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Nashville Predators 2016-17 Season Preview: Bottom Defense

Our positional previews continue. Today, we cover the “oh yeah, those guys” of the Nashville blue line.

San Jose Sharks v Nashville Predators - Game Four Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The previews of the Nashville Predators continue! Here is the breakdown of our preseason coverage:

Today, we have the bottom pairing defense. It doesn't get more First World Problems than Predators fans worrying over their fifth and sixth defensemen, but if you too were scarred by the Bartley-Bitetto pairing, it's probably important to you.

Position Strengths

Depth. The Predators strength on the back end is the high end talent in slots one through four, limiting the exposure of the bottom pairing. If the fifth and sixth defensemen can be merely replacement level, the blue line should be set.

Position Weaknesses

Speed. This is not a fast group of players, so they will have to depend on positioning and good decision making to be effective. Their ability to do so will be the difference between the deepest defense corps in the league versus overplaying Roman Josi every night.

Catalyst of the Group

Matt Carle. Laviolette spoke very highly of his time in Philadelphia, and how his play goes, goes the play of his defensive partner. If he can provide a steady veteran presence and chip in with a few points, the defensive lineup should be solid from top to bottom.

Breakout Player

Yannick Weber. Not only am I banking on having the most Swiss players in the league, I think the Predators' playing style may open up opportunities for him to shine offensively, as long as he cuts it out with the stupid hits.

Matt Carle

What he adds to the mix:

How many times can I repeat "veteran presence" before it loses all meaning? He'll add some Stanley Cup playoff experience to the bottom of a very young roster.

Expectations for this season:

Revolving between the six spot and the press box, hopefully picking up fifteen points or so in sixty games played.

What does the future hold?

Best case scenario, he turns in a respectable performance this year and earns himself a small extension. Worst case, he's skating in Switzerland next year, which really doesn't seem like a bad life.

Yannick Weber

What he adds to the mix:

He adds a potential for offense (and more Suisse). If he can abstain from boarding anyone, he can be an effective third pairing defenseman.

Expectations for this season:

I expect him to get the majority of starts as the fifth defenseman, possibly jumping up into some powerplay time as injuries dictate.

What does the future hold?

Provided he succeeds, I can see him moving up in the lineup as an injury or trade replacement, but the odds are against him.

Anthony Bitetto

What he adds to the mix:

Bitetto, unlike the other contenders, is something of a known quantity. He's an average third pairing defender who can pick up some time on the penalty kill, but looks a bit worse than he actually is in comparison with the defenders ahead of him.

Expectations for this season:

I expect him to play enough games to qualify for exposure in the expansion draft with some time filling in for injury, with no more than a handful of points.

What does the future hold?

Expansion bait. He's signed through 2018, but I don't see him improving sufficiently to merit an extension, and there will be a lot of upward pressure from Milwaukee fairly quickly.

Petter Granberg

What he adds to the mix:

Of all the defensemen I expect a few scraps from, Granberg is not one of them, but that's his lone Predators highlight from last season. He's steady although not very offensively gifted, and provides an option alongside Ekholm if they need to split up the bottom pairing for any reason.

Expectations for this season:

He's on a two-way deal this season that goes down to a one way the following year, indicating he'll likely be splitting time, although he is not waiver exempt. He should see about twenty games barring injuries.

What does the future hold?

Assuming he doesn't get snagged on waivers, he's a good depth option for the club. There are a lot of small, offensive defenseman beginning to filter up through the organization, so adding in his size and more conservative play gives them a variety of choices for the bottom pairing.