Fan discussion is all over the board as to whether this week's acquisition of Bobby Butler and Zach Boychuk will help the Nashville Predators reverse their slide down through the Western Conference standings.
Will these two provide an offensive boost up front? Will they light a fire under already-established players, and motivate them to produce in order to keep their jobs?
With the assistance of Pro Sports Transactions and Hockey-Reference.com, I thought I'd piece together a list of the players Nashville has scooped off the waiver wire over the years, and examine how they performed as Predators...
|10/05/1998||Zdeno Ciger||Oilers||Never played for the Preds.|
|03/12/1999||Dan Keczmer||Stars||Played 40 games over 2 seasons, traded to STL for Rory Fitzpatrick.|
|11/10/1999||Bill Houlder||Lightning||Played 302 games over 4 seasons, staunch stay-at-home D.|
|01/20/2000||Niklas Andersson||Islanders||Played 7 games for Nashville, then waived & claimed by Islanders.|
|05/23/2000||Mike Watt||Islanders||Played 18 games then traded to Flyers for Mikhail Chernov.|
|05/23/2000||Sean Haggerty||Islanders||3 games as a Pred, rest of 2000-1 season in Milwaukee.|
|01/02/2001||Robert Schnabel||Coyotes||Played 22 games for Nashville over 3 seasons.|
|06/01/2001||Bill Bowler||Blue Jackets||Never played for the Preds.|
|06/19/2001||Yves Sarault||Thrashers||Played just 1 game for Nashville.|
|01/28/2002||Reid Simpson||Canadiens||Played 52 games over 2 seasons, left via free agency.|
|10/04/2002||Francis Bouillon||Canadiens||Played 4 games for Nashville before being waived & claimed by Montreal. Returned as a free agent in 2009 for 3 full seasons as a Predator.|
|03/11/2003||Todd Warriner||Flyers||Ended his NHL career playing 6 games for the Preds.|
|10/03/2003||Chris Mason||Panthers||His 2nd stint with Nashville last 4 seasons, until traded to St. Louis.|
|10/03/2003||Wade Brookbank||Senators||Played 9 games for Preds before trade to Vancouver.|
|10/22/2003||Jeremy Stevenson||Wild||88 Nashville games over two seasons before waived & claimed by Dallas.|
|12/31/2003||Jason Morgan||Flames||Played 6 games as a Pred before waived & claimed by Calgary.|
|01/30/2004||Jeremy Yablonski||Blues||Never played for the Preds.|
|01/28/2006||Simon Gamache||Blues||Had previously been waived by Nashville & claimed by St. Louis. Upon being reclaimed by the Preds, didn't play for them again.|
|11/27/2006||Michael Leighton||Ducks||Played one game as a Predator, then waived & claimed by Philadelphia.|
|12/29/2010||Marek Svatos||Blues||Preds swiped him after St. Louis tried to bring him back from Europe, but he never fit in lineup and was ultimately waived.|
|10/11/2011||Brian McGrattan||Ducks||Popular fighter signed for current season, then was traded to Calgary.|
|01/18/2012||Brandon Yip||Avalanche||Currently in 2nd season with Nashville, signed contract extension.|
|01/15/2013||Rich Clune||Kings||Depth banger carving out a niche for himself on the roster.|
|03/04/2013||Bobby Butler||New Jersey||???|
The Greatest Waiver Claims in Preds History...
Out of 22 players listed above (prior to Butler & Boychuk), I see just two who stepped into a major, long-term role here. Bill Houlder was a consummate stay-at-home defenseman who took on the thankless task of manning the blueline of a recent expansion team, while Chris Mason blossomed into a solid NHL backup (including a remarkable run in 2007 when Tomas Vokoun was sidelined, finishing 2nd in the league in save percentage that year).
In my book, that makes Mason the Greatest Waiver Wire Claim in Nashville Predators history.
Following Mason & Houlder you have a handful of guys who held on to minor roles such as Brian McGrattan, Jeremy Stevenson and Reid Simpson. The book on Brandon Yip is still being written, as he claims 12 points in 44 games on the Predators' wing.
...and the worst
As for the worst? Well, take your pick of the guys who never ended up playing for the Preds, but don't be too hard on them. The whole idea of waiver claims is that it's a low-risk way of trying out the fit between a player and team, which is especially important for a player who would otherwise be consigned to the minors.
So if Bobby Butler and/or Zach Boychuk fail to pan out as Predators, don't sweat it. You shouldn't have very high expectations for their performance coming in.
What It All Means
These lowered expectations don't have to lead us to the conclusion that the Butler & Boychuk claims are bad moves. While minor, these transactions are basically zero-cost in terms of hockey assets, so even a small step in the right direction does represent some progress (although much more is needed, certainly).
Do these pickups represent a roadblock to the development of prospects in Milwaukee that might benefit from an NHL call-up, however? Personally, I don't think so.
Given the way this team is getting out-gunned on a regular basis, I don't know that this is the right environment into which a rookie should step right now. It might be better to wait a few months and allow players like Taylor Beck, Michael Latta or Austin Watson to earn a job in training camp and have the benefit of working alongside teammates for a few weeks prior to the 2013-2014 regular season, rather than throw them into the mix right now and expect them to make a difference.
Nobody is patting David Poile on the back and saying the work is done here. But what do you think about what these recent claims might mean for the Preds?