By far the most active opening day of free agency in the history of the franchise, Nashville signed five players to their roster, attempting to add back in a factor of grit that has recently been missing from their lineup. While many felt as Nashville greatly improved after the additions, some didn’t necessarily agree.
Early Saturday morning, a poll was taken via our Twitter account to gauge reaction of the fanbase via an A+ through F grading process. From our calculations in the dozens of responses we received, fans had both positive and negative thoughts towards the new players signed to the Predators roster.
While all the grades compiled together averaged to a C+ rating, which agrees with the recent article ranking free agency for Western Conference teams and Nashville as a “Stuck in the Middle” team by Yahoo! Sports’ Nick Cotsonika, the range in emotion would be just as you’d expect it to be for any fanbase: disseminated.
Here are just a few of the positive reaction tweets we received from yesterday:
@ThePredatorial A+ they realized a real lack of depth and grit.Even if term was long or high, we are better.Can't win with lineup of kids.
— Ryan Aziminia (@aziminia) July 6, 2013
@ThePredatorial most definitely (A) because size, speed, grit and replacements were filled. Also players that shoot the pick more were added
— Delan Perera (@delanperera) July 6, 2013
@ThePredatorial B+. I love the idea of getting back to Predators hockey and adding some swagger and grit back to the lineup.
— Eric Chamberlin (@Eric_Chamberlin) July 6, 2013
Not many ranked Nashville’s new contracts with a B+ or higher, however those that did centered around a return to form for the Predators and an identity that they’ve recently been displaced from.
A majority of the responses collected were focalized towards a lack of scoring that hasn;t truly been addressed yet in the free agent pickups for Nashville:
@ThePredatorial C+, addressed size and grit but not scoring. Also questionable top 6 players, 2nd 3rd and 4th line but not true 1st line.
— Scott Adams (@theweeze) July 6, 2013
@ThePredatorial c- minor upgrades from what they lost. Team is better now, but until they acquire a dynamic forward the cup is a fantasy.
— Walter Wallace (@wwallace63) July 6, 2013
— James Nelson (@PredatorialJN) July 6, 2013
@ThePredatorial C+/B-. could have been a lot better. Could have been a whole lot worse.
— Clare Austin (@CAustinRC) July 6, 2013
With Stalberg never scoring over 43 points in any of his four seasons in the NHL, the Predators take a gamble that his offensive potential will pay off in his upcoming contract. Fans have a right to be wary that the team didn’t address their offensive scoring issues, however throwing nearly four fully balanced lines at the opposition gives Nashville a preternatural advantage that could be extremely difficult to counter.
There were a couple responses that more or less rejected the moves the Predators made with a tinge of disdain:
@ThePredatorial D+. Did not effectively address offensive needs and will struggle to make playoffs. Won't reach 2nd round.
— David Singleton (@SingletonPreds) July 6, 2013
Eric Nystrom and Carter Hutton’s signings were both a bit of a head-scratcher at first look. However, when paying closer attention to the finer details of both, Nashville can easily be justified in both signings.
Nystrom, who has seen his value more than triple during his professional tenure in the NHL, has a hard-working blue collar mentality towards the game he brings on the ice every night. Recording 34 fights in his 408 career NHL games, Nystrom isn’t afraid to drop the gloves when needed. Yet, he’s not a one-dimensional player either, notching double-digit points in each of his seasons in the NHL, including his career-best 21 points in 2011-2012 (16 goals, 5 assists).
Hutton was an off-the-board signing by the Predators late Friday afternoon, however his stats resemble a more seasoned veteran rather than a player who has only a single NHL game under his belt. The undrafted 27 year old appeared in only a single game for the Blackhawks this season, a 3-1 loss to the Blues on the final game of the regular season. He also played in 51 games for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, registering a 26-22-1 record with a 2.72 GAA and .908 save percentage.
Hutton’s 60-44-8 overall record in the AHL isn’t one to gawk at. Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee, the Admirals, have had their fair share of matchups against him, where Hutton posted a 13-4 overall record against them with a .938 save percentage and 1.89 GAA. Predators coach Barry Trotz talked a little about the signing Friday afternoon to the media, noting that Hutton “had great success” in the minors and “has the tools to be successful at the National Hockey League level”.
Finally, one particular response by a fan stood out to me:
@ThePredatorial reserving judgments until halfway point in season
— Hunter Armstrong (@HunterArmstron) July 6, 2013
While halfway into a 82-game season may not be a fair amount of time to judge a recently-signed players performance over the life of his new contract, it is a fair amount of time to gauge how the player may fit into the team’s lineup and overall chemistry.
Overall, the pulse of the Predators fanbase stands at a calm but attentive state as the team enters the final two months of off-season prior to training camps and pre-season. Yet no matter where the needle sways on the pendulum of emotion, Nashville has a bright outlook towards the upcoming year on the ice.