangbuster playoff, JP Dumont was no longer effective at $4 million per year, the time had come for Steve Sullivan to move on and Cody Franson was expendable because of the four blue chip prospects on their way up. Now, an argument could be made that the loss of Shane O'Brien will hurt the most now that Francis Bouillon has had a setback in his concussion symptoms. The Preds really don't have a guy to replace Bouillon now that O'Brien's gone and that could hurt the toughness on the blueline.
I have no issues with any of the subtractions other than Shane O’Brien. I said last October when he was acquired that he added the perfect grittiness that the team needed. That role has now been left with Jordin Tootoo, who I think will be focusing more on his offense in his contract year, or possibly Zack Stortini if he can play well enough to earn starts.
The days of having a true enforcer with no particular puck skills are quickly passing but grittiness is still a much needed attribute for any team that plans to make a playoff run.
Shane O'Brien's toughness on the blue line is going to be missed the most. O'Brien was for the most part of very responsible defenseman, and was also the first to stick up for teammates on the ice. Nashville also lost Franson on the blue line and Francis Bouillon won't be ready for the start of the season making Nashville's usually strong defense a very green one this upcoming season. O'Brien's experience will be missed.
Joel Ward will probably have the biggest impact on the team. Ward brought a strong work ethic and was extremely consistent in the numbers that he produced. While I don't remotely believe that he was worth the amount of money that Washington paid for him, I believe he'll be the same kind of hard working player there that he was here. Players like Ward, who did their jobs and were rarely noticed unless they ended up on the score sheet, are not always easy to come by. Without him on the ice, someone will have to step in and fill that role.
Cody Franson will be missed, but not tremendously; I believe he was actually the most logical of all the Preds' young blueliners to move in order to break the organizational logjam. Steve Sullivan's leadership will be missed, but it will also provide the opportunity for someone like a Ryan Suter or a Mike Fisher to step up and fill that role more so than they could have with Sully in the lineup. However I think most would agree that Joel Ward was the costliest loss for the team, but not from an offensive standpoint; Wardo wasn't going to be a 20-goal scorer for this team, but he was one of the biggest cogs in the Head Coach Barry Trotz's defensively-minded system, and it will be interesting to see if anyone can immediately fill that role as well as he did.
I think it's Joel Ward, by a long way. While his offensive numbers weren't great, he was consistently thrown on the ice to help with key defensive-zone faceoffs, and managed to help the Preds escape their zone and push the play up-ice more than anyone else. The only other winger on the team who has demonstrated that sort of ability is Martin Erat, but if you saddle him with that kind of work, that could hinder his offensive production.
There you have it, friends, the perspective of some great Predator bloggers as to who will be missed the most. Fairly evenly divided between Joel Ward and Shane O'Brien. I do think, as Patten said, Wardo was a valuable cog in this machine last season, but not at the price Washington paid. O'Brien's loss will hurt from a depth and swagger standpoint, but I think that loss is not insurmountable
In part 4, we tackle a tough question: did the Shea Weber contract situation affect this team? The group has some interesting responses.