We're officially in the Peter Laviolette era of the Nashville Predators. Today was the first-ever training camp without Barry Trotz blowing the whistle, and there was a bit of a buzz on the ice and in the locker room.
Now, before we get too carried away with emotions and trips down memory lane, let's be clear: the practice was just a practice. Sure, there were tons of smiles, guys were skating and sweating all over the place, and at least every player mentioned the words "upbeat" and "high tempo" a billion times. But part of that is because these guys are just happy to play hockey again.
The coach has had one session to implement a new system, one that is completely different than most of these players are used to. It'll take more than an afternoon to really feel out what's going down, for him, the players, and us.
Laviolette stressed that as well, saying the lines we saw today could be very different tomorrow. (Or not.) He's hoping to get a grasp on some chemistry before Tuesday's preseason game against Tampa Bay, but also noted that exhibition games are really where you see if what works in practice works really truly works.
We'll see what goes on tomorrow.
Some notes and stuff:
- Olli Jokinen's mullet game is off the charts.
- We got a glimpse of some of the lines we've been speculating on over the summer. In Team Blue's first skate, the big line was Colin Wilson centering Derek Roy and Craig Smith.
- Matt Cullen was in between Austin Watson and Kevin Fiala, no doubt to impart a bit of veteran wisdom to Fiala, who is in his first camp at 18 years old.
- Meanwhile, Team White was bogarting all the Swedes. Forsberg, Jarnkrok and Stalberg were all matched up together to start camp. That's an insanely fast (and skilled) line that has the potential to stick around for a bit.
- Neal and Ribeiro were together (of course) but with them was Gabriel Bourque. No doubt that's going to change as the roster is trimmed, but it's at least an interesting choice that has some semblance of sense behind it. Speed is the name of the game.
- Neal's shot comes as advertised. Wicked.
- Ribeiro may be declining in age and point production, but his puck handling skills and creativity are still very evident.
- Eric Nystrom may have been the happiest guy in the world today. Dude was all smiles.
- Pekka Rinne says he's going to keep doing what he's been doing, regardless of system. "Personally for me, nothing changes. I just try to stop the puck." He's pretty good at that, so we're OK with it.
Smith: "He's been great at delivering what he needs to get across. He's definitely heading in one direction and we're all following."— On The Forecheck (@OnTheForecheck) September 19, 2014
Colin Wilson said the cycling system will help his game, but was frank: "I just have to be better this year."— On The Forecheck (@OnTheForecheck) September 19, 2014
Here's the full Wilson quote, when asked if the new offensive system will be more conducive to his play than the old one:
"The system is going to be a big part of it, but the bigger part is myself and the way that I want to play. I just have to be better this year, but at the same time, [Laviolette] is a lot about cycling offensively. Playing down low behind the net, and that's kind of been where I've got my offense from the last couple years. I'm excited if we can do more of that, that can help my game a little bit."
For the most part, guys seem to think they'll have the new style of play down pat by the time the season starts, because what else are they supposed to say? In reality, they may know the song they're playing, but it will take longer than a training camp to know the structure, and who play which part without thinking. Expect a few growing pains.