Okay, my self-imposed break from hockey is over. This morning, a couple of people asked me if I took a break because I was bitter, and for a second, I thought I had. I mean, I’m definitely disappointed that the last home game I saw was such a sad and unworthy representation of our team and our season. However, when I think back on that night, I came to the understanding that the Predators organization as a whole was not ready to let go of the season. Anyone you talked to from the front office was optimistic that we would be going to the playoffs again. And while that might have been the correct PR thing to do at the time, I could just tell everyone honestly believed we’d still be playing hockey right now. The sendoff we gave the players and vice versa was stunted in its delivery, as we all held to the hope of playoffs to come. Unfortunately, it will remain the lasting impression of this tumultuous season.
For the past three seasons, I have taken a look back at each individual player because I felt as though it was the only fair way to properly wrap things up. This season will be no different. I will be breaking it up though, for everyone’s sake, because it’s just a heck of a lot of reading (and writing on my part) to do it all in one fell swoop.
Without further ado, player-by-player, in ascending order of jersey number…Let the wrap up begin!
#2 Dan Hamhuis (defense) – Paired with Greg Zanon for pretty much the entire season, Hammer had the luxury of being one of the few players not constantly shuffled around in the lineup. This worked to his advantage as I don’t recall myself being upset with him too much throughout the season. He threw some great hip checks, which I love oh so much. I also liked that he took the shots he was presented with instead of playing Passy McPasserson like so many of our guys tend to do. All in all, he had a decent year. Do I think he could step up his game for next season? Yes, but for some reason, I’m always left feeling that way about his performance. I’m still waiting for him to have a spectacular year...but I might not ever see it.
#3 Wade Belak (winger) – We got Wade over Thanksgiving in the trade I dubbed my Thanksgiving Miracle; the one in which we sent Nick Tarnasky aka WASTE OF ROSTER SPACE to Florida. I knew next to nothing about Belak when we got him and I don’t know too much more about him now. However, Belak > Tarnasky any day...as a fighter, as an offensive threat (grain of salt, people, grain of salt), as a fun guy to have in the locker room, etc. I’m not really going to delve into the topic of whether or not fighting in hockey is necessary anymore but as long as Belak’s fighting, I’m okay with it. At least I know I’m going to see something good.
#4 Ville Koistinen (defense/winger) – Let’s be honest. Koistinen just flat out underperformed this season. Maybe it was due to the fact that last season's defensive partner, Marek Zidlicky, was sent to Minnesota during the summer. Maybe it was the fact that there was so much inconsistency in Coach Trotz's decision as to who would play: Koistinen or Klein? Or maybe, just maybe, he wasn't that great to begin with...as a defenseman. If we decide to keep him around (which I HIGHLY doubt), is it possible to have a player on your team specifically for shoot outs only? Eh, I won't miss him when he's gone.
#5 Greg Zanon (defense) - Last year, I did not have such kind words for Greg. I thought his play wasn't very strong and he made a lot of mistakes on the ice that cost us goals. But this year, he freaking turned it around and played like he did his rookie year...and I loved him. Zanon, once again, became our on-ice backup goalie, shift after shift. What a phenomenal shot blocker this guy can be. I know we've got a stock pile of defensemen in our system but I think Zanon is worth keeping around. Are you listening, Front Office?
Next up: Shea Weber, Greg deVries (ahem...I'll try to be nice), Kevin Klein and Martin Erat.