With the signing of Scott Hannan last Friday, the Predators have shored up what many thought could be a sizable hole left by the departure of Ryan Suter. Rest assured that Hannan is nowhere near capable of filling Suter’s All-Star caliber role, but Hannan does provide the stop-gap and a great stay-at-home defensive presence that can eat up 18-20 minutes a night and hold his own on the PK.
The question now shifts to who will be the odd man out?
Most hockey experts and local colleagues have Weber/Josi, Klein/Hannan and Gill/Ellis slated to start the season with Nashville and Jonathan Blum being the perma-scratch in the press box. This all hinges on what happens at training camp.
Blum suffered a huge sophomore slump last season and he looked generally lost without his defensive partner from the season prior: Cody Franson. Blum paired with Klein was a nightmare and lead to Blum posting only 7 points in 33 contests with an atrocious -14. To give some perspective, Ryan Ellis only played in 32 games and had 11 points with a +1 (granted Ellis played more sheltered minutes on the third line). To Blum’s credit, he did go on to have a decent year with the Milwaukee Admirals with 4 goals, 22 assists and 26 points. Unfortunately, he still had a -11 rating on a team with only 9 players in the minus (his -11 was the highest on the team).
The other defenseman looking to improve over a disastrous outing last season is Mattias Ekholm. Ekholm decided to go back to Europe to play in the Elitserien for Brynas where he put together 17 points in the regular season and 9 points in the playoffs. The choice to go overseas may have hindered Ekholm’s NHL development and a year with the Milwaukee Admirals would help get him closer to NHL speed and comfortable with the smaller ice of North America.
Seeing as how four of the eight defenseman are set, where does that put the others? Training camp is only a few weeks away and many of these questions will be answered where chemistry first starts taking shape.
Personally, I would love to see Blum come out swinging as he has the potential to be a great defenseman for the Nashville Predators or at the very least an interesting trade option for another club looking for a young, hungry defenseman.
Of course this all becomes a moot point if the Predators don’t re-sign Blum as he is without a contract at this juncture.
Who do you want to see on the Predators blue-line? What pairings work the best? Should Blum or Ekholm get a chance to play or are the defensive lines pretty much set?