Some End of Season Thoughts

Today marks the first day since September 24, 2010 that I can wake up in the morning and not look forward to more Nashville Predators hockey.  As anyone reading this probably knows, the reason for the absence of anticipation is the victory of the Vancouver Canucks.  In all honesty the better team won the game and took the series.  I am proud that our boys broke past the first round and pushed the Canucks as hard as they could, though maybe not as hard as they would have liked.  Ultimately there is quite a bit to celebrate about this season, and I wanted to take note of some of things that stood out to me.

  • Several late season call-ups stole spots on the rosters and allowed for guys like Colin Wilson and JP Dumont to be benched.  Jonathan Blum in particular was a revelation, as I had to remind myself that this guy was living in Milwaukee until the end of February.  Having only played 23 regular season games, if he makes the team next fall maybe he will compete for the Calder.  Matt Halischuk certainly has some fire and played solid Predators hockey.  Hustlechuk also has support scorer written all over him, and I can tell he's the kind of guy Trotz likes having around.  Finally we've Blake Geoffrion, the kid that we've all been waiting for.  Blake has shown that he can use his body and that he's willing to go in the nasty areas to score the dirty goals, two big things that will make him successful in the NHL.  It has been casually noted that Bam Bam always has an adjustment period before he is effective at each level of hockey.  Well, if we're just seeing his adjustment period I am ecstatic about the future.
  • And then we have Colin Wilson.  Wilson impressed during his call-ups in the '09-10 season.  The kid had fire in his stride, drove to the net, and had some real finesse with his stick.  To start this season it looked like we were getting the Colin Wilson we were excited about, sadly that euphoria did not last.  Most of the season his play was uninspired and #33 might as well have been invisible.  I'd like to chalk it all up to a sophomore slump.  In the final game of the playoffs he seemed to have found his fire, let's all hope that he can bring it back next year.
  • Kevin Klein continues to be awful.  Seriously awful.  As I've been found of saying all year, the guy is a very talented hockey player that lacks hockey smarts.  He improved playing next to Blum since I imagine Blum was more qualified to order Mr. Squinty McDevil Beard around the ice.  He's signed on through the 2014 season, so here is hoping that between Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Charles-Olivier Roussel one of them can bury him as the 6th or 7th defenseman.
  • Hornqvist had a rough year, everyone was expecting him and made his life hellish in front of the net.  I wanted 25 goals out of him this season and he managed 21, not too far off.  Let's hope he keeps strengthening his legs and core, because that will only make him more effective.
  • I originally bemoaned the acquisition of Sergei Kostitsyn, and I was wrong.  Tits made his presence known, although he could tand to shoot more and make drop passes at the blue line less. The big question is how much it will cost to keep the Belarusian on the team.
  • I also have to wonder who we lose in the off season.  Sullivan and O'Brien are the easy picks for players that won't get new contracts, but then you've got UFAs Goc and Ward and then RFAs Spaling, Halischuk, Kostitsyn and O'Reilly.  With Wilson, Geoffrion, Legwand, Fisher, Lombardi, and Smithson all under contract, how much room is there for O'Reilly and Goc?  All the RFAs except O'Reilly have a spot, and Ward fought past a poor regular season with a stellar postseason, but we'll have to see if it was enough to earn him a new contract.
  • I don't think that Ward will continue his playoff level production, but it was nice to seem him come alive in the playoffs.  He's certainly proved that he can be an effective hockey player in a myriad of situations.
  • One thing that I made a note of is that with new uniform coming next year, Game 6 may very well have been the final appearance of the Predators' classic uniforms.  I say classic since the only major change to the uniforms was some minor aesthetic changes when the NHL switched to Reebok Edge jerseys.  As a jersey enthusiast I feel sad to seem them go, but excited that we're experiencing our first team re-branding, which means we're only a dozen jerseys changes behind the Canucks.
  • What about Bouillon and Lombardi?  Both of them have been suffering from concussion symptoms for extended periods of time, and the team has given no indication of a timeline.  Concussions are tricky and dangerous, so it's far better to have no expectations than risk the health of the player.  Lombardi is signed for another two seasons and his contributions are a mystery, while Bouillon is only contracted through next season.  Bouillon has a family and will turne 36 early into next season, if he can't shake the concussion symptoms we may see him retire.  Matthew Lombardi is a mystery.  Preds fans aren't even sure that the guy still exists, and sitings of the player are greeted with mock excitement.  If he's ready to go next season then he has the potential to be a game changer.
  • UPDATE: I forgot to mention one thing about the playoffs.  You can't expect to make a deep playoff run when you're power play and your penalty kill units are not clicking.  The Preds struggled to be consistent on both fronts for both rounds of the playoffs.  They've got another summer and preseason to try and get the power play back on track.  I'll remain overly optimistic and believe in a middle of the pack power play.
All things considered it was an excellent season that exceeded fan and media expectations.  Average attendance was up, the new management showed a willingness to spend money, and the talent is on the rise.  Beyond the draft there is a lot to look forward to next season.  One big thing is that we no longer live for the opportunity to crack the second round of the playoffs.  The team will have new expectations and a new image entering into the 2011-2012 season, and it should be an incredibly exciting season.

1 comment:

Ang said...

Sorry bout your loss, your boys put up a helluva fight.