The Nashville Predators have been short on star power for basically the franchise’s entire existence. (There are two possible exceptions: Peter Forsberg’s brief run after one trade deadline and Paul Kariya’s best moments with the team.)
That being said, the team has been scrappy enough to make the playoffs for years, with underrated center play being one of the reasons for their success.
Many Predators fans were optimistic this summer, as the team basically exchanged the offensively gifted but inconsistent and limited forward Jason Arnott for speedy two-way center Matthew Lombardi. Unfortunately, the team hasn’t been able to reap the benefits of that change because Lombardi has been injured.
The team has been able to keep its head above water, though, but Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck is concerned that defensive center David Legwand’s murky injury status could mean trouble for the team down the middle. Hoag wonders which players will step up at the pivot spot beyond Cal O’Reilly and Marcel Goc.
If Legwand’s unable to go, however, what should the Predators do at center? Obviously O’Reilly and Goc are running the top two scoring lines, leaving two spots available between three possible contenders on the current roster – Jerred Smithson, Nick Spaling, and Colin Wilson. Smithson is at least used to battling tough opponents on a checking line and playing alongside Joel Ward, so he’s an option, and Spaling has been fairly effective in a limited role on the 4th line and PK unit. So does Wilson continue to linger in a marginal role?
As Hoag notes, “day-to-day” can mean just about anything in a league where injury details are guarded like a secret chili recipe. In most cases, I would say that a team with such a raw, makeshift group of centers would be in trouble, but this is the Nashville Predators. Coach Barry Trotz is one of the league’s best when it comes to rolling with the punches and making the most of limited talent.
Still, the team is struggling at the moment, so losing Legwand could be a problem … even if it’s in a subtle way.