With the season over, it's time to take a look back and examine each player's individual performance. We'll briefly break it down, and then offer a letter grade for the year. It's report cards, Nashville Predators-style, from Blum to Wilson. Next up: Joel Ward.
|2010 - Joel Ward||80||10||19||29||-1||42||5||0||4||157|
Today's report card is brought to you by Josh Farrar. Josh just finished up his junior year at UT majoring in sports psychology, and is the man behind Fang Finger Fever, another great blog covering Predator hockey. Check out his blog, and follow him on twitter, @jfarrar90.
The Skinny: David Poile is renown for constantly seeking out diamonds in the rough and giving them a shot in the NHL. In 2008, he took a chance on an unknown defensive forward named Joel Ward, who had spent the previous three seasons in the Minnesota Wild organization, mostly with their AHL affiliate in Houston. Most fans had no idea what to expect from the North York, Ontario native, especially given he had only one point in eleven games of NHL experience at age 27. Ward made the team out of training camp, and scored his first career NHL goal during the season opener in St. Louis on his way to a career season. Three years later, he has evolved from an unknown to a fan favorite through that hustle and hard work he has displayed since day one. Barry Trotz usually entrusts Ward and his linemates with the task of shutting down the opposition's top line, as well as logging plenty of ice time on the penalty kill. After a solid season in 2009-2010, Ward looked to build on that performance as he headed into the final year of his two year, 3 million dollar contract.
The Performance: Ward had his worst season offensively as a Predator, registering 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists). He played in every game but two, missing a pair of games due to injury in mid-March, He was also uncharacteristically undisciplined all season long, registering 42 penalty minutes; he had 47 over the past two years combined.
While shorthanded, Ward ranked 4th among forwards in ice time, logging 1:52 per game, and was instrumental in helping turn Nashville's PK unit into the 5th best in the league during the regular season, a far cry from last season's 28th ranked PK.
Ward also managed to break an astronomical number of sticks over the course of the season, sometimes leading to a turnover, sometimes leading to nothing, and sometimes leading to something great, like his signature goal this season.
Just like last season, however, Ward did his work offensively during the playoffs. He registered a point in all but two of Nashville's 12 games, nearly equaling his regular season goal total in the process. It will be interesting to see how his playoff performance will affect his next contract; I'd love to see Ward back in Nashville next season, but if the asking price is too high, he'll sadly have to go, as the contracts of Weber, Suter, and Rinne take priority over his. He is replaceable.
The Grade: Even though 29 points in a contract year was a bit alarming, his task was shutting down top offensive lines night in and night out, and he performed well in that role. His regular season performance is worthy of a C+, but Ward was a key component in helping Nashville advance to the second round, and help give the Preds a chance to upend Vancouver, despite falling short. B.