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2011 Training Camp Preview: Nashville Predators Print
Features
Written by Jim Diamond   
Thursday, 01 September 2011 12:45
Shea Weber

Mixed signals in Music City: The Preds won a playoff series for the first time, then lost their arbitration hearing with Shea Weber, casting doubt on the future of the captain in Nashville.

2010-11 Record: 44-27-11; lost to Vancouver, 4-2, in second round.
Head Coach: Barry Trotz. Record with Nashville: 455-398-131
Temperature of his seat: Cold
Associate Coach: Peter Horachek. Assistant Coaches: Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn

OVERVIEW

Pekka Rinne

Coming off of the franchise’s first playoff series victory, the future would have appeared bright in Nashville. But a tough offseason for the front office, highlighted by a difficult contract negotiation with team captain Shea Weber, has many questioning whether or not the Predators can qualify for the playoffs again in 2011-12. Despite a sometimes tight checkbook, Nashville has made the postseason in six of their last seven seasons. Weber was awarded a one-year, $7.5 million contract in his team-elected arbitration hearing, and questions will persist all season as to whether Nashville will be able to hang on to the Norris Trophy runner-up from last season. Weber is slated to again be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of 2011-12, but defensive partner Ryan Suter and goaltender Pekka Rinne can both become unrestricted free agents at season’s end, meaning big questions will follow the team all season about their ability to sign any of their big three to long-term deals. Trotz has been a finalist for the Jack Adams Award the last two seasons, and will need to do an equally good coaching job this season to keep his troops focused on winning while not letting the distraction of potential contract issues impact his team in a very strong Central Division and Western Conference.

KEY ADDITIONS

DID YOU KNOW?
The Predators will debut two new jerseys this season. Their home sweaters will feature gold as the predominant color. While not retiring their dark blue third jersey, it will not be used this season.

RW Niclas Bergfors (12 goals, 24 assists, 36 points), D Jack Hillen (4-18-22), D Tyler Sloan (1-5-6)

KEY DEPARTURES

RW Joel Ward (10-19-29), C Marcel Goc (9-15-24), LW Steve Sullivan (10-12-22), RW J.P. Dumont (10-9-19), D Cody Franson (8-21-29), D Shane O’Brien (2-7-9)

KEY POSITION BATTLE

The team known as one of the best at drafting and developing defensemen will once again be put to the test this season. Franson was traded to Toronto, O’Brien was not brought back, and Francis Bouillon is still battling the effects of Post-Concussion Syndrome, so jobs are available in camp. Hillen and Sloan were signed to two-way deals, and the Predators have three blue-chip prospects in Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Ellis who will all be given an opportunity at making the roster in camp.

PLAYER ON THE VERGE OF A BREAKOUT SEASON

Nick SpalingNick Spaling. In his first 102 NHL games, Spaling has played mostly as a checking forward and penalty-killing specialist. With the exodus of forwards like Sullivan, Ward, and Goc, more ice time will become available for players like Spaling. In his junior career with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, Spaling put up strong offensive numbers, including 38 goals and 34 assists in 54 regular season games in 2007-08. He is a player that Trotz trusts, so it will not be a surprise to see his role increased this season.

PLAYER UNDER THE MOST PRESSURE

Weber. The team’s most visible player on the ice will also be also be under a huge spotlight off of it as the uncertainty surrounding his future in Nashville will be a major topic of conversation as the team tries to sign him to a new contract. Further complicating matters is the approaching UFA statuses of Suter and Rinne, who will be long shots to re-up with the Predators if it does not look like Weber will be long for Music City.

PROSPECT TO WATCH

Craig Smith. Goal scoring has seemingly always been a problem in Nashville, so when Smith decided to leave the University of Wisconsin after his sophomore year to sign with the Predators, hopes were raised that Smith and Blake Geoffrion, Smith’s former linemate with the Badgers, could rekindle the chemistry they had together in taking Wisconsin to the National Championship game in 2010. Geoffrion won the Hobey Baker Award in his senior year in Madison with Smith on his wing for most of the season. Smith played for Team USA at the 2011 World Championships and led the team in goals scored with three. The Predators like to let their prospects spend some time in the AHL, but if Smith can show a goal-scoring touch in camp, he may be able to bypass the minors and stay in Nashville.

HPT is counting down one team each day until the beginning of traning camp. Tomorrow: New Jersey Devils.


Photos by Getty Images

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Last Updated on Friday, 02 September 2011 05:46