In a little over 24 hours, the Nashville Predators will get back to the grind starting with a back-to-back home series on Friday and Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild, respectively. However, what is yet to be seen will be how the new waiver wire additions in Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk will work out in the Predators lineup.
With Butler practicing on the second powerplay unit already, it’s interesting that both players will most likely make their way into the lineup come tomorrow night. Will it pay off, though? Poile and Trotz are both looking for something to kickstart the engine for the Predators, who are mired in a 3-6-1 slump over their past ten games. Yet betting on a waiver wire addition to light a fire under an offensively and defensively struggling team, let alone two waiver wire additions, is very much like betting on the turn card in a standard game of Texas Hold’em. You usually have three options when you do so:
1) You have a winning hand already, in your opinion, and you’re trying to lure more money into the pot.
2) You have a chance at a winning hand and you’re hoping it pays out when the final card is turned over.
3) You have nothing and you’re bluffing.
David Poile has never been one to bluff his way through his hockey team, but Nashville is clearly not winning games right now either. So are the Predators hoping these waiver wire additions will pay off for them in the long run? Absolutely they are. The real question is: will they?
Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk are both examples of a waiver wire pickup that has the potential to succeed but hasn’t done so yet. Zach Boychuk, being a former first round draft pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, has the most to prove and could do so with a team like the Nashville Predators, in my opinion.
80 games into his NHL career, things haven’t really panned out for Boychuk. He doesn’t seem to have any problems scoring in the minor leagues, where he has 74 goals and 104 assists in 215 career AHL games. Yet, when up in the NHL, he hasn’t contributed with the Carolina Hurricanes (the team he was initially drafted by) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (the team he was first claimed by this season).
You wouldn’t initially consider the Carolina Hurricanes a team with offensive weapons at their disposal, however they’ve finished in or close to the top half of the league in goals per game every year since Boychuk was drafted in 2008. This season, he started out on a line with Eric Staal and Alex Semin in their season opener. Four healthy scratches later, he was put on waivers on January 30th to be claimed by the Penguins.
As for Pittsburgh? Boychuk played 7 games with them and was most notably put on a line with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Yet, that didn’t work out either and he was placed on waivers again. This time picked up by the Predators.
Could it be that Boychuk just can’t hack it in the NHL? It happens, however I don’t think that’s the case. Is it possible that being on a line with two superstars with two separate teams is potentially intimidating for a 23 year old? I think that’s more the case. Boychuk is the 5th youngest person on the Predators roster and was drafted only 7 spots after fellow 2008 draftee Colin Wilson.
In some cases, playes need to start in a less intimidating position before they can really achieve their full potential. Nashville can give Boychuk that. The Predators have never had offensive superstars available to them. Granted, there was a time when Nashville had players like Paul Karyia and Peter Forsberg, but not of the level of the Eric Staal’s, Sidney Crosby’s, and Evgeni Malkin’s of the league. Players like Boychuk and Butler, like those we’ve seen before with Nashville, both have a great chance to excel and re-discover their potential in a blue-collar, everyone-contributes environment.
Whether they will or won’t has yet to be seen. I have a feeling they’ll contribute something in their time here. At the very least, the additions of Boychuk and Butler is enough to scare a few of the younger players into upping their game in fear of losing playing time or ultimately finding themselves on the waiver wire or being sent down to the minors. If the additions of Boychuk and Butler actually do kickstart the offense, one can only hope it will also translate into points for Nashville’s struggling veterans as well.