#6 Shea Weber (defense) – Towards the end of the season last year, I could see glimmers of brilliance from Shea Weber. If he hadn’t been sidelined with a knee injury at the start of the 2007-2008 season, I would have expected last year to be his breakout year. If this year hadn’t been his breakout year, I would have been disappointed. Thankfully, Shea does not disappoint. OH. MY. GOSH. The boy is amazing. Seriously, if you went back through all my game recaps, you’d probably see that I said “SHEA FREAKING WEBER” at least once during every game. And while I’m pretty sure that Jason Arnott is going to remain the captain of this team for as long as he remains a Predator, Shea Weber is well on his way to having a C on his jersey. I’d love to see him get a permanent ‘A’ next season, though I’m sure that will go back to Steve Sullivan, if we can keep him around as well. In any event, it’s players like Shea Weber that keep me excited about the seasons to come.
#7 Greg deVries (defense) – With Marek Zidlicky gone, someone was going to have to take the brunt of fan ridicule. So I guess you could say that this season’s Zidlicky was Greg deVries. In saying that though, at least Zidlicky had something to offer the team on a power play unit. deVries, on the other hand...I’m not sure what he had to offer this team besides experience in the locker room. Towards the end of the season, I literally almost forgot he was on our team. He was non-existent on the ice except when taking penalties, which seemed to become his specialty. Oh, he was also good at forgetting to stay on his guy which often allowed the other team to score a goal. Unlike Zanon, deVries doesn’t have much to offer the team in terms of defensive talent. He can easily be replaced with one of the many defensemen waiting in the wings. I have a feeling we won’t be seeing him again next year. If for some crazy reason, we do see him in a Predators jersey again next season, he should prepare himself for another year of verbal assault.
#8 Kevin Klein (defense) – I could tell during training camp and pre-season that Kevin had what was needed to be a good defenseman for our team this season. However, it was unbelievably frustrating to see how long it was going to take Coach Trotz to come to this realization as well. Klein took some lessons from the Weber School of Power Shots because that boy’s shot was almost as lethal-looking as Shea’s from time to time. Due to lack of ice time and definite inconsistency in his defensive partner pairing, I think Kevin struggled a bit to find the perfect fit on this team. However, he made the most of what he was given and I look forward seeing more of him. Hopefully we can find a decent fit for him…like Alexander Sulzer, maybe?
#10 Martin Erat (winger) – First of all, will someone PLEASE let the man play his natural tendency of left wing instead of throwing him on right wing all the time? Secondly, Erat found himself on my list more often than not this season. I was disappointed in the lack of effort he seemed to have, especially at the beginning of the season. He eventually hit his stride but he still didn’t produce numbers like he should have. Now, some have speculated that this lackluster performance is a typical European player standard after the player secures a high dollar, multiyear contact. I expected more from him than that but I am leaning more towards that sentiment myself. Thirdly, I am still waiting for him to learn more English or at the very least, learn how to speak the English he does know better, without using “umm, well, you know” every other word. Fourthly, the fact that he doesn’t speak English so well, even after being in America for so long, endears him to me even more. And making fun of/re-creating his accent is great conversational fodder so maybe I take back wanting him to learn English better. Without that little bit of extra fun, Erat becomes just another player to me. OH! I almost forgot! I loved his feistiness this season. I’m not really sure where all of it came from but every time it made an appearance, it was awesome. If he EVER dropped the gloves, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.
Next up: David Legwand, Scott Nichol, Radek BONK!, Captain Jason Arnott