The Predators certainly had a dearth of NHL centers on their roster thanks to the Mike Fisher injury, but what will the new hires mean for the chemistry and development of the team?
The Nashville Predators have made a late splash in free agency, inking veteran centers Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy to one-year contracts. And while the Preds were desperate for pivots after learning of Mike Fisher’s ruptured Achilles tendon, I’m not sure this was the right path.
Sure, Nashville has long struggled with offense and GM David Poile has now made several moves to address the problem: Along with the new pair of signings, he also brought in Olli Jokinen, James Neal and offense-minded coach Peter Laviolette recently. But with the exception of Laviolette, none of these guys are winners.
Jokinen has played in one playoff series in 14 NHL seasons; until that one 2009 berth with Calgary he was the poster boy for good players on bad teams. Pittsburgh didn’t win a single game past the second round of the playoffs with Neal in town and that’s on a Penguins team featuring two of the best players in the world. Ribeiro and Roy both had decent playoff stretches with Dallas and Buffalo, respectively, but that was years ago.
Most disturbing for Preds fans should be the fact Coyotes GM Don Maloney publicly blasted Ribeiro for “behavioral issues” before buying the scoring center out in Arizona. I have to wonder what the upstanding Fisher thinks about having such as character on his team.
And perhaps I’m wrong; perhaps Ribeiro has gotten a raw deal and maybe Fisher will be his best buddy in Nashville. Maybe this motley crew finds chemistry and does their fair share of scoring while Shea Weber, Seth Jones and Pekka Rinne handle the defensive side of things.
But what’s the end game here?
For me, Nashville was probably not going to make the playoffs this season, but the Preds weren’t going to be awful, thanks to the aforementioned defensive and goaltending strengths. Are they better than Dallas or Colorado now? If you don’t think so, then they’re still not a playoff team.
But if they had let one of the kids play up front, if Calle Jarnkrok was given a meaty pivot role until Fisher healed, would that not have been better long-term? Even if the team stumbled again this season, a lottery pick in 2015 could net them Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel – forward prospects the franchise has never seen the likes of ever (no offense, David Legwand). And Jarnkrok gets to play a key role, even some nice power play time.
What they have now is a team that can compete but not thrive in the brutally tough Central Division. There’s the potential for strife in the dressing room and a delaying of any sort of youth movement up front.
So yes, Nashville needed offense and Poile delivered. But the signings of Ribeiro and Roy may just be a band-aid that rips out way too much arm-hair in the process.