So, Matt Halischuk and Chris Mueller have been sent back to Milwaukee his week, which leaves only Nick Spaling of the 2-way contract holders to be left in Nashville. So, that leaves the Predators in a bit of a pickle. A good pickle, yes, however a pickle nonetheless.
The problem? What in the world are we to do with the left over players we have?
When 100% healthy, The Predators have a total of 7 centers (this includes Nick Spaling), 2 Left Wingers, 8 Right Wingers, and 7 Defenseman. So let’s break it down and take a look at the Predators options as for who to scratch, waive, trade, etc.. Below, I’ll outline our keepers first, and then the questionable ones
We’ll start in the easiest category, Defensemen:
1. Shea Weber
2. Ryan Suter
3. Francis Bouillon
4. Cody Franson
5. Kevin Klein
6. Shane O’Brien
Scratched – Alexander Sulzer
I don’t see Poile trading Sulzer, even though he has a plethora of defensemen at his disposal. Another reason I don’t think Sulzer would be traded…what happens if another defenseman gets hurt down the road? Sulzer at least has 27 games (and counting) of experience so far with the big boys, which is more than any of the prospects can say. It would be a tough climb for any of the Admirals players to adjust themselves to the Stanley Cup Playoff race and the Playoffs themselves
1. Patric Hornqvist
2. Martin Erat
3. Steve Sullivan
4. Sergei Kostitsyn
5. Marek Svatos
6. Jerred Smithson
7. Joel Ward
8. Jordin Tootoo
This one was pretty tough. The top 4 were guarantees. Hornqvist, Erat, Sullivan, and Kostitsyn will definitely play, no questions about it. However, there are SIX players left who are wingers that need a spot on this team.
The fairly easy ones to add to my list above were Marek Svatos and Jerred Smithson.
Svatos adds an offensive dimension to this team (when healthy) that is pretty much the same as Kostitsyn. The only reason he wasn’t in the top 4 is that he really hasn’t had a lot of time to break in with the Predators as he was picked up off of waivers mid-season and hurt just a few games later.
Smithson was another easy pick as well. You can’t even begin to speak about the Predators third rank Penalty Kill unit without first talking about the Preds #1 penalty killer, in my opinion. Without Smithson, we’d be hurting, there is no question about that.
Now, there were 4 left: Joel Ward, JP Dumont, Jordin Tootoo, and Wade Belak. I chose Joel and Jordin
Even though Ward has just been a shade of his last season’s self, he still plays hard on the boards and brings all those Nashville Predators intangibles that Barry Trotz asks of all his players. Ward may not be potting the goals he used to, but he’s still a hell of a penalty killer and one of the Predators “heart and soul” kind of guys. It’s really hard to get rid of players like that and NOT take time to recover (see: Scott Nichol, Vern Fiddler)
Jordin Tootoo. He IS, for all intents and purposes, THE Nashville Predator. Regardless of what anyone says about the man, he puts butts in the seats and he NEVER EVER takes a shift off (which is tons more I can say about some players on this team and some EX players like Jason Arnott). Tootoo hits who he feels like hitting, shoots the puck with a ton of force (Shea Weber-esque, but the accuracy is still coming along), and is turning into not only our primary fan favorite, but one hell of a player. Now that his substance abuse problems are becoming a thing of the past, the sky is the limit for him!
So, now, that leaves out JP and Wade.
Wade is the obvious scratch. He’s our “locker-room presence” and our “heavyweight” when we need him to be. So, his services aren’t going to be used often, but he’s there when we need him to be
Now we come to JP. JP is done with this team. He’s an outstanding member of the community and a hell of a good guy. But, the problem with JP is, he hasn’t been the same since Burrows trucked him last year. He may chip in points here and there, but he’s been relegated to the fourth line for nearly the whole season and can’t seem to muster only 17 points over the entire year. He seems to pass it at the wrong time too, which is my BIGGEST pet peeve with him. Case and point: Against the Flames, Dumont received the puck while out on the Powerplay when he was DEAD CENTER 3 feet in front of the goal. What did he do? He passed it to someone that WASN’T behind him. Dumont hasn’t had but 6 points since the start of 2011 and those all came in a stretch of 3 games (5 goals, 1 assist). If I were Poile, I would trade Dumont to a team who needs a forward and some type of veteran leadership.
1. Mike Fisher
2. David Legwand
3. Marcel Goc
4. Matt Lombardi/Colin Wilson
This was the most difficult one. We have such an abundance of centerman right now, it’s tough not to think a trade isn’t coming. You have to think Mike Fisher, David Legwand, and Marcel Goc all have guaranteed their spots, however, there are 4 GREAT centers for our team that are fighting for the final centerman spot.
If healthy, this spot goes to Matt Lombardi. Lombardi, even though we only saw him for about 4 periods before he was hurt, still is THE FASTEST SKATER on this team and brings a load of playoff experience with him (40 games, 16 points). If he’s not healthy, the spot goes to Colin Wilson.
Colin Wilson brings everything that Jason Arnott brought to this team, except Wilson actually plays every shift and skates as hard as he can until it’s his turn off the ice (sorry to the Arnott fans out there, can’t help but to take pot shots of one of the LAZIEST players out there).
Now, the difficult part came down to O’Reilly and Spaling.
Unfortunately for Spaling, he’s on a two way contract and can be sent back to Milwaukee with no problems. He’s an AWESOME penalty killer, but when it comes to the last stretch and the playoffs, the Predators need as much offensive punch as they can muster. Without him, the team will do fine on the PK.
O’Reilly…wow…what to do here. He’s REALLY come on his own here this year, but breaking his leg came at the worst possible time for him. Before he broke his leg, he had gone 11 games without scoring a point, and then he went down. As much as I like his game this year, I think we can survive without him. I DON’T know if we’ll see Poile trade O’Reilly, even though he could get something good for him, but I do know that if Poile keeps him around, it definitely wouldn’t hurt.
So, that being said, here are my possible line combos:
1st Line: Sullivan/Fisher/Hornqvist
2nd Line: Kostitsyn/Goc/Erat
3rd Line: Smithson/Wilson/Tootoo
4th Line: Svatos/Legwand/Ward
1st Line: Sullivan/Lombardi/Hornqvist
2nd Line: Kostitsyn/Goc/Erat
3rd Line: Smithson/Legwand/Tootoo
4th Line: Svatos/Fisher/Ward
Tough tough choices…but, who knows what will happen! Just the way I see things going.
Thanks for reading!