|2011 Training Camp Preview: Nashville Predators|
|Written by Jim Diamond|
|Thursday, 01 September 2011 12:45|
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.
DID YOU KNOW?
KEY DEPARTURESRW 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 BATTLEThe 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 SEASONNick 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 PRESSUREWeber. 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 WATCHCraig 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