On Thursday, I was able to speak with Coach Barry Trotz for just a couple minutes after the morning skate at Bridgestone prior to him heading over to Centennial Sportsplex for the afternoon practice. (Being the noobie that I am, I forgot to record the conversation for your listening pleasure. Sorry. I’ll do better next time.)
Barry Trotz has stated in the past that he likes to construct lines around a forward-pairing. Given the heavy emphasis on scrimmages in camp to that point, I asked Coach if he had already noticed any pairings demonstrating some significant chemistry. He responded that he really hasn’t noticed any primarily due to the fact that he hasn’t been looking to this point. He also said that some likely pairings were purposely kept apart to that point as he spread out the veterans from last season with the newcomers. My feelings are that his primary focus has been to see as much of those bubble players as possible- rookies and new additions that are largely unknown like Kostitsyn and Andersson.
Up until now, I believe that the first three preseason contests support those thoughts. The first three games have all featured a near-minimum number veterans allowed (roughly nine veterans per game). Monday night’s lineup, however, featured 16 regulars from an NHL roster last season, not counting Cal O’Reilly. Tonight marks the turning point for the Predators preseason and camp as I believe that Coach Trotz will attempt to find those forward-pairs and construct his opening night roster.
The other topic that we had time to discuss was in regards to the style he expects to play this season. Last season saw a team that fielded two scoring lines, a grinding line and then a true shutdown line with Legwand, Smithson and Ward. Given the increase in the number of offensively-minded forwards this past offseason, Coach Trotz speculated that the Predators will ice a top line whose number one job is to score goals. He then described the next two lines as two-way lines that should be effective offensively and be lines in which he’ll match up defensively against the opponent’s top line. From this discussion, I feel that will essentially bring an end to a line like the Smithson-Legwand-Ward line whose primary job was to stop the opponent from scoring. That job will be spread across two or three lines this season. From his fourth line, Trotz said he’s looking for energy and some hardness.
When putting those top three lines together, he said he is trying to find that right balance of playmaker and scorer. I believe that this is going to be a significant challenge. Patric Hornqvist is certainly a scorer. Beyond Hornqvist, it becomes much tougher to identify another forward on the roster this is more scorer than playmaker. Martin Erat is another good candidate from the perspective of skills, but doesn’t put up the shots of your typical goal scorer.
One thing I found interesting watching camp was watching Barry Trotz going around talking to quite a few players individually after the practice sessions. To me, it didn’t matter if they were talking about the weather or giving specific attention to something to help that player. I felt it was interesting insight into how Coach Trotz treats his players- regardless of who they are (star or rookie). I can immediately see why players have expressed great enjoyment in playing for him.
I enjoyed my limited time in camp this season and I’m looking forward to the puck dropping for real. It was also great to see Seth (@SLakePreds) again and meet Dirk (@Forechecker) and AJ in Nashville (@AJinNashville). I encourage every fan to find some time to visit camp. It’s free and full of great insight into the team.
With all of that, I’m going to try my hand at some relatively minor predictions- because their fun and I’m a glutton for punishment.
- The Predators will start the regular season with the maximum roster size of 23 due to a combination of contract status and forward depth.
- The defensemen will be Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein, Francis Bouillon, Cody Franson and Ryan Parent. There will be no seventh defenseman to start the season.
- Jonas Andersson, Sergei Kostitsyn and Cal O’Reilly will make the team out of camp.
- Your scratches for opening night will be Jordin Tootoo, Wade Belak, and Cal O’Reilly.
- The top three lines will be built (initially) from the following pairs: Kostitsyn-Legwand, Lombardi-Erat, and Goc-Dumont.
- Anders Lindback will back up Rinne in Nashville this season.
Feel free to call me out when I’m wrong. I’m wrong often enough to be used to it.
About the Author: Nashville Predators Blogger, Software Engineer (C#.NET), Novice Woodworker, Southern Cook, Husband, Father of Two. You may contact me at David.R.Singleton AT gmail.com.