If you’ve been paying attention to Gone Puck Wild lately, and shame on you if you haven’t, then you know school has begun as Wild fans brush up on their knowledge of the new teams within Minnesota’s division. This week, that new team just so happens to have a score to settle with Minnesota–that’s right–we’re talking about the Nashville Predators. Going through Sunday, we’ll break down Nashville’s major additions and subtractions, strengths and weaknesses, prospect pool, 2013 draft class and team outlook.
Yesterday, we covered Nashville’s additions to the roster, and they have the potential to make a serious impact. Today, it’s time to take a look at those that have moved on to greener pastures.
The list is a little longer than that of the additions, but maybe not as impactful. Gone from the forward corps are Sergei Kostitsyn, Brandon Yip, Matt Halischuk, Bobby Butler and Chris Mueller. In addition, the blue line no longer has the presence of the hulking Hal Gill or 2007 first rounder Jonathon Blum. All five forwards fit the mold of “typical-Predators-forward-that-struggles-offensively”. As you can see, Nashville GM David Poile is very committed to changing the locker room culture.
The defensemen, on the other hand, give us a glimpse not just at what’s missing from the blue line, but what the blue line may look like once the puck drops in October. It may all depend on how big 6’4″ 204-pound left-shot Swede Mattias Ekholm performs in training camp. He could be anywhere from 4th-7th on the blue line.
According to the Predators’ website, the defensemen currently on the roster are Victor Bartley, Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Seth Jones, Roman Josi, Kevin Klein and captain Shea Weber for an average age of 23.9 years old. That’s a very young blue line, but one that’s going to be very scary when the kids like Josi, Ellis, Ekholm and especially Jones reach their prime. Aside from the 5’10″ Ellis, it’s also a sizeable blue line, featuring six players at least 6’0″ tall, and three standing at 6’4″. The average size on Nashville’s back end is 6’1.5″.
Even with how promising this blue line looks, Nashville let some talent walk in Hal Gill and Jonathon Blum. Gill is a big brute of a defenseman at 6’7″ 243-pounds, but his offensive days are over and he is a serviceable bottom pairing stay-at-home defender. Blum, on the other hand, is quite young, being Nashville’s top selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. With the emergence of Ellis, Josi, Ekholm and now Jones, there was no room for him in the Music City, so your very own Minnesota Wild swooped him up. But more on that later.
There is a serious culture change going on in Nashville, with a roster that just keeps getting younger and more talented defensively and offensively. The departures of guys like Kostitsyn and Blum made room for Cullen and Jones, and there’s no question that is a considerable upgrade.