Mar 29, 2012, 5:15 PM EDT
There are those who figure Alexander Radulov will be a nice addition — complimentary piece even — to the Nashville Predators this postseason.
Then then are those within the organization — David Poile and Barry Trotz specifically — who figure Radulov will be much, much more.
That’s what John Manasso uncovered in his latest piece for Fox Sports Tennessee, as Poile and Trotz seem convinced Radulov isn’t just a potential wildcard, but rather a piece to put the Predators over the top.
“I think he’s a better version of what he was both as a player and as a person,” Poile said of Radulov. “We talk all the time about your younger players, as they get older and have more experiences, I think they know how to play more effectively, more successfully and I think they understand the team concept a lot better.”
Nashville’s head coach agreed.
“He’s got great vision, he’s got great hands,” Trotz said. “Some of the things he did created a lot of chances and that’s what Rad does, but he’s still really good defensively, too.
“He manages the game way better than he did four years ago and that’s the maturity of just time and understanding the game and I’m excited. I know the guys are excited as we go on here.”
What’s interesting is how Nashville’s worked Radulov back into the mix. In Tuesday’s 3-0 loss to St. Louis, Radulov received 22 minutes and 50 seconds of ice time in his third game with the club. That was three full minutes more than the next second-leading forward (David Legwand, 19:19). The only guys that played more were Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
Now’s a good time to mention that only one Preds forward — Mike Fisher — averages over 19 minutes a game. Last year, no forward did.
The explanation for this is simple: Radulov’s window for acclimatization is small, so he needs as much ice as possible. And hey, that’s fine. But it also suggests Poile and Trotz have seen enough through three games to determine Radulov is as good, if not better, than any of their existing offensive weapons. (Otherwise, why bother giving him the ice time at someone else’s expense, or the expense of team chemistry?)
If that’s the case, there’s not a lot of time for the team to gel.
“For a team that was playing well, we’ve made more changes than anybody in the league,” Poile said. “From that standpoint, we have a lot of adjustments to make. Lines have been changed, roles have been changed, ice time has been changed…
“We really need these last five games to prepare for the playoffs.”
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