Hockey Returneth: Grading the Predators’ 2005 offseason
As the Star Wars prequels mercifully ended, the Preds’ run as an NHL threat was just beginning
Because nostalgia is the “it” thing right now, this summer, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the off-seasons from the Predators’ past. For this series, we’re only looking at moves made between the end of the season and the start of the regular season.
We’ve made it to the sizzlin’ summer of 2005 everyone! Back then, Tom Cruise was using Oprah’s couch into his own personal trampoline, Christian Bale was making his debut as Batman (insert gruff, intelligible voice here), and the future Queen of Smashville was still in her humble beginnings as a 22-year-old American Idol winner from Oklahoma.
True story: I cheered for Bo Bice that season.
But the best news of all? HOCKEY WAS BACK!!!!
Finally! After missing an entire season due to the lockout, and concerns that the 2006 season could be threatened as well, word finally came down in late July that the NHL and the Players’ Association had reached a deal. What followed was a mix of excitement and chaos. The league only had about two months before the first games, and that meant there was limited time to 1.) ratify the deal, 2.) organize the draft and free agency, 3.) update the teams on all the rule changes, and 4.) —and this was more for the teams themselves— prepare for the first year of the salary cap.
Preds fans were particularly eager to start. Their team made the playoffs for the first time in 2004, and with a young, reasonably-priced core of players locked in, it had an edge on some of the marquee teams who had to re-shuffle their entire roster due to the cap.
And oh... would they get a boost to said edge.
The Previous Season:
(If you’d like to look back at the 2004 season, check out our 2004 offseason recap.)
The Offseason Moves
Key Additions: F Darcy Hordichuk (trade from Florida), D Daniil Markov (trade from Philadelphia), D Sheldon Brookbank (free agent from Anaheim), LW Paul Kariya (free agent from Colorado), C Scott Nichol (free agent from Chicago), F Kris Beech (trade from Pittsburgh), F Yannic Perreault (free agent from Montreal).
Key Losses: F Jim McKenzie (retired), RW Vladimir Orszagh (free agent to St. Louis), D Andrew Hutchinson (traded to Carolina), D Andreas Lilja (free agent to Detroit)
Draft Results: D Ryan Parent (1st round, 18th overall), D Teemu Laakso (3rd round, 78th overall), D Cody Franson (3rd round, 79th overall), F Cal O’Reilly (5th round, 150th overall), RW Ryan Maki (6th round, 176th overall), D Scott Todd (7th round, 213th overall), F Patric Hornqvist (7th round. 230th overall).
Best Move: Signing free agent Paul Kariya
The best free agent signing in Nashville Predators history, bar none. (Win a Stanley Cup and you can be here soon, Matt Duchene.)
I didn’t think this signing was real when it happened. The Preds had tried to lure “big names” to the Music City in the past — guys like Mike Richter, Ed Belfour, and Tie Domi — but ultimately, the team was too unproven and Nashville didn’t have the same reputation as a hockey town as they do today.
And yet, here was one of the most popular players of the generation not just wearing a Predators jersey, but doing so by HIS choice. And one of my favorite hidden gems of this whole story was the impact former captain Greg Johnson had on the decision.
“I talked to [Johnson] for quite a while,” Kariya said, “just about Nashville, and just to get some insights into the club and some background stuff that only the players would know about. You can talk to the coaching staff and the general manager most certainly, but you can only talk to players about other things.
”He said, ‘You’d love it here if you came.’ I think he’s excited to take my money in the poker games,” Kariya added with a laugh. -Paul Kariya via Nashville Predators
Looking back, there may not have been a better circumstantial fit in team history. The Preds — for years a “young team with potential” — suddenly had a legitimate top-line star to make them a serious threat in the NHL. For Kariya, it was a chance to reset after a much-scrutinized year-long stint in Colorado, and the opportunity to play in a system that utilized his speedy, puck-possession-based style.
Kariya’s impact was immediate. In his first season, he set team records for goals (31 — tied with Sullivan that same season), assists (54), and points (85)... the latter two still stand as team records today. His second season point total, 76, still ranks as the second-highest total in team history. No Predator has come within 10 points of either mark in over a decade. Kariya never missed a game while playing for the Preds, and his only two seasons here were the team’s most successful (in terms of points and wins) until the President’s Trophy season in 2018.
Perhaps more telling is the impact Kariya had on his teammates. Steve Sullivan and Yanic Perrault, Kariya’s primary linemates in 2006, had their best statistical seasons in years. The same could be said for David Legwand and Martin Erat in 2007. This was before the boom of advanced analytics so it’s hard to see the “with/without” impact. But just from memory, I never remember those guys looking as dangerous as they did with #9 playing them into perfect position.
But of course, all good things had to end...
Kariya became one of the casualties of the Predators’ sale and relocation drama of 2007. Even though he expressed a desire to stay, he ultimately decided to avoid the uncertainty and signed with St. Louis. Nobody really blames him for that decision, thankfully, and Preds fans still have a special spot in their heart for Kariya.
Worst Move: Drafting D Ryan Parent in the 1st Round
Here’s a fun fact: Ryan Parent had two stints in the organization, and still never played a single regular season game for ANY team in the franchise...Nashville, Milwaukee, not even the ECHL club. (He did play a few playoff games for the Admirals during a tryout stint in 2006, but ultimately returned to the OHL the following season).
To be fair, it’s not really Parent’s fault he didn’t make an impact with the Preds, mainly because he was barely here. He was traded to Philadelphia in 2007 as part of the package for Peter Forsberg. He wound up being traded back to Nashville in 2010 for the rights to pending-UFA Dan Hamhuis, but after failing to impress during the preseason, he was shipped to Vancouver for Shane O’Brien, which...was actually a good trade for Nashville, somehow?
But even when you look at the total scope of his career, you can safely call Parent a bust.
There were questions when the Predators took him with the 18th pick. He had the size (6’3, just under 200 pounds) and the defensive awareness that teams craved from a shutdown defender. But even after a couple extra seasons in Guelph, and two stints on Canada’s WJC teams, his offensive skillset never materialized. He scored just seven goals and 46 points in three junior seasons, and barely showed up on ANY stat sheet during the aforementioned stint in Milwaukee.
The Flyers gave Parent a shot once he did make the NHL. He played 102 games over four seasons, and was locked in on the team’s bottom pair during the Flyers’ cup run in 2010. But he still couldn’t score (just seven career points), and his defense wasn’t nearly what it needed to be for the Flyers to justify keeping him. He wound up playing just four games in Vancouver, logging a -3 in those games, before he was relegated to AHL duty. That’s where he remained before retiring in 2016.
Simply put, his game just didn’t translate to the “New NHL.”
Busts happen, sure. But the 2005 draft was fairly solid. Tuukka Rask, T.J. Oshie, and Andrew Cogliano all went off the board in the next handful of picks. In terms of defensemen, Matt Niskanen, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Kris Letang were all still on the board at the time as well.
Swing and a miss.
Man...those first few post-lockout Preds teams were fun to watch, weren’t they?
I know we already broke down Kariya in depth. But the historical impact of that signing can’t be understated. It was the first time Nashville felt like a legitimate hockey destination around the NHL, and future big signings, like Jason Arnott the next year, probably wouldn’t have happened had Kariya not thrived here as well as he did.
And hey, several other moves paid off as well! Yanic Perreault hit a career-high 57 points his only season here. Danny Markov, despite battling a few injury problems, wound up being a nice physical foil to the other defensemen with more finesse like Timonen, Hamhuis, and rookie Ryan Suter. Scott Nichol developed into a good penalty-killer and faceoff specialist, and even got a few Selke votes in 2008 (...no, really). He’s since returned to the team as Milwaukee’s G.M. and one of the biggest faces in the Preds’ development system.
While the Preds’ first pick didn’t work out, their final pick certainly did. Patric Hornqvist scored 30 goals in his first full season with the team in 2010, and other than the 2013 lockout (where he also missed some time due to injury), he hit 20 goals in every season between 2010-2018.
........I’m not bringing up his time in Pittsburgh or 2017.
Two more draft shout-outs: Cody Franson, who found a niche in NHL as a solid bottom-pair defender... and Cal O’Reilly, who had a few great seasons with the Admirals.
The Final Grade: A
Parent’s the only reason this is not an A+
You know the drill, Preds fans. Sound off with your grade in the comments.
How would you grade the Preds’ 2005 offseason?