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Colin Wilson: A New Hope for the Nashville Predators

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In the wake of sending key veterans Dan Hamhuis and Jason Arnott out of town in separate trades over the weekend, the Nashville Predators' management came out to speak with the local media about what these moves mean, and their plan for the team going forward.

To sum it up, it's best to simply go with what local blogger Ryan Porth (of Red Light Hockey) said on Twitter shortly after the Arnott trade was announced:

The Colin Wilson Era has begun in Nashville!

Colin Wilson

#33 / Center / Nashville Predators



Oct 20, 1989

2009 - Colin Wilson 35 8 7 15 -2 7 1 0 3 0 58 13.8

Follow after the jump for a look at what the team's front office has been saying today, and what that means for the 2010-11 edition of the Nashville Predators...

First, let's start with David Poile's session with the local media today looking ahead to this weekend's draft:

While most of the conversation is about the draft, there are a few points which relate to this fall's squad.

  • He's likely to look for a backup goaltender via trade or free agency (although he apparently didn't mean to rule out Mark Dekanich). Given the glut of goalies hitting the market this summer, that could work out pretty well.
  • He loves the young group of defensemen, naming everyone you can think of outside of Denis Grebeshkov.
  • The forward group needs offensive help, and he looks to put Colin Wilson "in an opportunity to see if he can take over for Jason".
  • The pro scouting staff is actively reviewing possibilities on the free agent market this summer to add a forward.
  • Regarding the draft, I did find it interesting how much he talked about trying to get a 2nd-round pick back, including the possibility of trading the 2011 2nd-rounder obtained for Arnott, and/or moving down in the 1st round.

In a further discussion with John Glennon, Poile also said that Denis Grebeshkov is not going to be given a qualifying offer, and is undecided about Dustin Boyd. This means that the 2nd-round and (possibly) 4th-round picks dealt at the Trade Deadline will have gone for naught. Honestly, I'm a bit puzzled at this, as I would think a pending RFA would have more trade value on the market than an unrestricted free agent like Dan Hamhuis would.

This afternoon, assistant GM Paul Fenton also joined the Thom Abraham Show. You can use the link below to listen to the full segment:

Paul Fenton on Thom Abraham Show 20100621

Among the points relevant to this fall's squad were the following:

  • Again on Colin Wilson. "It's a natural progression to have him take over the #1 [center] position."
  • "Cal O'Reilly will be used in a more offensive role this year"
  • When asked the straightforward question of if he believed the Hamhuis and Arnott trades would help get this team closer to the Stanley Cup, Fenton hesitated before answering "In the long run I do." He then further explained that if Wilson steps "into that role and he scores 65 points, and we put Cal O'Reilly in that role and he does the same, then our offense takes a step upward."

Certainly, if Wilson and O'Reilly score 65 points, than yes, I'd say it's a good bet that Nashville will have enjoyed a better offensive attack. Does anyone in their right mind think that's a reasonable expectation, however? It sounds eerily similar to the "David Legwand and Martin Erat need to have career years" talk from last summer, and we all saw how that worked out.

To have both Poile and Fenton emphasizing the expectation that Colin Wilson will step in the #1 center spot speaks volumes. Unfortunately to me, it sounds awfully premature. I think that "Willie" is destined for a very productive NHL career, but having him center the top line in 2010-11 runs completely counter to the oft-cited "Nashville Way" which emphasizes steady, unrushed development of young players.

While Wilson showed promise down the stretch playing on Arnott's wing, there were many nights where he was relatively invisible, displaying the trademark inconsistency of rookies. Besides, what better way to support Wilson's growth as a player than to have him center the second scoring line, with Arnott in front of him to show him the ropes (especially considering their similarity as players)? If his development does proceed as expected, than Arnott could be dealt during the season if he truly wished to move on.

Instead, Wilson is being pushed into the limelight, and in exchange we've got a 2nd-round pick in 2011, and a prospect who's best case scenario is to spend some time as a 3rd or 4th line grinder. Is Matt Halischuk that much of an upgrade over Dustin Boyd? I doubt it.

Nashville now boasts a depth chart at center of Wilson, followed by David Legwand, Marcel Goc, and Cal O'Reilly. Does anyone else see a problem here?

If David Poile puts the salary cleared by moving Arnott to good use by picking up an established NHL center, the team could very well be positioned to take a step forward this fall. If that trade is left to stand on its own, however, and relying on promotion from within is indeed the plan, then it's an unmitigated disaster for the 2010-11 Nashville Predators. Maybe, just maybe, things will work out in the long run, but in the short term, I just don't see it.