News yesterday out of the Predators camp is that Francis Bouillon, who was given an early exit last year with a concussion, may very well be on the shelf again. While rehabbing and working out to prepare for the upcoming season, Bouillon suffered a setback of post-concussive symptoms forcing him to abandon further exercise and workouts. This is a very similar situation that the Predators faced with the likes of Matthew Lombardi who the Preds lost after playing only 4 periods of hockey last season.
With the news of Bouillon underdevelopment and training camp looming within the next two months, the Predators and mainly David Poile are going to be faced with some tough decisions. Unfortunately for Nashville, some other decisions before the news of the loss of Bouillon may haunt the Predators D-core for the 2011-2012 season.
The Predators decided to part ways with gritty blue-liner Shane O’Brien and allowed him to hit free agency. Although there weren’t any takers in the first weeks of free agency, O’Brien was subsequently picked up by Colorado for a reported $1.1M. For that price, O’Brien could have found a home here in Nashville without the front office breaking the bank. Although some will remember him for his untimely penalties, especially during the playoff series against Anaheim, he provided the sandpaper and protection for the rest of the team so captain Shea Weber could avoid the penalty box for enforcing some of the unwritten rules of the game. O’Brien was also used effectively on the penalty kill alongside Klein, and posted decent defensive numbers for his five on five play.
Diagnosis? I think he will be sorely missed given the news about Bouillon. Maybe Poile missed out on a good insurance policy with NHL experience and grit. My guess is Tootoo will have to police the opposition regularly since bringing in Zack Stortini is essentially Belak 2.0 without the personality.
Now to Franson. I have a gut check feeling about the trade of Franson and Lombardi for Lebda and Slaney that Poile may regret this one for a while. Franson was just starting to hit his stride and his offensive potential with his seeing-eye wrister and deceptively fast slap shot release caused havoc for other teams. Although Franson is constantly called out for being slow, I have seen tremendous hustle from the kid over the last season and he paired quite well with Blum on the PP.
It is understood that we have a glut of defensive talent in the pipeline, but it may be overreaching to think these kids will be ready coming from Milwaukee with no prior NHL experience save Laakso in an injury call-up situation. A novice blueline can be a feast or famine instance, and it looks like Poile is willing to wager that next season. Scavenging through the UFA pile right now to find a vet defenseman is tricky and could prove costly. The only real option that sticks out is Bryan McCabe, but how much would it take to land him in the Gold and Blue? Some would say an Anton Stralman might be a good fit. Pair him with Klein and you have a pretty solid PK unit and Stralman being a righty to Klein’s lefty will help move the puck out of the zone and keep it pinned in the opponent’s end.
These questions, along with many other unresolved issues (Weber’s contract, signing Suter and Rinne next year, spending to the cap midpoint, acquiring a top six scorer) may be the ultimate litmus test for David Poile on the heels of a GM of the year nomination. So far, it has been an unimpressive summer filled with the usual “wait and see” approach that Predators fans have grown all too accustomed. Hopefully Poile still have something up his sleeves, but for now, all we can do is either sharpen the pitchforks or save our money to buy the jersey for the “player to be named later.”