When the Nashville Predators lost defenseman Ryan Suter to free agency in the offseason, it was a huge blow to the team. Then, fellow defenseman and captain Shea Weber almost left too, signing an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers before the Predators matched and brought him back. With Suter gone, the season started with many questions about how Weber would perform without Suter playing with him on the blue line.
After a slow start, Weber got back into the mix offensively and ended up leading the Predators in scoring with 28 points. That really is little cause for celebration, as the Predators finished next-to-last in the league in goals per game. The fact that a defenseman ended up leading the team in scoring is less a credit to Weber’s ability and more an indictment of the team’s forwards, a big issue that will need to be addressed in the offseason.
If one thing became clear for the Predators this season, it’s that Weber is going to need some help in the future. His desire to be involved on the offensive end of the ice occasionally leads to breaks the other way for opposing teams. His production is a huge boost for the offense, but when it comes at the expense of playing defense it is doing more harm than good. The Predators finished 20th in goals-against, as only rookie Victor Bartley managed a positive number in plus-minus among the team’s defensemen. Hal Gill missed time due to injury and youngsters Jonathon Blum and Ryan Ellis struggled to contribute. Roman Josi and Kevin Klein had solid seasons, but it was very evident that Suter was missed.
Weber’s massive and lengthy contract will keep him with the Predators for many years to come, and if the team hopes to get back to the playoffs they need to get him some stay-at-home defensemen to help let him play his game and get moving on the offensive end of the ice.