Saturday, December 17, 2011
Blake Geoffrion and Jonathon Blum were both key players in last year's Nashville Predators team that made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. However, neither player has played particularly well this year, and both were sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals earlier this week.
Seth Lake, a contributor over at ontheforecheck.com and a hockey guru, stopped by Hockey Night in Nashville to answer two important questions regarding the demotion of Blum and Geoffrion.
What were some of the main differences that you noticed in Blum and Geoffrion's game from last year to this year?
While Barry Trotz has pointed to the fact that both Jonathon Blum and Blake Geoffrion are still "first year players" having come up to the NHL late last season and playing through the playoff run, I think the reasoning behind sending each down was unique and ultimately the right call in the end.
Blum was brought up last season as injuries mounted on the Predators blueline and was inserted into an established defense corps in the middle of a playoff race with a clear understanding of how the team worked and what he needed to do to help the team accomplish their goals. With that direction, Blum succeeded last season playing big minutes down the stretch and throughout the playoffs on the Predators second pairing with Kevin Klein.
Over the summer, Blum continued to fill out his frame in preparation for his first full year in the NHL, but when the team struggled defensively out of the gate, he appeared to squeeze his stick a little tighter, try too hard to elevate his game, and from my perspective got away from the simple, smart, two-way game that made him successful last season. As the season has progressed, Blum appears to have lost some confidence on the ice and too often found himself standing around watching the play, rather than reading and reacting to it, and eventually leading to him being a healthy scratch last week.
That's the message I think was sent to Blum upon being told he was heading to Milwaukee. This is not the end for him. He will be back in Nashville. They expect him to return later in the season and be a key contributor down the stretch, but first he's got to go down to Milwaukee, simplify his game, and get back to what made him successful upon debuting last season.
As for the case of Blake Geoffrion, it's not a popular opinion with some, but this is simply the continuation of his development on the ice. Geoffrion scored some big goals during the playoff run last season, he played some big minutes as well, but had Mike Fisher and Nick Spaling not have been injured to start the season, Geoffrion would have started the season in Milwaukee.
While he is an older prospect, having played junior hockey, then four years of college, Geoffrion still has a good amount of development ahead of himself over the next few years to become the player the Predators think he's capable of becoming - a top 9 forward.
At the NHL level, Geoffrion has largely seen 4th line minutes and very limited special teams time. At the AHL level, Geoffrion will likely find himself again getting top-6 minutes at even strength and see time on both special teams units as he did last season when he thrived prior to his recall.
Much like Blum, Geoffrion will be counted upon later this season to provide quality depth when he is recalled and I think the hope is that with this time at the AHL level, he will continue to round out his skills, build confidence, and once again be able to contribute to the Predators playoff run down the stretch this season.
How do you think the demotion to Milwaukee will affect Blum and Geoffron in the long run?
These were the right moves for both the Predators organization and the players earlier this week and should pay off in the long run. As seen with the cases of Martin Erat and Patric Hornqvist, it has worked in the past and I don't see any reason why it will not work in these cases.
While this might come as a bit of a shock to the system, both are young and talented players who were seeing limited minutes at the NHL level this season and have much more to offer moving forward. Now that they have each tasted the NHL and know what it takes to play there and be successful, they should be very motivated to earn their way back as soon as possible.
The key will be how the players respond to being sent back to Milwaukee. Neither will be given the first recall at either position just because they started the season in the NHL. The Milwaukee Admirals are a very deep and talented team sitting one point behind the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina's affiliate) in the Midwest Division with 5 games in-hand on the Checkers.
Up front, Geoffrion will be battling with Chris Mueller, Kyle Wilson, Ryan Thang, Gabriel Bourque, Jusso Puustinen, Michael Latta, and Zach Stortini for that first recall spot. On the back end, Blum will join a pretty well established blueline with Teemu Laakso, Tyler Sloan, and Ryan Ellis all in the mix for a recall as well.
Ultimately, it will be up to them to earn their way back, but in the meantime they are being given the opportunity to refine and improve their game while waiting for their next opportunity. I think we can all agree that the team will be better off if they take advantage of this chance and prepare themselves to permanently claim a spot in Nashville when their number is called again.