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Previewing the Predators’ defense for 2011-12, part one…


If you missed yesterday’s post rounding out the forwards, CLICK HERE.

When it comes to the Nashville Predators’ defense, what more do you need than a Norris Trophy finalist and a guy who would be a finalist on any other team? Surprisingly, you need more than you’d think.

Over the next few days we’ll be previewing Nashville’s defense corps. The 2011-12 campaign should be both stellar and drama-filled, as far as the blueline is concerned. So buckle up Preds fans.

PROJECTED PAIRING #1 || Shea Weber – Ryan Suter
Shea Weber¬†became the new captain of the Predators in the summer of 2010. In doing so, he became the first ever home-grown captain in franchise history. The pressure of his new title may have gotten to him as he struggled coming out of the gate. In the first 24 games, the Sicamous, British Columbia native managed just nine points and had a horrendous minus-10 rating. From December 2 on, however, his entire year changed, posting 39 points and was an incredible plus-17. Not really sure what clicked after the December 1 contest in Columbus but something did and the Predators captain started to lead the way. Weber would go onto set a new career high in games (all 82) as well as assists (32) and have his second best season in scoring (48 points), all en route to his first Norris Trophy nomination for best defenseman. His performance was so stellar that an NHL arbitrator awarded him $7.5 million this upcoming season, a competitive rate compared to what he would’ve gotten on the open market. But, because he will be a restricted free agent again next summer, there will be plenty of drama surrounding him this season. Which can only be a distraction to the team on the ice and in the locker room. And that, more than anything, is a true shame.
2011-12 PREDICTION: 47 points

Ryan Suter is thought, by some, to be a better true defenseman than his partner Weber. Ask anyone with that opinion and they will undoubtedly refer to the 11 games Suter missed with injuries and Weber’s performance in those 11 games. They’ll quickly point out that Weber recorded only three points and looked completely out-of-sorts, registering a minus-9 rating. Then Suter returns and all of a sudden, they claim, Weber is back to his normal self, dominating opponents and effectively quarterbacking the power play. The truth is this: they’re equally important to the Nashville Predators. Suter is a solid defenseman. He plays sound defense, rarely makes mistakes and always serves a crisp, clean first pass out of his own zone. Suter’s style allows Weber to play his. But make no mistake, if Suter were to go elsewhere, not only would he be their number one defenseman (sans maybe five NHL clubs) but he would also figure in on the scoring more often. Right now, in Music City, Weber fills that role. There will be drama surrounding Suter this season though. Due to league rules regarding RFA’s who have gone to arbitration, the Predators can’t re-sign Weber until January 1. So what happens if Weber is due even more money than the $7.5 million he’s making this year? Can Nashville afford to keep Suter? If not, they’ll have to trade him so they can get some assets in exchange. That being said, there may be a mutiny inside Bridgestone¬†Arena if they trade one of “The Big 3.” So what do they do? Predators fans have to hope that Suter and his camp are willing to talk contract extension during the season. If they don’t, and are adamant about testing the free agent market, General Manager David Poile’s hand may be forced. And that won’t be good for team chemistry or the long term viability of the club. Not to mention it’ll be yet another PR disaster in a calendar year that’s seen more than usual.
2011-12 PREDICTION: 41 points (and re-signed)

PHOTO CREDIT: Paul Nicholson // special to (used with permission)