Hide the bottle of Geritol. Such was the handle to shutting down the Predators’ top line in the last few years.
The top line of Sullivan-Arnott-Dumont showed last year that the success they had found together in previous seasons had quickly passed them by. Injuries and age started to take their effect on their bodies. Then-captain Jason Arnott was commonly found at the wrong end of the ice, refusing to backcheck after failed attempts to score off the rush and struggled with various ailments, prompting an outcry from Predators fans for a changing of the captaincy, and even Coach Trotz had stopped just short of calling Arnott out on his lackadaisical approach to the games. On June 19, 2010 Predators fans were moderately surprised to learn that Arnott had been traded to the New Jersey Devils for a 2nd-round pick in 2011 and prospect Matt Halischuk. Quickly speculation began to build that defenseman Shea Weber would be the top nomination for captaincy, but little comment was offered from Predators staff.
Tonight the Nashville Predators hosted their second annual Skate of the Union, which provided fans the opportunity to ask questions of the teams’ ownership and management, as well as head coach Barry Trotz and recent free-agent signing Matthew Lombardi. After opening remarks from panel host and Predators TV play-by-play commentator Pete Weber and team Chairman Tom Cigarran, Predators General Manager David Poile introduced Lombardi, who was warmly welcomed by the fans in attendance as he donned a team jersey bearing the number 15, which he has traditionally worn in his career. After further discussing the draft and the logic behind the Lombardi signing, Poile brought the house down by formally announcing Shea Weber as the team captain. Weber approached the stage to a standing ovation from many of the fans and pulled on his newest jersey, this time bearing a bold “C” in the upper-left corner. When asked by Pete Weber how the jersey felt with the “C” on it, Shea chuckled and said “a little heavy.” Truer words were never spoken tonight, though it didn’t seem that he intended for that level of gravity when he said it. Truly the team is transitioning to a more youth-driven core. Weber and teammate Ryan Suter will be pivotal in taking this team to the next level as a team. Weber is one of the most respected defenseman playing currently and being designated as captain speaks volumes to the organization’s faith in him as a player and a leader. Exciting times are ahead for this team.
Also going on this week is the Predators’ prospects Development Camp, which is a training camp of sorts for draft picks and prospect acquisitions over the last few seasons. I had the chance to visit today’s session and greatly enjoyed it. I encourage you to do the same this weekend if the opportunity presents itself. There were several players that stood out to me, but a lack of numbers or names on the jerseys makes it difficult to identify players. However, there were a few that I was able to identify: #58 LW Linus Klasen, who was signed as a free-agent in April seems to have great vision, a quick, crisp pass and great speed. It’s understandable to see the Predators interest in him, particularly after his standout 2009-10 season in the Swedish Elite League in which he 19 goals and 32 assists for 51 points in 51 games. However at 5’8″ size could be a hindrance to a transition to the North American game. #49 D Ryan Ellis continued to showcase his play-making ability with smooth, crisp passes and a deceptive shot. Sadly there wasn’t much opportunity in today’s drills for him to wind up for that big slap-shot he’s known for in juniors. Finally, G Anders Lindback, who at 6’6″ is a giant of a man, but like Predators G Pekka Rinne, moves quickly for his size. Lindback made some impressive saves at times today, even drawing a couple of “oohs” from fans observing from the stands.
*While I haven’t reviewed rosters side-by-side, I’m calling for Nashville to win the Central division this year. I’m not saying that due to bias or blind hope. I am EXPECTING the Preds to win it, barring any dramatic change in another teams roster that forces me to reconsider.
*I’d like to offer a stick-tap to @jfarrar90 who made the long drive to Nashville from McMinnville far more bearable, as well as to @ajinnashville who joined us for lunch. You’ve got to love a 13-hour day that has been essentially hockey-talk and nothing else.
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll take advantage of the “Comments” section below. Until next post, God bless – Big Kev