Prospects on deck, Forwards on Ice,
We can pop big hits all night,
Baby, you can play however you like,
I said you can play however you like.
It’s 2008! Brennan and Dale just became best friends in Step Brothers, Jay-Z and Beyonce went from Crazy in Love to Crazy Married, and the world was introduced to MAYBE the best Joker ever when The Dark Knight hit theaters.
More importantly, things were starting to look up for the Nashville Predators after a tumultuous 2007. The ownership/relocation drama finally settled when the league approved the sale of the team to group of mostly Nashville-based business owners (who would later become Predators Holdings LLC, a.k.a. the current ownership group).
And with that mess behind them, the team could once again focus on hockey, which turned out to be pretty good the prior year!
The Previous Season
Record: 41-32-9 (91 points), 2nd in the Central, 8th in the West, 17th overall
Playoffs: Lost to Detroit (2-4) in Western Conference Quarterfinals
We covered the mass exodus following the 2007 in our last review. As such, it came as no surprise that Nashville entered the 2007-2008 as a trendy pick to finish last in the Central Division. Some even had the Preds penned in as the worst team in the NHL.
But on the ice, everything went right at the right time. The two biggest remaining stars, Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont, had career years, while their linemate, second-year pro Alexander Radulov, showed glimpses of becoming a legitimate NHL star with a 58-point showing in his first full season with the Preds. Combine that with Dan Ellis’s historic goaltending run, and the rise of young blueliners Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and the Predators did just enough to squeak into the postseason. The Predators brought two pieces in at the deadline, veteran depth scorer Jan Hlavac and bruising winger Brandon Bochenski.
The Predators found themselves matched with the Red Wings for the second time in their playoff history. Despite a great showing (one could argue this was Detroit’s toughest playoff series of the year), the Preds fell to the eventual Cup-winners four games to two.
The Offseason Moves
Key Additions: F Triston Grant (trade with Philadelphia, F Ryan Jones (trade with Minnesota), F Joel Ward (free agent from Minnesota), F Nick Tarnasky (trade with Tampa Bay).
Key Losses: F Alexander Radulov (signed with Salavat Yulaev Ufa of KHL with a year left on Predators contract... you know... in case you forgot), G Chris Mason (trade with St. Louis), D Marek Zidlicky (trade with Minnesota), F Darcy Hordichuk (free agent to Vancouver), F Brandon Bochenski (free agent to Tampa Bay), F Jan Hlavac (signed with Linkoping in SEL), F Martin Gelinas (retired).
Draft Results: F Colin Wilson (1st round, 7th overall), G Chet Pickard (1st round, 18th overall), D Roman Josi (2nd round, 38th overall), F Taylor Stefishen (5th round, 136th overall), F Jeff Foss (6th round, 166th overall), F Jani Lajunen (7th round, 201st overall), G Anders Lindback (7th round, 207th overall).
Best Move: Drafting D Roman Josi with the 38th Overall Pick
First, holy cow has it really been 12 years since Roman Josi became a Predator? Way to make me feel old, Father Time.
But yeah, talk about a no brainer for “best move.” Even before this year’s Norris Trophy-winning campaign, Josi has been an elite piece for the Predators for years.
Josi was considered a bit of a raw prospect when the Preds drafted him in the second round. He was a 17-year-old during his draft year, playing 35 games for SC Bern against opponents twice his age. In a textbook example of “not rushing your players’ development,” the Preds kept Josi in Switzerland for two more years; the last season saw Josi (still only 19) score 13 points in 15 playoff games to lead Bern to an NLA title.
The Preds finally brought Josi over to Milwaukee for the 2010-2011 season. Josi started the next season in Milwaukee before being recalled to Nashville in late October. He was never sent back down. Josi played well enough to earn a spot on the team for the rest of the 2012 season and played in all 10 playoff games.
Later.... wait.... why am I still writing? You know what happened! Josi spent every following season on the Predators’ top defensive pair and has been one of the team’s most consistently good players ever since. From the start of the 2013-2014 season onward, he’s averaging 54 points a season and has scored at least 12 goals in every year since the lockout. It all led up to this past season, where Josi not only set career-high marks for scoring (16 goals, 49 assists, and 65 points were all career-bests,) but he showcased his shutdown defensive prowess as well.
Josi has cemented himself as one of the NHL’s best defensemen (this year... THE best.) For a 2008 2nd rounder, this pick was a home run.
Honorable Mention: Signing F Joel Ward
Worst Move: Drafting G Chet Pickard with 18th Overall Pick
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s transition to picks that WEREN’T a home run. This wasn’t even a normal strikeout; This was the equivalent of that kid in little league who swung and missed so hard, he fell down and launched his bat twenty feet into the stands. It was that bad.
Let’s ignore the Erik Karlsson thing for a second (if you don’t know, the Preds originally owned the 15th pick, but swapped picks with Ottawa, who then drafted Karlsson), because let’s be honest, that happens to someone in every draft. It’s just the fact that independently, this pick didn’t make a lot of sense. Sure, you could argue that goaltending was a need for the Preds. But many scouts had Pickard as either the third or fourth-ranked goalie in the draft — with Jacob Markstrom being, in many peoples’ eyes, the consensun number one. The Predators made Pickard the first goaltender off the board when he easily could have been available in the second round.
As for the development, Pickard, for whatever reason, just didn’t have the same success in the pros as he did with Tri-City in the WHL. He debuted in Milwaukee during the 2009-2010 season and underwhelmed, posting a 14-16-3 record with an .892 save percentage. The next season, Pickard got off to another slow start, and the Preds sent him to the ECHL, hoping a stint with the Cincinnati Cyclones would get his development back on track.
But that didn’t happen. In fact, Pickard somehow played worse in the ECHL. In two seasons with the Cyclones, he could only muster a 23-26-5 record and an abysmal .884 save percentage. The Predators chose to cut their losses after the 2012 season by not giving Pickard a qualifying offer.
Since then, Pickard has become a journeyman goaltender with stints in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and another brief AHL run in 2014. He’s currently playing for the Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams (the name of the team is the best part of this review, btw) in the DEL.
Other than Philip Tomasino, Pickard remains the only Predators’ first rounder to never appear in an NHL game, and it doesn’t appear he’ll get another shot any time soon.
This remains arguably the worst draft pick in Predators’ history, at least in terms of the first rounders. Luckily for Poile, this was followed by one of the best picks.
Well, all things considered, not exactly the best summer for Smashville. The offseason started with the whole Alexander Radulov transfer drama (which we’ve already covered, so we won’t get into much more detail here,) which robbed Nashville of their best young building block up front.
The Predators tried to fill that gap partially by acquiring Ryan Jones, the 2008 Hobey Baker winner, in a trade with Minnesota. But that trade cost them Marek Zidlicky, a long-time staple on the Preds’ top defensive pair. Zidlicky remained a reliable two-way playmaker on the blueliner for eight more NHL seasons, while Jones was waived after two lackluster seasons with the Preds. (To be fair, Jones did find a home in Edmonton after being waived.)
Colin Wilson is always going to a point of contention among Preds fans. It’s fair to say he never developed into the dynamic top line forward the Predators envisioned. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t an effective player during his eight years in Smashville. Sure, we had fun with “playoff Colin Wilson,” but even during the regular season, Wilson contributed to the penalty kill and was a decent forechecker.
Other than Josi, maybe the biggest hit of the offseason was Joel Ward, who the Preds brought in on a 1-year, two-way contract. The energetic forward surprisingly made the roster out of training camp. In his first full NHL season, Ward chipped in 17 goals and 35 points. His defensive skills and the energy he provided on the ice instantly made him a fan favorite.
The only other fun note from the additions: Nick Tarnasky was traded to Florida after 11 games in Nashville. That deal brought Wade Belak, another fan favorite, to Smashville.
The Final Grade
This would be a much lower grade had it not been for the Josi pick.
Your turn, Preds fans. What grade would you give the 2008 offseason?
How Would You Grade the Predators’ 2008 Offseason?
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