Blackhawks’ Spy Report: Stalberg & The Nashville Predators
Stalberg will be on the wrong end of Hossa and the Hawks next season. Will he thrive in Nashville? Will Nashville thrive with a rebooted offense? Photoshop by Joe Kremel of BlackhawkUp.com
This week we follow our “beloved” Viktor Stalberg to Nashville and take a look at the Predators. The Predators have five spots to fill and a little over 7 million with which to do it. Outside of Stalberg signing with them, the Hawks also lost Carter Hutton to the Preds. Both of these players aren’t a huge loss to the organization, but keeping Stalberg would have been a nice luxury. Stalberg came to the Hawks with the understanding that he would have the chance to crack the top line, and he did have his chances. Unfortunately, when you’re competing for ice time with Toews, Kane, Sharp, and Hossa, you tend to fall into the background. But, one team’s loss is another team’s gain. This offseason the Preds have refilled their offensive depth after the departure of Erat. Here’s the breakdown of the players they picked up.
The Wheels – Viktor Stalkberg (4 year – 12Mill): Stalberg ended the 2013 season with 23 points in 47 games played. He set a career high in the 2011-2012 season with 43 points in 79 games. The guy has the potential to be a top six guy, but on the right team. His most obvious strength he brings to the Preds is his speed. As we all have had the pleasure of seeing, he can tap the puck up and just blow by anyone in the league. The problem always came from Stalberg himself with his inability to finish plays. Part of the problem is that no one can keep up with him. The Hawks are a fast team, and sometimes they couldn’t support him on his rushes. I’m not sure if he will have the defensive skill set that the Preds rely on either. When Stalberg is willing to forecheck and backcheck, then his true potential starts to shine. Maybe the chance to be a team’s star will allow Stalberg to raise his game to a new level.
The Vet – Matt Cullen (2 year – 7Mill): Cullen had 27 points in 42 games last season with the Wild. He also was one of the more reliable Wild players in their short playoff run with three points in five games as a third line player. Despite being 36 years old, the guy can still skate and has great hands. He can play on the power play or on the penalty kill and is defensively responsible. Cullen ended the season just under 55% at the faceoff circle, which is always helpful when you want to push possession. He makes a solid addition to the predators even if his price is a little high for someone in their decline. On the other hand, maybe his veteran presence will help stabilize a sputtering offense. If the latter proves true, then the signing is worth it, but it’s up to Cullen to show he’s worth the money.
The Grit – Matt Hendricks (4 year – 7.4 Mill): Hendricks is a player that the fans loved in Washington. He plays that gritty grinder role, but he still plays smart hockey. He only had 8 points in 48 games, but much like Andrew Shaw, he brings a lot of energy to the ice. Like Cullen, he is another solid player at the dot. He won 58% of his draws during the season and will be a solid depth center for Nashville. His willingness to drop the gloves is always important to build up chemistry with the team. While some see fighting as useless in modern hockey, it still has an important place in the league when used correctly. Some people may not appreciate this signing in Nashville, but the fact is every team needs a player like this on the roster.
The Youth: Preds received promising forward Filip Forsberg in the Erat trade. He is a solid two-way player with a high ceiling. The Predators drafted Seth Jones with their first round pick. From what I’ve heard, he will be in the lineup when the season starts. He is a large defenseman that plays a solid game on both ends of the ice. He might be the perfect fit as Weber’s partner.
Prognosis: On paper, it’s easy to say that this is an upgrade from last year. The Predators should be able to put a few more pucks in the net with this current roster. They have spent their money wisely so far and have a few nice prospects in their network. They have added key types of players into their system and, with their coaching, should have little problem slotting everyone. Stalberg’s wheels will help out a defense-heavy team by adding some offensive threat, and their system might help Stalberg grow as a player. Cullen and Hendricks will add depth and energy to a team that needed some of both. The only question is- will they be able to go deep without top level offensive talent? Overall, the Preds should be back to exhibiting that extremely relentless and annoying style that puts defense first.