The following is part two of a full review of a summer’s worth of roster changes, by position.
This week we feature the defense.
With two (below) exceptions, very little has changed at the blue line … and for good reason. The depth at this position has emerged as one of the true strengths of the organization. In fact, hockey pundits rate Nashville’s defensive corps as one of the brightest in the business.
Last season saw Shea Weber play Norris Trophy-worthy hockey (again) and defense partner Roman Josi had plenty to do with that. Josi is one of the best-kept secrets in the NHL. Solid in his own end, a threat to score on the PP and he can move the puck through neutral ice as well as any blueliner in the Western Conference. Moreover, Ellis, Ekholm, Bartley and Jones all took notable steps forward in their maturation as NHLers.
Subtract from the mix one Michael Del Zotto, however. Acquired in an exchange that saw Kevin Klein go to the New York Rangers, Del Zotto just never clicked as a Predator. David Poile made the 24-year-old no offer; and he ultimately signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Add to the roster, 11-year man Anton Volchenkov. In all likelihood, Volchenkov will settle in as one half of the third pairing. However, I expect the large Russian will have an impact in three key areas. Volchenkov should play in a range of 12-15 minutes a night against even top six forwards. He’s an anchor to any defense corps, very reliable in his own end.
Secondly, the ex-Devil/ex-Senator is a terrific shot-blocker and penalty killer. Watch to see head coach Peter Laviolette shift some of the PK workload to Volchenkov which will have the net effect of taking some of the burden off Weber and Josi. That subtle move should leave the top pairing in a better position to activate up ice in Laviolette’s offensive structure.
Lastly, one incidental benefit you get in adding Volchnekov is the example this gritty battle-tested veteran sets for a talented--but young--set of defenders. I like the move to bring him in; his attributes should round the group out nicely.
Next week I’ll treat the forwards.