Today I find myself contemplating the organizational changes that will affect the Nashville Predators over the next several months. Changes will happen as they always do. The real question isn't so much what the changes will be, but who will be part of the decision making process. Before I dive into my thoughts for the offseason, let me digress to a few points I posted last year. I wrote that Predators fans should temper their expectations for this team. Lets recap a few of my positions:
1) I pointed out David Legwand wasn't at the forefront of the future of the organization. Had David Poile not traded Leggy, does anyone think he would have signed with Nashville? Sure he would have and Poile would have given him the money he wanted. There was too much of a bond between the two. And David Poile didn't want to find himself in that position so he smartly traded Leggy to Detroit, where Legwand grew up. It was a predictable David Poile move and it worked out for all three sides. Detroit made it into the playoffs, Leggy landed in his hometown, and Nashville picked up a very good prospect. And in the case of David Poile, he doesn't have to worry about having to deal with a Legwand contract in the off season.
2) I suggested this would be a defining year for Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, and Ryan Ellis. And it was. Craig Smith blossomed into a bonafide top 6 forward and tied for the lead in goals for the team. Ryan Ellis showed that he can play in the NHL, but needs another year or so to prove his value. Colin Wilson proved that he either can't fit into a Barry Trotz system, or as I suspect, doesn't have the competitive will to give 100% every night to be a top 6 forward in this league.
3) Too much hype was being placed on the shoulders of Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg. In the case of Forsberg, I was dead on. He spent most of the year in Milwaukee. Jones started off like he was the next coming of Shea Weber. But 18 year old defenseman eventually come down to reality. Jones IS going to be a world class D-man in this league. We just didn't need to expect it from him in his rookie year. Forsberg had a good year in Milwaukee and if he continues could still be a top 6 forward. I still think both will be part of the rebuilding of this team.
4) The youth movement didn't quite happen as soon as I had expected. But that is tied more to NMC and NTC in some of the players contracts. For Nashville to truly grow as a team, they are going to have to figure out how to shed themselves of the contracts for Cullen, Nystrom, Stalberg, and Gaustad. As they represent the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th highest paid forwards on the team, there contributions instead were closer to what a 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th forward would contribute on a Stanley Cup team. Nashville has to figure out how to make room for Forsberg, Sissons, Watson, Jarnkrok, and Solomaki in the next year. If we can't, then why are we holding on to them. It isn't like they could do any worse than Cullen, Nystrom, Stalberg, and Gaustad.
5) Can't decide if I blew this one or not, but I know I never predicted Kevin Klein would get traded. And I can't exactly say our defense resembled anything close to one of the top defenses in the league. That being said, Shea Weber proved he is one of the elite 5 defenseman in the league an in my opinion should get the Norris Trophy. Roman Josi is proving Nashville can live without Ryan Suter. While Josi may never be as good at defending his own zone as Suter, Suter will never be as good as Josi offensively. If Josi continues to improve, our first line may be the best in the NHL. After our first line, things get iffy. Jones will be every bit as good as Josi and maybe even better. Mattias Ekholm solidified a position on our 3rd line. Ryan Ellis is the only mystery. He isn't quite good enough to be on the 2nd line, but doesn't fit the role of a prototypical 3rd line defenseman. And Jonathan-Ismael Diaby is just now starting his AHL career in Milwaukee. I still say that Diaby is the future of our 3rd line and Ellis doesn't quite live up to a 2nd line D and is traded.
6) All hail Pekka Rinne. Oh wait, he was injured. The thing with world class goalies is they have to be on the ice to live up to that expectation. Rinne was out for most of the year and his return wasn't exactly stellar. Granted it takes time for a goalie to get into the zone, and coming in at the end of the year didn't exactly set himself up for success. But he is still an elite goalie and I fully expect him to rebound next year. The question is who will back him up. Right now, I am not sure we have a 1B goalie in our organization. And having 3 C goalies doesn't bode well for Nashville next year if Rinne goes down again.
So what does all of this have to do with the next 5 months? Nothing, except if you take into consideration the architect of this years team might be the architect of next years team. With all the talk that Barry Trotz might be coaching his last game tonight for the Nashville Predators, I can't help but think the writing is on the wrong wall. How many years have we said Barry Trotz has done more with less than any other coach? How many years have we heard heaps of praise placed on Trotz for finding a way to get the Predators into the playoffs. But now we go 2 years without the playoffs and we want to fire him? Are we forgetting that he was without his #1 goalie for most of this year? Are we forgetting that David Poile didn't think it important to have a veteran backup goalie? Are we forgetting David Poile signed Nystrom, Cullen, Hendricks, Stalberg? Are we forgetting that upon Rinne's return, the Predators started playing some of the best hockey in the NHL and fell only a few wins short of being in the playoffs? This isn't a team that has given up on their coach. This is a team that doesn't have the firepower to compete with the elite teams of the NHL. And that isn't the coaches fault. That is the GM's. And that is why I will be P$#&@# if Barry Trotz if fired before David Poile. Fire Poile and let a new GM come in and evaluate Trotz. Let a new GM try to tweak this team and bring in some more scoring. And let a new GM decide if Trotz is cutting it. Just remember one thing. If Trotz is fired, there is a good chance he will be coaching against us next year. He would be the hottest coaching commodity in the league. Can we say the same thing about Poile?