Monday morning quarterbacks…
One of my favorite things to do, especially in the off season, is to speculate about my teams and the direction they are headed. For the Predators, it has been an off-season that to many has looked similar to the fire sale of 2007. Many fans are left wondering, questioning, and “gnash”ing their teeth about what plans the Predators have with improving the team from where we were last season; a season that saw immeasurable progress in the face of adversity (injuries, weak powerplay, rookie call-ups). The Predators enjoyed the best post-season to date by advancing to the second round of the playoffs and playing a hard fought series against the eventual Western Conference Champions.
But what happens now?
The reasoning behind the title of this article is that throughout the blogs and media surrounding the Nashville Predators, I have come across two separate camps regarding the off-season and what Poile has and hasn’t done. The first camp is the “wait and see” or the “In Poile We Trust” contingent.
In their eyes, which tend to veer towards the objectivity of the situation, they appreciate the time and effort Poile puts forward, his lack of knee-jerk reactions and his “patience is a virtue” approach that has landed him the GM of the year nomination since the inception of the award. They have seen Poile pull diamonds out of the rough and catch lightning in a bottle on numerous occasions. One need look no further than the additions of Paul Kariya, Joel Ward, Shane O’Brien, J.P.Dumont, Marcel Goc, and Sergei Kostitsyn, the only sad part being only one of these players still holds a roster spot on the Predators. Poile has been in charge of managing teams for a long time and his building process of doing the most with what little resources the Predators have is a testament to his work ethic, scouting abilities, and staff. (Sounds similar to a certain Jack Adams nominated coach that dons the blue and yellow)
Now, the other camp tends to be on the subjective side and have a keen, but sometimes myopic view of Poile and Co. and what they have done with the Predators since season’s end. This crowd tends to view things in the negative, and I hate to call it, come off as the “Chicken Little” approach to looking at the situation. Not always is it doom and gloom, but this side does tend to lean towards a Pace Picante commercial (“Get a Rope”) They will admit to themselves and most everyone they talk to that they are being realistic, and that is fine. Most times, I can see their point of view after I doff my Pred-colored glasses and look back at our summer from a realistic viewpoint.
But…isn’t it possible to be both? Isn’t it possible to hope for the best and prepare for the worst? Is it possible to be silly within reason? (I know…quite the oxymoron) So, for my discussion with the class, I would like to post my top five free agents available that I wouldn’t mind seeing Poile go after. I have come to grips that not much will be available from teams walking away from RFA’s, so this is strictly the “lightning in a bottle” and “needle in a haystack” that Poile and Co. have to delve through to maybe add some insurance for injury or veteran presence to help mold the many rookies that will be gracing our roster this year…
#5 Sergei Samsonov LW: 2010-2011 - 13G, 27A, 40P, +/- -2
Not bad in the numbers department. Looks like the kind of player that would embody “Predators Hockey” but might have too many guys on the team just like him, i.e. Spaling, Legwand, Bergfors. The Predators need something more, but Samsonov is worth looking into.
#4 Anton Stralman D: 2010-2011 – 1G, 17A, 18P, +/- -11
As I’ve stated previously, the +/- does stick out like a sore thumb, but he was playing on a defensively anemic Blue Jacket team and didn’t get much help. I think he would be the perfect compliment for Klein now that O’Brien has left. Plus, he’s a righty and that’s a rare thing to have on the blueline. Needless to say, he could keep the puck in the offensive zone covering the point, and from what I’ve seen, he has a nasty slapshot.
#3 Chris Campoli D: 2010-2011 – 4G, 17A, 21P, +/- 0
Probably had easier minutes in Chicago, but his numbers between the Senators (who lack defense in the worst way) and the Blackhawks are decent. Plus, since Chicago backed out on him, he could probably be picked up for cheap. He’s still young and probably looking to prove himself for a bigger payday. Not a bad chance to take.
#2 Bryan McCabe D: 2010-2011 – 7G, 21A, 28P, +/- +2
A leader of veterans, a man amongst boys. Personally, I wouldn’t want his leadership to interfere with Weber’s but McCabe is a consummate professional. His numbers speak clearly and he could be a great second PP unit D-man molding either Blum or eventually Ryan Ellis into a dangerous tandem on the man advantage. McCabe shouldn’t get the huge contract that he attained in the past. I would try to lock him in for 2yrs at $2M per since his age may be a factor against him.
#1 Nikolay Zherdev RW: 2010-2011 – 16G, 6A, 22P, +/- +5
And finally, the player I’ve been screaming for much to the chagrin of many, Nikolay Zherdev. He is a pure scorer, plain and simple. Downside, he is known to be a head case and a locker room cancer. Heard similar rumblings about Kostitsyn last year and that worked out pretty well. Most have stated in derision to Zherdev that he plays zero defense, but his Corsi ratings and +/- tell a different story (BTW, he also played primarily on the 3rd and 4th lines and still put up these numbers). Bottom line, it would be a cost effective move to bring him in with a ton of upside. The only question is whether or not Trotz can corral his shenanigans and off-ice demeanor into a pure scoring threat for the Nashville Predators.
There you have it. Speculate away. I am interested in seeing your top 5 free agents that could move the Predators into a more advantageous position for the start of training camp and the 2011-2012 season.