Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Heading into the 2011-2012 season, the Nashville Predators faced some uncertainty on the blueline. Cody Franson and Shane O'Brien were no longer with the team, and it seemed like the Predators were on their way to having perhaps their most questionable defensive roster in recent memory. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were obviously the top pairing. Veteran defenseman Kevin Klein was sure to take a spot on the second defensive pairing. There was another defenseman that was a lock to be on the opening night roster, however, and that was Jonathon Blum.
After playing in 23 regular season games with the Predators in the 2010-2011 season, plus 12 games in the playoffs, Blum had high expectations placed upon him heading into the 2011-2012 season. He was drafted by the Predators in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft , becoming the first California-born player to be selected in the first round of the draft. It seemed like he was poised to have a breakout year after his solid play in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Blum's 2011-2012 season with the Predators turned out to be disappointing and short-lived. He played in just 33 games for the Predators before being permanently sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals. Blum was a minus-14 in his 33-game stint with Nashville and didn't seem to be anywhere near the same player that he was the prior season.
Things didn't go so well at first in Milwaukee with Blum either, but he seemed to begin to find his game again as the season went along. He ended the AHL portion of his season with 26 points in 48 games played and was a minus-11.
Given the uncertain future of impending free agent defensemen like Ryan Suter, Hal Gill and Francis Bouillon, Blum could potentially have a big opportunity to earn his way back onto Nashville's roster to start next season. His talent and hockey sense are very apparent, but he just wasn't able to put it all together for the Predators last season for some reason.
Blum is a skilled, puck-moving defenseman that is a very intelligent player when he's on his game. That's what made him successful when he was first called up to play in Nashville during the last quarter of the 2010-2011 season. His physicals skills were on par with NHL caliber defensemen, but the mental aspect of his game allowed him to have success at a young age. He always seemed to be in the right position.
If Blum is able to get back to the style of play that made him successful when he first was called up to the NHL level, he will put himself in a very good position to make the NHL roster out of training camp next season. He has all of the physical attributes. He has pretty good speed, a good shot and can position himself to take away quality scoring chances from the opposition. He just has to put those qualities together consistently.
(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)