It is easy to get caught up in all the soap opera and debate and forget that we still have a really good hockey team in Nashville, and it is not too long until they will be playing the game that we have all been working so hard to defend.
We will still be able to put a very competitive team on the ice. Offensively we still have Sullivan, Arnott, Dumont, Erat, Legwand, and Radulov coming into his second year in the league. Defensively we still have Weber, Suter, Zidlicky, Zanon, Hamuis, Nichol, and Mason in net.
And GM David Poile has proved himself a master at doing a lot with a little. We won't have the amazing team we had last year, especially depth-wise. But if we can stay healthy, i think we are still a playoff team, and could even surprise a few people. Predators fans know very well that the team that is supposed to be the best doesn't always win. I'd like to think that this year we can be on the good side of that coin, considering we've seen enough of the bad.
So, now to the updates: First, a quick round-up of some of the player/contract updates to this point. The Predators have (as expected) laid pretty low as far as going after free agents. Only signing as of right now has been forward Jed Ortmeyer as a free agent (formerly of the Rangers). Don't know much about him, but his bio lists him as a 'defensive forward'. We also resigned Scot Nichol, Jered Smithson, and Alex Henry. Nichol, Zanon, and Smithson ensure that we'll have a solid penalty kill again. Henry is as big a defender as we've had for the Preds in a long time, and his chances of seeing some NHL time this year are increased thanks to a thin roster. We're also about to sign Chris Mason to a much needed pay raise/extension, keeping him with the team for the next 3 years total. We also inked his 'new' back-up Pekka Rinne to a new deal as well.
Last but not least, I finally got a chance to drop by prospect conditioning camp this morning. (9:00am on a Sunday. What are you thinking Trotz? Check here for my comments on that.)
Pictures are scattered through this post with many more here.The video on Google turned out rough. It is actually much better quality. The horribly scratched-up glass wrecked havoc on the flash video codec. If you really want the high-quality video, let me know and i can post it.
Video is here:
Predators Prospect Camp.
It was great to get to watch hockey being played again. The session was run by assistants, but Trotz and Poile were both there (photo proof here).
As for players:
Hornqvist is a Radulov-type firecracker with even rougher edges. Scoring touch, but is a goofball. Good skills but looked silly (even tripping a few times) trying to show off a little. You can see in this in the video pretty well, actually. The whole session was blue vs. white. Hornqvist was going last for blue and only needed one goal to beat white for that session. When he got it, it cheered and stuck his arms up in the air - even though he had several more session of the drill he was supposed to do. He forgot this was practice, not just a contest. So...good competitive fire, but i have to wonder about discipline and control.
The other players looked pretty good. Only other one that stood out a lot was Atte Engren, a young goalie from Finland. He may have just been having a good day, but he looked the best and most under control of the goalies. The rest made the occasional cool-looking save, but he looked the most like Mason and Vokoun in my limited experience.
Oh and best mullet in camp (and there weren't many) goes to Antti Pihlstrom. I think as much as anything because it's bright blonde hair against dark blue sweater and helmet. Runner up goes to Viktor Sjodin, but he gets the award for looking the most like a caveman from a car-insurance commercial. At least in this picture.
No word yet on when big-kids training camp starts. It'll be mid-September. I'll be sure to let you know the dates when it is announced.
You are also all here on notice that i am not going to keep posting on every little off-ice thing that happens. Just the big stuff. Try watching Kuklas' Korner, TSN, or the Nashville Post for that kind of news (heaven knows you shouldn't look to the Tennessean for it). I am going to try to focus on on-ice related news and comments when it comes to the Predators from here on in.