Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Predators to be Prey?

The Nashville Predators have been mired in controversy since the midway point of last season, when everyone started to notice that the seats at the Nashville Arena (formerly the Gaylord Entertainment Center and soon-to-be Sommet Center). With this in mind, the ownership has been riddled with questions as to whether they are going to sell the team to someone for either re-location or a better marketing strategy. Unfortunately for the Predators, they haven't done either and they've revamped the highly-competitive squad they had last season into something completely different.

J-P DumontSteve SullivanMartin Erat
Jason ArnottDavid LegwandAlexander Radulov
Jared SmithsonRadek BonkScott Nichol
Darcy HordichukJed OrtmeyerJordan Tootoo
Shea WeberMarek Zidlicky
Ryan SuterDan Hamhuis
Greg de Vries
Cody Franson
Chris Mason
Pekka Rinne

The roster above is all currently signed on for roughly $40 million and there is still Vern Fiddler to re-sign as a Restricted Free Agent.

There are plenty of new faces to this line-up, amongst some old favourites, and there are some faces notably missing. It's going to be a different team going into training camp and it's going to be a team that will make good use of their young prospects when they go to training camp in September.

The most notable new faces to this line-up would be Radek Bonk, Greg de Vries, Pekka Rinne and Cody Franson. Bonk will serve as a good third-line centre with his background as a checking centre and faceoff man. We shouldn't expect him to return to his Top 100 form in the points department in Nashville, but he should go up from his 23 points he had last season with the increase in ice-time I'd imagine he'll receive. Greg de Vries adds some veteran experience that the had lost from free agency. He'll be a big help to those young kids on the blueline and will help the power play out from time to time. He'll be a big ice-time player for Nashville, so you may want to increase his potential a little bit. Pekka Rinne is the odds-on favourite to take the back-up role now that Tomas Vokoun has shipped off to the Sunshine State. Rinne has been touted quite highly for some time now and will have big shoes to fill. Now, Cody Franson isn't a lock to take the sixth spot on the roster, but he's my favourite to take the job after a great year in Vancouver with the WHL Giants. Look for him to have a strong camp and join the very young, but very capable Predator blueline.

With Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell and Tomas Vokoun out of the picture in Nashville... it's hard to believe that they'll be as dominant as they were last season. Chris Mason will take the starting job and do well, but the forecast isn't quite as rosy as his record last season may suggest. Unlike Vokoun, Mason isn't known to steal a lot of games... but if you have some faith in him, you may want to consider Mason as a second round pick. Steve Sullivan and J-P Dumont didn't rely on Kariya or Forsberg for points, so they should manage the status quo without them... and you can still watch for a breakout year for Alexander Radulov. A full season under his belt will hopefully give him the attitude adjustment he needs to fit in with the big club.

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