Less than 24 hours after I purchased the Viktor Arvidsson game worn jersey from the game in which he netted his first NHL goal, he’s been shipped to the AHL to hone his craft a bit more, and start playing a little better without the puck. Yes, the little ball of rocket fuel was dynamite as he darted and dashed and created a wide variety of energy-laden drives towards the opposition’s net, but he also fell down a bunch, and passed the puck directly onto the stick of guys not wearing Preds jerseys a bit too often for the coaching staff’s liking.
Arvidsson, my favorite Pred because of his insanely hyperactive skillset, will spend some time with Kevin Fiala, Stevie Moses and the boys in Milwaukee, and should see his way back to Smashville when we finally tire of either Gabby Bourque, Cody Hodgson or even Eric Nystrom (though my guess is that Nystrom would get hurt before he got shipped to Siberia, Alberta, or Manitoba…) One man seemingly safe from any type of demotion is Austin Watson, who, late-bloomer that he is, actually got just the right amount of seasoning in the American League to be an effective National League bottom six forward. Skating with Paul Gaustad and Nystrom, Watson has looked right in place sending a beautiful pass over to Nystrom for the first goal of the game on Thursday night. He’s also chipped in with a goal, (his second in the NHL, having scored on a RIch Clune pass two seasons ago during his first cup of coffee with the Preds.)
So, the Preds, allowed to carry 23 players on their active roster, are down to 22, carrying only the two spare defensemen, Anthony Bitetto and Victor Bartley on their roster, with nary a spare forward in sight. Of course, it’s not like anyone in Milwaukee has earned the right to sit and eat NHL press-room cuisine. The Admirals, having played a league low three games to date are currently 1-2 and have given up 14 goals, while scoring just 6. The highly touted prospects, like Fiala, last season’s KHL goal scoring leader Moses, and always-on-the-bubble, Colton Sissons have combined for no goals, no assists, and are a combined minus-8. Hardly the thing a Preds front office exec would consider promotion worthy. But, that being said, it’s odd not to have a spare forward around in case of an injury. Say one of the Preds 12 guys up front pulls up lame in warmup or practice. That would only mean adding a 7th D to the game time mix, and honestly, with the three pairings the team has going right now, that extra guy, save for taking a few turns on the fourth line up front, would see very little action.
Preds fans, at least the ones who are visible on the various fan boards (HF Boards, Facebook, et al) are usually clue-impaired when coming to conclusions (after all, the vast majority of them gave Watson a snowball’s chance in hell to make the NHL team all together…) and see it as “Watson beat out Arvidsson for the job” when frankly, yes, they each played three of the first six games, but played in completely different roles. Arvidsson played with Hodgson and
, while Watson has slotted in with Gaustad and Nystrom. Bourque became the swing guy moving up from the fourth line to the third on nights when Arvy didn’t slot in. Right now, Coach Laviolette seems happy with the fit having Bourque on the third line, but after seven pointless games, and a minus-4, it’s only a matter of time before the team needs to look for greater production from the entire third line (which may be considered the fourth line if Gaustad, with Nystrom and Watson start accruing more ice time.
For the moment no one should argue that six of seven wins hardly means time for radical change, but Patience will be wearing thin, and the clock will begin ticking on Hodgson, Jarnkrok and Bourque. Jarnkrok has looked pretty strong on the penalty kill, especially teamed with Forsberg. The two do a lot of buzzing around and causing commotion in all zones. Hodgson, the reclamation project has looked more or less invisible through most of his shifts during this young season. At 1 year, 1 million dollars, he is another in a long line of chances Poile has taken over the past few years. Some pan out (Ribiero), and some don’t (Roy, and of course so far, Moses) but he can’t be faulted for giving a guy who had an obvious skillset just a couple seasons ago, make his way into a permanent spot in the lineup. Time will tell if he can get on track and become a productive member of Smashville.
Tonight, the Pens. A team which has had success on Bridgestone ice. We will be watching carefully as Crosby, Kessel and Malkin try to break out of their horrible starts to this NHL season. Hope you can make it. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and I’ll throw out the occasional tweets from the game!