|John Russell/Getty Images|
One positive entering the offseason was the strong defense of the Nashville Predators, according to General Manager David Poile. However, I will to disagree. Injuries to Hal Gill and inconsistency from Ryan Ellis and Jon Blum put the Predators behind the eight ball this season on defense.
Let’s look at the stats.
- 20th in Goals Allowed—giving up 2.77 per game, 133 total
- 29th on the PK with a 75.5 kill percentage
- 25th in +/- with a -14
|AP Photo/Mike Strasinger|
After signing a mega deal worth $110 million for fourteen seasons, Shea Weber lived up to expectations as captain of the Predators this year. Weber was understandably often frustrated after losing so many games and was quoted as saying, “I can’t go around and babysit every guy.”
The British Columbia native did start the season off quite slow as it took the star defenseman nine games before he recorded his first point. Weber did finish the season off strong by leading the team in points with 28 (9g, 19a).
Weber’s defense partner this season was Roman Josi. The Swiss defenseman had to fill the big shoes of Ryan Suter, who signed with the Minnesota Wild on the Fourth of July.
All season Josi was solid, but sometimes he would make mistakes, which is customary for a 22 year old in his second season in the NHL and playing against the opponent’s top players. Josi is a dynamic defenseman who can play all aspects of the game. The Predators have high expectations for him going into next season.
Ever since Kevin Klein dangled the Detroit Red Wings and scored in Game 3 in the 2012 playoffs, Klein has stepped up as an important key in Nashville’s defensive unit. Klein has grown as a reliable skater and can now be trusted as a number three defenseman for Barry Trotz.
Unfortunately for Hal Gill, injuries took him out of sixteen games this season. At 38 years young, Gill is starting to show his age and may not be able to play more than 75 games in an 82 NHL game season. The 6’7” defenseman was solid at defense clearing players out of the slot—especially on Ryan Kesler. His size helps him to do that because not too many players will be able to shove a man that size to acquire space.
Gill isn’t known for his offensive production and didn’t have anything to show in the stats this season.
Rookie defenseman Victor Bartley made his NHL debut this season due to Scott Hannan being injured and lack of performance from Jonathon Blum at the time. Bartley gelled into the system quite well, but did make a few mistakes along the way. Similar to Josi, Bartley is a dynamic defenseman who can play on the power play and penalty kill.
What to do with Ryan Ellis is the question for David Poile. His trade value is substantially high, but lowers as the years progress. Ellis is an excellent offensive defenseman and can rack up time on the power play, but isn’t the guy Nashville needs to play against an opposition’s rugged third line. Putting him at forward may be the best option for the Preds, similar to what the Sharks did with Brent Burns.
Ellis played in 32 games putting up six points (2g, 4a).
In order to stay with the Predators at the start of the season, he will be battling with at least four other capable defensemen. Ellis’ defensive style will have to improve.
The play of Jonathon Blum was like a roller coaster during the 35 games he played in. Blum started to settle down and focus on his defensive role, rather than trying to generate offense. Hopefully Blum can build off of more experience in the league and become a better player than in 2011 during Nashville’s Stanley Cup run.