Jim Diamond's latest piece checks in with Brian McGrattan, who will come to training camp a married man this fall. As he looks forward to a second season with the Predators, Big Ern is also gearing up for more of an opportunity to hit the ice:
"I've had good talks with Barry and he wants to play me in some different situations next year," McGrattan said. "That kind of puts the onus on me a little bit to be in the best shape I can and to be as ready as I can for an opportunity that could be there. I am looking forward to the challenge and hopefully get some more games and some different situations than I did last year."
Now, I expect a part of this is just proper messaging from Barry Trotz - you're not going to tell any player that they're only going to play a few shifts a game and are expected to simply fight. What if McGrattan is able to step up and fill a larger role, however?
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I have long said that I can't stand the way modern enforcers only engage with other heavyweights in sideshow brawls, and have little to no effect on the outcome of a given game. If I've got the toughest guy on the block, I want him out there asserting that physical dominance for more than just 2-4 minutes a game.
I want him roughing up opponents, putting them on their heels. I want him serving notice to forwards who storm Pekka Rinne's crease, even if they're pint-sized snipers. Similarly, he should mark his territory in the offensive end and let it be known whose ice it is. Rather than just scrap with the big boys, take some time to intimidate that puck-moving defenseman, and maybe he'll start passing it away a little quicker than he should.
It takes smarts and veteran savvy to do that without taking too many penalties and putting your teammates in a tough spot, but I'd be interested to see if McGrattan could pull that off.
Do you think he'll get that chance?
By the way, Jim Diamond gets my daily vote for Best Sportswriter in the 2012 Best of Nashville voting, so consider heading over and giving him yours as well.