"A huge step backward."
"Undoing an entire summer of great moves in one day."
"...bringing another player that doesn't fit the Predators mold."
The previous three statements are just a small sampling of the jumping-from-the-rooftops panic/outrage that has taken hold of the Preds' Twitter community. While much of this sentiment was culled in the hours immediately following yesterday's surprising transaction, and certainly cooler heads have since prevailed in many cases (including my own), I'm surprised at how many are still upset. With a good night's sleep behind me, I'm one of those that's warmed to the move, after a bit of reflection. There are tangible reasonings for this, but also a few that might not be so apparent.
First, I try to pride myself on not letting my emotions get the best of me. I don't like to think of myself as a unerring apologist or pollyanna. I certainly have the capacity to disagree with some of the moves made by the Predators' front office. For example, I've stated my belief that failing to sign a more experienced, proven backup goaltender could be a mistake. From that standpoint, I'm also not one to get easily worked up when I do disagree with the actions of management. At the end of the day, David Poile and company don't have the reputation of doing more with less than any other team by accident. While it's easy to look at Ryan Parent as a guy that played well in training camp, or Jonas Andersson as solid depth for our weak penalty kill, it's important to keep things in perspective.
Let's start with Ryan Parent. While he had a solid preseason, he was not without some worrisome history. Most evident is his failure to stay healthy, with last season representing a career high of 48 games, tracing back to chronic back trouble. In addition, simply being healthy hasn't been a guarantee of getting on the ice for Ryan. In the Flyers' run to the Cup finals last year, he was a frequent healthy scratch. At the end of the day, he's still young and has room for improvement, but the Predators don't have the luxury of time for him to reach his potential. Worth noting also is that Vancouver promptly waived Parent. He has since cleared.
On the note of waivers, I've seen several complain that we could have had SOB for free the previous day. While this is true on the surface, it's important to remember that Nashville operates on a strict budget. According to David Poile, in an interview yesterday on 104.5, they had inquired about O'Brien at an earlier point, but with the stipulation that the trade would need to be dollar to dollar. Mike Gillis initially rejected the idea, but later relented. The Canucks, in need of cap relief, could afford to bury the one-way contracts of Parent and Andersson. The Predators were able to turn two guys who they felt couldn't significantly contribute to the team this season into a guy that makes them immediately better, and did so while adding only minute payroll. As the old adage goes, "he who gets the best player in the deal--wins the trade." I could be paraphrasing that, I'm not sure. Something like that, at any rate.
Speaking of Jonas Andersson, I had high hopes for him when he was signed. Like many, I saw the way he was able to produce at last year's WCs, and felt that he could be a great bottom six utility forward for us. While I do think his defensive skill could have been beneficial, unfortunately his offense didn't appear to be NHL level in any of the chances I had to watch him play. That leaves him as yet another one-dimensional "specialist," and I simply think there are better options. I couldn't figure out where he was going to fit into the lineup, and apparently neither could Trotz. It'd be nice to be able to afford to hide a guy like that in the minors, but that's not our reality. No huge loss, at any rate.
While the quantifiable reasons to like this trade are easy enough to point out, the biggest reason that I'm pleased is more philosophical. In the Predators' entire history, there's been a recurring theme of "safety." We love safe draft picks, and as a result, we have a knack for finding "good" players. We like "safe" players; blue-collar guys that might not command a lot of star power, but you can comfortably say that they won't hurt you. Even our front office and coaching staff is replete with safety and familiarity. We've come to love and appreciate our safe players -- the Vernon Fiddlers, the Joel Wards of the league. How can anyone not root for these never-should-have-been success stories? Unfortunately, all of that safety doesn't necessarily breed success. I don't need to remind anyone of our postseason record. David Poile, if one can criticize him, it's that he too often shies away from the "homerun swing." Moves like the Kostitsyn and now O'Brien trades represent to me a new attitude. These are guys that, in the past, I think Poile would have evaluated as "not worth the risk." Safety. While many of us are scratching our heads and even tweeting our discontent with these moves, I'm personally excited. This is such a departure from the type of move we've always made, and I think the potential for reward far outweighs the risk.
Shane O'Brien looks like an intriguing player -- big, strong, not afraid to play a physical game. I think that he makes the bottom pairing better than Parent would have. For that reason alone, I like the trade. But at the end of the day, it's the attitude and moxy from our GM that has me really excited. Safety can only carry you so far, so the time might be right to roll the dice and see what happens.