Apr 15, 2014
When defenseman Michael Del Zotto was traded to the Nashville Predators, David Poile touted him as a player who could help Nashville “get back into the playoff race” and that the trade was “more for the long term”. With how he was utilized him in the final weeks of the regular season, now that season is over and the playoffs are an afterthought, it will be a fairly interesting offseason for the 23 year old restricted free agent.
“Honestly, I have no idea what is going to happen. Obviously, I’m not too happy with how this year has gone for me. I have high expectations for myself,” said Del Zotto. “I think being traded here I wanted to prove that I could play to the best of my abilities, like I have in the past. We’ll see what happens this summer. We haven’t really talked about it at this point, just taking it a day at a time”
In the 42 games prior to his trade from the New York Rangers, Del Zotto had recorded two goals and nine assists. In his final 25 games of the regular season with Nashville, he contributed a goal and four assists. Advertised as an “offensive defenseman”, his game his taken a bit of a hit in his time with the Predators, down almost a quarter of a point from his career points-per-game average (At 0.20 with Nashville compared to his career average of 0.44).
“I look at myself as an offensive defenseman and never really got a chance on the powerplay at all, or any special teams for that matter. I said when I came here I just wanted to get a chance to play and prove that I could play. I just had to wait for that opportunity,” said Del Zotto.
Del Zotto hasn’t had the best of luck in terms of system change, either. His former coach John Tortorella was fired by the Rangers last May, he couldn’t mesh in new coach Alain Vigneault’s system, and now he’s having the same troubles with the defense-first approach by Barry Trotz. With Trotz’s official departure from the team on Monday, it’ll be another brand new start for him.
“This will be my fourth coach, I think, in six years no. It’s nothing new for me, but it’s a fresh start for everyone here having a new face come in. Once the coach is named, we’ll try to grow together as a team and implement the new systems. Nothing is acceptable other than making the playoffs,” said Del Zotto.
Scratched for three of Nashville’s last four games, Del Zotto has seen his ice time fluctuate from just over 20 minutes a night all the way down to a season low of 3:13. This would have also been a career-low in ice-time, but an unfortunate skate laceration incident with Evgeni Malkin in 2010 held him to only 1:20 of ice-time and two shifts against the Penguins.
As a pending restricted free agent this summer, Nashville will need to figure out if Del Zotto is in there long term plans. With Shea Weber and Roman Josi locked through at minimum 2020 and Seth Jones’ entry level contract standing until 2017, Del Zotto could balance out Nashville’s top four for the foreseeable future if resigned.
“I think I’ve grown as a person and a player. I’ve learned a different system. Obviously in the Western Conference there is a little bit more travel, games are a lot more physical here for sure. No matter how poor or good of a season you have, you’re always learning,” said Del Zotto. “I’m going to be 24 in June and I still have a lot to learn. No matter how good or bad things go, I just have to stay mentally strong and try to get better each day.”
Banner Photo Credit: Kristen Jerkins