Trotz expects big things from defensemen

Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 1:21am
Trotz is counting on Ville Koistinen to move into more of an offensive role in 2008-09. File

When the Nashville Predators open training camp in September the coaching staff knows it will have at least a couple of challenges to deal with.

First, coach Barry Trotz and his staff have to convince the team that there wasn’t a need to go outside the organization for a major signing. In fact, for the most part, the team that hits the ice for the 2008-2009 season will be around for a long time.

“We’re locked in with a lot of these players, those from 20-to-27, for four to five years,” Trotz said. “We will make changes as we see fit, but at this time we felt like our money was better spent with the players that were already here.”

Trotz warns that the veterans should not be too complacent.

“There wasn’t a lot of pushing from the back end last year,” Trotz said. “We were a little bit lean there last year, not in terms of talent, but lean in terms of guys who were ready to make the jump. Those guys are a little closer this year.

“That should help our competition level. Every year we come into training camp to try to prove something. This year we are going to have to prove to the other teams in the Central Division and the Western Conference who think they are now better than us that they are not. The pride and closeness in our group will hopefully come through. Those are the intangibles that have separated us from teams with as much or more talent than us.”

Surprisingly with seven defensemen locked in with NHL contracts, Trotz plans to give Cody Franson and Alexander Sulzer long looks.

“There could be tough decisions on defense,” Trotz said. “Franson and Sulzer are going to battle Kevin Klein, Greg Zanon and Ville Koistinen. We will have to decide if Franson and Sulzer are ready to make the next step, or will we be better served with them waiting for another season.”

On the defensive front Trotz is hoping for a better year from Shea Weber.

“Shea was injured a lot last year,” said Trotz. “I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on him because of that. But we need a big year from him.”

Trotz is counting on Koistinen to move into more of an offensive role, especially on the power play. Trotz thinks the door is even more wide open since Marek Zidlicky was traded to the Minnesota Wild.

“Our power play was pretty decent with Ville on it,” Trotz said. “One of the things we have always done is if we feel a player is ready to make the next step we sort of throw caution to the wind and say, ‘Let’s give this player an opportunity.’

“That is what we are doing with Ville. We think he is ready to jump into that role. The ball is in his court.”

Adding to the need for a strong defensive effort is the Predators’ goalkeeping duo of Dan Ellis and Pekka Rinne. Combined they have 48 regular season NHL games between them.

“They are by far the least experienced duo in the league in terms of NHL games played,” Trotz said. “But going into this year, I don’t feel that we are inexperienced in goal at all.

“I feel that Danny Ellis proved himself last year. I know that Pekka, from spending an extra year in the minors, is more than ready.”

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By: tim4wsp on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I miss Vokoun

By: nashbeck on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Any word on Ryan Jones or Colin Wilson? I hope they come on strong and come on soon! Go Nashville Predators!!!!!!!

By: Predbear on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Wilson is headed back to Boston University for next season (much to my chagrin) and Jones will compete for a spot on the Preds at training camp. I know Trotz is trying to be a good cheerleader for his team, but he must surely know that we need to add a scorer to the roster from outside of the organization. A guy like Mark Parrish may not be great, but he could add some much needed help to our offense.