#28 Ryan Jones (winger) – I wasn’t going to include Ryan Jones in my wrap up at first. After going back and looking at the numbers however, Jones was a Predator more so than he was an Admiral this past season so it’s only fair he be included. Ryan has the potential to be a guaranteed goal scorer for us but this season his performance was kind of up and down. He got paired up with just about every line so I can’t say he was used to fullest abilities either. With some consistent linemates, Jones can be counted on to score the dirty goals; the ones that make or break the game for us. Every team could use a player like this...especially us.
#29 Joel Ward (winger) – Here’s why Joel Ward is my pick for best player of the season: He was a nobody at training camp and then proved time and time again why he deserved the spot he had on this team. Ward was the only two-way contract player on the starting roster for the season who was never sent down to Milwaukee. Thank goodness for that. Without Joel Ward scoring some of the timely goals he did, we wouldn’t have even been able to put up a fight to the very end. I definitely don’t see him going anywhere during the off-season because I’m pretty sure the organization realizes what a find we snagged. Plus, who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
#38 Vernon Fiddler (center/winger) – Fids had a decent year. He scored a couple of short-handers. He managed to slide the puck through on a few breakaways. He even got a shootout goal or two (if I remember correctly). However, Fiddler is kind of a one-trick pony. If you went back and replayed every one of his goals, you’d probably find that they were all scored off a backhand move. Late in the season, it was pretty evident that most of our opponents had figured this out because goalies were easily stopping his attempts to score. Fiddler’s one trick was kind of sweet though. I’ll give him that. But, with so many other players just like him on the team, I have to wonder if he’s worthwhile to keep around. There are a lot of younger, more talented players waiting for their moment to shine. And I’m sure they’ve got more than one trick up their sleeves.
#42 Antti Pihlstrom (winger) – Okay, I think I have more issues with Antti Pihlstrom than I do Greg deVries for the simple fact that I have no idea how he managed to stick around all freaking season long. So he’s got a little speed to him. Woo freaking hoo. And maybe he suffered from the same affliction as everyone else due to inconsistent line combinations, but seriously...he didn’t do enough to contribute to warrant a place on the roster every night. More often than not, Ryan Jones would get scratched in favor of Pihlstrom as well. I will continue to not understand the rationale behind that decision making. If Antti can somehow redeem himself next season and he starts playing like a rock star, then my ill feelings toward him will subside. For now, he’s on my short list of people that can move on to a team where they might be appreciated a little more.
#71 JP Dumont (winger) – JP might have played every game this season but his performance was somewhat lacking. I attribute his lower numbers to never fully recovering from the hit he took during the December 9th Vancouver game. You know the one...but let’s not rehash it. After that game, Jean Pierre never really hit his stride of solid play like I’ve seen in seasons past. With Jason Arnott out of the lineup for extended periods of time with all his various injuries, I'm certain that didn’t help Dumont's game either. Because let’s face it, JP and Jason are meant to play together. I gave them the nicknames “Mom “ and “Dad” for a reason. Even Coach Trotz tried to break them up and ultimately realized that they play their best when they play together. However, I hope that they can maybe break that a little bit over the summer though because that might not always be the case. As evidenced by Dumont’s just-okay performance this year, he needs to learn how to generate good chemistry with some other players. But, I have faith in my little Frenchman. I know he’s got it in him.
The final installment: Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis. Yes, I know this throws off the whole “players in ascending order of jersey number” thing but they’re the goalies so they’re special like that.