Captain Hair moves on…

Barry Trotz and his coaching staff have one more roster spot to fill come October.

Or, if you’re the optimist, they have one less “role player” to concern themselves with.

Annti Pihlstrom has decided to leave the NHL to play closer to his homeland of Finland by signing with Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League.

The smaller-sized left winger fans affectionately called “Captain Hair” had blazing speed and a nose for the net. Unfortunately those attributes never translated to the NHL level. Nearly a point-per-game scorer during his brief stint in Milwaukee last season (and a 27 goal season the year before), Philstrom had a hard time generating any offense once he got to the big club. Both of his goals were in blowouts. His first, on the power play in a 6-3 loss to St. Louis back on December 8, 2008, the second coming nearly three months later during the 8-0 route of the Detroit Red Wings at the Sommet Center.

(BLOGGER’S NOTE: What in the world was Pihlstrom doing on the power play? That should tell you ALL you need to know about the Preds first half of the year)

There are two ways to look at Pihlstrom’s defection however. One way is realizing that it opens up a roster spot to a young up-and-comer like Colin WilsonNick Spaling or even fellow left wing Mark Santorelli. It also further ensures guys that were able to get a cup of coffee in Nashville last year (Cal O’Reilly, Mike Santorelli and Patric Hornqvist) will get more than a fair look to crack the opening night roster this season.

The other way to look at it, however, is remembering that the Preds lost penalty killer extraordinaire Scott Nichol. If you watched the Preds at all last season, you knew that Pihlstrom and Nichol’s roles were pretty much the same. Hit guys whenever possible, go all-out every shift, penalty kill with the best of them and provide an occasional speedy rush up ice. Well now that Nichol’s in San Jose, some thought Pihlstrom would step right in and take his place. But now he’s across the pond and Nashville is without that type of player all of a sudden. And while you don’t want too many of those guys, you at least want one. But now the Preds are without any.

Furthermore, he was a left wing and, let’s be honest, there aren’t too many natural left wings skating around in a Nashville sweater these days. So for sheer positioning issues, it would be ideal to have Pihlstrom back, let alone the type of player he was.

But, in the end, Pihlstrom was not a game changer and thus won’t make or break this team. If anything, it gives the younger guys a better chance to make the club out of training camp and it forces the other guys to pick up the “hard work in the corners” and “hit anybody next to you” slack.

When the hardest thing about your player moving on is that 303 will miss yelling “Captain Hair!”… your team’s going to be just fine.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Victor Decolongon (Getty Images)