It has been a hodge-podge summer for David Poile and the Predators with not many moves to be made. The top tier talent didn’t come to the Predators organization and many fans dot the spectrum from worry to angst to complacency about what the Nashville Predators will do over the next two weeks of training camp and pre-season. One thing is for sure: David Poile will have very difficult decisions to make over the upcoming weeks.
Training camp is fast approaching and the rookies have given the front office plenty to think about over the last four days. Players like Craig Smith have carved out a nice chunk of attention with his natural hat trick against Tampa Bay and two more goals against Floridain the rookie match-ups. Other rookies such as Taylor Beck and Gabriel Bourque also showed promise by contributing with a combined 8 points against Tampa Bay. A logjam of talent coming through the farm system is exactly what the Predators have needed for some time since the injury bug hits Nashville sooner and more frequently than most other NHL teams.
Although the majority of the lineup for Nashville is set by one-way contracts, it’s not altogether unlikely to see some of the crop of youth skating with the Predators on opening night. Many are championing Craig Smith to crack the lineup for the tilt against Columbus on October 7th. Smith has uncanny puck moving ability, a quick, hard wrister that picks corners like a four-square playing fifth grader, and a nose for the net. As the pivot man on a lineup of Wilson/Smith/Kostitsyn, Craig Smith could easily make an immediate difference to the scoring woes of the Nashville Predators and earn ice time on the top two lines….that is if Trotz is willing to give Smith an opportunity like this.
To roll four lines, the Predators will have to have a well-rounded system balanced with scoring and defense. Trotz will employ a “defense-first mentality” but at some point might have to sacrifice his philosophy of true defensive play for top-end scoring ability. Take the aforementioned line of Wilson/Smith/Kostitsyn which could be a pure offensive juggernaut when they A) start to build chemistry B) Kostitsyn performs like last year and C) Wilson and Smith live up to the hype.
After training camp and pre-season, expect the opening night roster to look similar to this:
Press Box: O’Reilly, Stortini, Halischuk
Those are four lines that would keep the Predators icing fresh legs that can intimidate, score and defend without losing a step to extended shifts and tired legs. The top two lines provide the great offensive spark the Predators were in desperate need of last season. The third line adds solid defense down the middle with two hungry wingers that go to the hard areas to set up their teammates and cause havoc in front of the net. The fourth line provides the PK and top defense against the best the NHL might bring and with the resurgence of Tootoo’s offensive game, can also light the lamp in critical situations to bail out the first two lines when playing more aggressively defensive teams.
The Predators rolling four complete lines should quell the fans of Nashville after a summer to forget. Although this whole scenario relies on a heavy amount of speculation and hope, it is up to the true fans of the Nashville Predators to remember that this is a team game and the Predators are the best example of how a team can win despite not having elite individuals.