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Are the Nashville Predators taking a big risk with just a 20-man roster?

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Eric at Admirals Short Shifts raises an interesting question that has indeed been largely overlooked in Nashville Predators coverage this week - should the front office come under fire for taking a lineup of only 18 skaters into Anaheim tonight? If a player fell ill or got injured in the morning skate, Nashville would be left short-staffed. Eric writes,

Freak accidents happen. I believe it is irresponsible of David Poile to allow the Predators to walk into the Honda Center with only 18 skaters. The Predators finished ONE WIN behind Columbus last season - and missed the playoffs. Wouldn't it be a shame to basically give up the chance at a win by only skating 17 players against Anaheim? Especially given the fact that it is completely unneccessary?

The Milwaukee Admirals exist to provide the Predators with players. Why not use them when needed? Tell Peter Olvecky to get on a plane. "Sorry, buddy - you're not gonna play...but we need you here just in case."

What does this decision (or lack of one) tell us about the state of the organization right now? Let's consider that question after the jump...

An extremely short bench for tonight

What adds to the danger of the present situation is that we have two players just now returning to the lineup tonight in Jason Arnott and Jordin Tootoo, so you always have concern that they might not be 100% up to speed. In fact, Barry Trotz already admitted as such regarding Tootoo, who has yet to play in the regular season. So really, they've got 17.5 players.

Add to that the fact that Wade Belak averages just 4:24 per game of ice time, and it's looking like we'll see three forward lines pretty much all night, and just hope one of the defenseman doesn't get hurt. Trust me, I know they've talked up Belak as an emergency option there, but you don't want him on the ice defending against the likes of Corey Perry or Teemu Selanne.

Can the Predators compete with a short bench like this? Maybe under normal circumstances, but with three key forwards and their top defenseman out, it'll be tough.This is what they're running with up front:

Sullivan - Arnott - Hornqvist
Scatchard - Santorelli - Thuresson
Smithson- Legwand - Ward
Tootoo - Goc - Belak

After that top line, the rest of the forwards have combined for 5 goals this season, and three of those come from Jerred Smithson. It's too bad, because Anaheim is a very beatable team right now; you'd think the Preds would give themselves the best chance at victory here.

The numbers aren't the problem

NHL teams can carry an active roster of 23 players, which would normally include 21 skaters, enough for 3 to be scratched each night. Nashville is not alone in carrying less than the 23-man limit; many do it to manage their salary cap situation, others because that extra marginal player is probably better off playing regularly in the minors than watching from the press box.

It's not as if Nashville is up against the roster limit due to injury, either. While J.P. Dumont and Colin Wilson are expected to return to action soon, certainly Shea Weber could be put on Injured Reserve (which would require him to miss tonight and Saturday's games) if they needed to make room. They could have done so with Martin Erat as well, and backdated his IR statust to last Thursday just prior to the home game against Chicago.

So the team has the roster spot available to call someone up - why haven't they?

The obvious call-up candidate, denied

To me, what this situation really shows is the profound disappointment that surrounds Ryan Jones. Awarded a new two-year, one-way contract over the summer, Jones has failed to make an impact so far this season and is toiling away in Milwaukee (with 0 points in 4 games) making nearly $1 million. The Preds could have called him up without costing themselves an extra dime of salary, and he's not eligible yet for waivers, so there's no risk of losing him. Despite glaring holes on the wing, the Predators have instead chosen to keep him in the AHL.

If I were part of the Nashville ownership group, I'd certainly expect a good, thorough answer as to why Jones is still in the organization at all, if he can't help out in a situation like this.

Ryan Jones

#28 / Left Wing / Nashville Predators



Jun 14, 1984

2009 - Ryan Jones 8 0 0 0 -2 2 0 0 0 0 7 0.0