October has finally graced us with its presence. Fall is in the air...well, sometimes it is and then it gets up to 80 degrees again. The NHL pre-season is over and the Predators start their 2010-2011 season on Saturday night; taking on the Anaheim Ducks at the Bridgestone Arena. The team seems pretty well in place, barring any other surprise trades. For the record, I'm still shaking my head over Shane O'Brien.
Despite the absence of a few familiar faces, this year's roster sits well with me. It is a good balance of young and old. For starters, there's a smart combination in the leadership abilities of the new power couple, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, with the comfortableness of seasoned veterans like Steve Sullivan and JP Dumont. Then you've got David Legwand and Martin Erat, carrying some heady contracts that many are still waiting to see paid out in on-ice dividends. If you don't want to gamble with those, there are always the hard working, true embodiment of Predators-style hockey players such as Joel Ward, Jerred Smithson, Marcel Goc and eh, I'll even throw Jordin Tootoo and Wade Belak in the mix here. A lot of eyes will surely be on the fair-haired sophomore duo of Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson. Can Patric meet the expectations of the coaching staff and will Colin live up to the hype? Cal O'Reilly will make another go of it again this year. Your guess is as good as mine as to how he weathers the storm this time around. Weber and Suter notwithstanding, the rest of the defensive core doesn't have too much to prove. Francis Bouillon, Cody Franson, Kevin Klein and Alexander Sulzer (along with newly acquired defenseman Shane O'Brien) should be able to keep things running smoothly. With Pekka Rinne securely holding on to the number one goaltender position, there seems to be no question that the coaches and the team are confident in trusting Rinne's skill in net.
And yet, there are some new faces to grow accustomed to. Forwards Matthew Lombardi, Sergei Kostitsyn and rookie backup goaltender, Anders Lindback. Lombardi comes to the Predators by way of the Phoenix Coyotes. He looks to have added a considerable amount of speed to the team and stands to fill some of the scoring void left by Jason Arnott. Russian Sergei Kostitsyn was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens during the Dan Ellis trade over the summer. My feelings of all things Russian aside, Kostitsyn is still somewhat of a question mark in terms of what he can bring to the game. I am sure I speak for a lot of people when I say it will be interesting to see how Sergei fits into the lineup. As for the rookie Swedish backup goaltender, the choice to pick Anders Lindback came as a slight surprise. The Predators coaching staff always enjoy saying "the road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee". In Lindback's case, Milwaukee never factored into the equation. As with Kostistyn, I haven't seen Anders play enough to know exactly how he'll perform.
With all that said, new faces bring another level of excitement and anticipation to the game. And this is a whole new season. What do the next few months hold for this roster? None of us can predict it and be 100% accurate. All I know is: anything is possible.