Is there a more controversial Nashville Predator than Jordin Tootoo? His penchant for dishing out big hits without apology puts him at the center of a firestorm at least a couple times each season, it seems. Unlike most other agitators around the NHL, however, Tootoo has recently developed into a more well-rounded player, and looks to provide some offensive punch to go along with his more traditional, physically aggressive fisticuffs.
When the words first crept across my computer screen, I thought it was a flashback to the summer of 2007. “Jim Balsillie is closing in on a deal to purchase the NHL’s Nashville Predators,” ran the first sentence of the article from Sportsnet. According to a report by Bob McCown on the Fan590 in Toronto, the Blackberry Kid is tantalizingly close to announcing a deal to buy out the Predators’ local ownership, with the obvious intent of moving them from Nashville to his lair in Hamilton, Ontario.
Perhaps nobody on the Nashville Predators has more to prove this season than Shea Weber; long celebrated as an up-and-coming defenseman and sometimes compared to draft classmate Dion Phaneuf (that 2003 group was stacked with good defensemen), Weber would appear to have all the tools of a top-flight blue-liner. He’s big, tough, has a powerful one-timer and is an agile skater. Last season it was hoped that he would step into the void left by former captain Kimmo Timonen, but a knee injury on the first shift of the first game pretty much derailed his year.
So far in training camp, we’ve seen a bigger, badder Shea Weber; he’s reported with some additional muscle, and appears to relish the challenge of being the highest paid defenseman on a playoff-caliber team. So just how far will Weber take his game this season?
It’s been a long 2.5 hours, but the draft is complete for James Mirtle’s 2008-09 Blogger Invitational Fantasy Hockey league, and it’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out this season. A number of well-known bloggers are ready to put their NHL savvy to the test, including P.J. Swenson of Sharkspage, Greg Wyshynski (Yahoo’s Puck Daddy), Battle of California‘s Earl Sleek, and many, many more. It’s an 18-team field that should be quite competitive as we wend our way through the long grind of the upcoming NHL regular season. Sure, we did have one unfortunate soul stuck on auto-draft (he ended up with Alexander Radulov and Erik Johnson, ouch), but by and large these managers were on their toes.
So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, let’s meet your 2008-09 Fab Forecheckers…
Paul Newman, the legendary actor whose steely blue eyes, good-humored charm and advocacy of worthy causes made him one of the most renowned figures in American arts, has died of cancer at his home in Westport, Connecticut. He was 83.
To most of the world, Newman was known for his roles in “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid”, “Cool Hand Luke”, and other popular, critically acclaimed films.
Hockey fans the world over, however, know him as Reggie Dunlop, the iconic player/coach of the Charlestown Chiefs in “Slap Shot.”
If a single player could represent the history and growth of an NHL franchise, that player would probably be David Legwand. The first draft pick of the Nashville Predators displays many of the hallmark characteristics of the team; he’s an underrated two-way player, and succeeds more through a consistent, hard-working effort than any eye-popping display of talent. Some look at his 2nd overall draft position from 1998 and consider his offensive production disappointing, but GM David Poile saw enough there to reward him with a 5-year, $22.5 million contract. What can we expect, then, from Legwand this season?
As we prepare to drop the puck on the 2008-9 regular season, it’s worth reflecting on some of the great individual performances from last year. There were certainly some goal-scoring wonders like Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, playmaking superstars like Pavel Datsyuk and Joe Thornton, and of course the heroic goaltending of Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo. But which NHL star actually turned in a true MVP performance, contributing the most to his team’s success?
None of the above, that’s who.
One of the several key Nashville Predators signed to new contracts during the offseason was Martin Erat, the 27 year-old Czech who re-upped for 5 years at $4.5 million per season, a richer and longer deal than that given to J.P. Dumont, who gets considerably more attention as an offensive force. The question, then, is why did GM David Poile pay so much for a player who has yet to top 23 goals or 57 points in a season?
Sun Tzu may not have coached in the National Hockey League, but his Art of War contains a nugget of wisdom that any NHL head coach would be wise to follow: “One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be in danger in a hundred battles”. Fantasy hockey managers need to heed this warning as well; knowing the preferences and tendencies of your competition can help identify opportunities to land that one additional player at the position you need to make your fantasy hockey team a success. It takes some cold calculation and a bit of daring, but the reward can outweigh the risk…
Shea Weber draws the comparisons with Dion Phaneuf, and Ryan Suter gets the star treatment, but nobody contributes more to the success of the Nashville Predators defense corps than Dan Hamhuis, the 25 year-old who enters his 5th NHL season this fall. His regular selections to represent Team Canada at the annual World Championships are a testament to his ability to handle tough assignments and deliver solid two-way play.