One of the most interesting stories to follow during this Nashville Predators season is how Barry Trotz allocates the ice time among his quartet of experienced centers. For those like myself who see the signing of Matt Cullen as a harbinger of David Legwand's departure from Nashville (whether during the season via trade, or in July as a free agent), the early indications appear to support the view that Leggy is the one getting squeezed out in the battle for precious TOI.
While allowances can be made for the fact that the team has only played two road games so far (and usage could vary at home vs. away), Legwand is the one riding the pine the most. In each game so far he has played less than 14 minutes, which is notable considering the fact that outside of games in which he got hurt, he hasn't played that little in a game since March 18, 2010 against Minnesota. The following table, sourced from the invaluable Hockey-Reference.com, breaks down the average ice time per game for these four centers:
|Player||Career Avg.||Last 3 Seasons||2012-13||2013-14|
That's a precipitous dropoff for the franchise's all-time leader in all the major offensive categories, who at age 33 should still have some zip left in his game. Perhaps even more indicative of this trend is a view shown at the promising new stats site Extra Skater, which shows the percentage of the team's Even Strength ice time each center is playing for the Preds:
|Player||% of team's EV Ice Time|
So pay extra close attention to the forward rotation as the Preds head into a 5-game homestand beginning with tomorrow night's Bridgestone Arena debut against Ryan Suter and the Wild. At the very least, you savvy fantasy hockey managers may be able to dump Legwand on an unsuspecting trade partner, as reduced ice time generally leads to underwhelming offensive results.
What we're seeing is a transition to a new era for the Predators, which began with Suter's departure as a free agent, and picked up steam with the Martin Erat trade last spring. Leggy is one of only eight players left on the roster from the 2010-11 squad which first won a playoff series for Nashville.
I wonder how many of those will still be here the next time that happens?
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