Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Sophomores

There have been several great posts on Roman Josi and whether he will be able to fill Ryan Suter's roll on the top pairing. Personally, I'm not worried about Roman Josi, I am worried about the young kids on offense. Which sophomore stud will step up and be the offensive threat that Nashville needs. Both Craig Smith and Gabriel Broque are heading into their second year with the big club, the question is, who is going to step up? Which of these young men will add the scoring touch that Nashville so desperately needs?

Craig Smith is a six foot one inch center from Madison, Wisconsin. After playing two years for the home town Badgers, David Poile was able to convince Smith to leave college for the bigs. In seventy-two games with the Predators, Smith scored fourteen goals and twenty-two assists. The twenty-two year old had six power-play points helping the usually dismal special teams. Smith also racked up thirty penalty minutes while registering a minus nine. Smith has one great up side, he takes shots, not something normal for a young Pred. The ex-badger took one hundred and seventy-two shots ranking him 115th in the league. Smith's rookie numbers rank him as the number two overall Predator rookie, losing only to Alex Radulov by one point. (Just think if he hadn't skied that empty netter.)

If Craig Smith can follow in the footsteps of Alex Radulov, Smith will put up about sixty points in the coming season, we can only hope this happens. David Legwand put up twenty-eight points in his rookie year with the Preds. More than likely, Legwand is the path that Smith will follow. Smith and Legwand are similar players, both are known to have game breaking speed, while being solid in the defensive end. Craig Smith looks to be the next "Predator" forward.

I see Craig Smith playing on the second or third line. If Smith can be paired with offensive talent like Colin Wilson, he looks to have a offensively packed year. He should put up somewhere between forty and fifty points, assuming last years slump can be broken. As fans we can only pray that Trotz does not give Smith the Geoffrion treatment.

Gabriel Borque is a five foot ten inch speed demon, straight out of the Canadian wilderness. Bourque only played forty-three games in the NHL this year, but he made it count. In just over half a season, the young forward registered nineteen points, tallying seven goals and twelve assists. It is impossible to say what he could have done with a full season, but if we were to double everything, Bourque would be the new Predator's rookie scoring champion. It is a big if, but had he doubled his totals, Bourque would have tied Craig Smith in goals, while beating him in assists.

We can only speculate how these player will turn out, but it is my hope that we will see Gabriel Bourque turn into something similar to Steve Sullivan. I expect to see Bourque on the third line with Nick Spaling, developing his game. Bourque can change a play with his speed, and he uses that speed to be one of the teams top forecheckers. I'm hoping for thirty-five to forty points out of Bourque, but more importantly I see him becoming more responsible in his own end. Down the road, Bourque may be one of the Preds top offensive threats, just not this year.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Look Ahead

Looking at the roster I came up with hypothetical lines for the coming season if there are no roster changes. 
Top Line: Sergei Kostitsyn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat
Second Line: Colin Wilson - David Legwand - Craig Smith
Third Line: Gabriel Borque - Nick Spaling - Patric Hornqvist
Fourth Line: Matt Halischuk - Paul Gaustad - Brandon Yip
Scratches: Brian Mcgratten and Chris Mueller
First Pair: Weber - Josi
Second Pair: Klein - Blum
Third Pair: Gill - Ellis
Scratch: Mathais Ekholm
Starting Goalie: Pekka Rinne
Back-up Goalie: Chris Mason

Granted our team is coached by Barry Trotz and these lines could be completely wrong. 
Possible switches: Smith to the fourth line, Yip to the Third line and Hornqvist to the second.
Mueller could fit in for Yip, Halischuk, Borque, or Smith.
Colin Wilson could get dropped to the third line moving Hornqvist into his place.

Good Bye Ryan Suter

Here we are on Independence Day and we still have know idea what the future of the Predators looks like. The difference, at this point we know that the future does not include Ryan Suter. Around noon central, the news broke that both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter had signed thirteen year contracts with the Minnesota Wild. Do I feel a little betrayed by Suter, yes. Am I little angry at Poile for not dealing him, I want to be. Will I still be a Preds fan next year, yes. This blog isn't about Suter's decision, but instead the state of the Predators moving forward. 

Clearly the loss of Suter leaves a gaping whole in the Predators roster. Hypothetically, if the Preds can only sign Weber, the defense pairing will look like this: Weber with Josi, Klein with Blum, and Ellis with Gill. I am imagining I am feeling what most fans felt when Weber and Suter made their debuts in the league. I love these lines if Josi, Blum, and Ellis play the way we hope them too.  Add Ekholm into the mix and the Predator defense core has all the promise in the world. 

But relying on rookies is like horse racing being your primary source of income. Enter Matt Carle, the top defense man left on the market. He is not Suter, but he is a fair replacement. With the Preds about thirty million under the cap floor, they have the ability to overpay Carle making Nashville that much more intriguing. As Poile works towards signing Carle, he also has to be working towards signing Weber to a long term deal. And Weber is the key in all of this, the Preds must lock him down, and they must lock him up for as long as they possibly can. There is no telling how the splitting of Weber and Suter will effect each others play. My bet is that Suter will suffer more, his playing partner in Minnesota will be a major down grade from Weber. Not to mention Weber creates many of his own scoring chances. 

Even with the departure of Suter, I am not tremendously concerned with defense. Between Trotz's ability to run a defensive system, Pekka's unbelievable talent, and possibly the best defensive forward core in the league, defense is not something that I am worried about. Nashville hasn't been an offensive threat since J.P. Dumont was putting up sixty points a season. So the question arises, what will the Preds do for offense. I expect both Josi and Ellis to have bigger offensive years, the same goes for forwards Craig Smith and Gabriel Borque. 

So what forwards are available? Radulov is back to Russia and being paid Crosby type of money, not that he looked good in his time here. Semin is said to have attitude problems, and lacks presence in the the defensive zone, and by lacks presence, I mean to say he is a ghost, non-existent. Rick Nash is on the market, but no rumor has had Nashville in the race for him. Thinking about it, would it really be smart of Columbus to trade him in division, no. Bobby Ryan is also said to be on the market, and he is the dream. People have been floating the idea of Wilson, Blum and our first for Ryan, if Anaheim will accept, it is Poile's job to pounce like a hungry tiger. Bobby Ryan would automatically take Nashville's offense to the next level. Other names I like are Wojtek Wolski, Niklas Hagman, Eric Fehr, and Peter Mueller to name a few. I'd give Peter Mmueller more attention, because I would love to see him in gold, but I see him being the next Matt Lombardi.