Well...after a short stint as a vodka vendor in Russia and getting caught up in a immigration for what seemed like a life time I am back. Now that I'm back the question I'm asking myself is, what is the state of the Preds?
My fellow Pred fans I am here to tell you that the state of the Predators is good. Not great...good.
Over the next few of days I will be breaking down the Preds and giving you a preview of what I see for the coming year.
Let's start with the positive stuff -
Defense: I think people will be hard pressed to find a better group of young, dynamic d-men on one team. With Shea Weber and Ryan Suter both wrapped up until 2011 and 2012 respectively the Preds have some stability on the blueline. When I think of championship teams they are all marked by great play from the point and these guys give that to us. Both these guys are so good and so young and I am confident we have yet to see the best from them.
Both of these youngsters have much to prove but I think it's Shea Weber who, perhaps, feels it more than Ryan. He has been talked about in the same breath as Calgary's Dion Phaneuf and wants to break out of the shadows to being not only a team leader but a top D-man in the NHL.
Suter has played his entire life trying to live up to the name on the back of his sweater. Last year he went a long way towards doing that. His solid, dritty play during the playoffs last year changed my opinion of him. I think I used to think of him as begin too soft but we saw some fire from Suter. This year we will see more. I don't think we will see an offensive explosion from him but solid play.
There is more to our D than these two young stars. Veterans Greg De Vries and Greg Zanon provide some stability for the defesive corps. I, like many Pred fans, would not mind seeing De Vries leave via trade (I think it might be possible that he could before the year is out...regardless of the Preds position) and think that trial by fire for some of our younger defensemen might not be a bad idea. Zanon doesn't dazzle you with finesse but he is a picture of team and sacrifice. He knows his role and throws his body out all the time for the sake of the team. He is a bargain!
We have seen flashes of brilliance from Kevin Klein and Ville Koistinen but they need some more ice time for us to get a clear idea of what we can expect from them each night. They both have offensive gifting and this year we may need that creativity more than their defensive play. I'll never forget Klien taking the puck in his first game and going coast to coast to put a great shot on net.
Last but not least is Dan Hamhuis. When I think of Dan I think of one word and that is solid. He has a great all around game and continues to play whatever role is asked of him. Whether on the PK, PP or 5 on 5 Dan has the game to fit. He is a physical presence out there who does a good job of getting under the skin of the opponent. I just love watching him when he is out there.
Overall the Preds D is in very good shape. There will be a few games this year that they alone win it for us. Not only by playing solid D but by chipping in a goal or two in those 2-1, 1-0 games that we may see more of this year. With our offense struggling this year our D may be more important than ever.