Before the lockout began last fall, the Nashville Predators signed then-33-year-old unrestricted free agent defenseman Scott Hannan to a one-year contract worth $1,000,000. To plenty of Preds fans, myself included, Hannan seemed like a solid candidate for the Nashville blue line: gritty, hard-hitting, with veteran experience. He wouldn’t add anything on the offensive side, but he could eat up 20 minutes a night and help Nashville’s young blueliners develop into full-fledged NHLers.
Fast-forward to today and it’s a different story altogether, aside from the 20 minutes per night part. Hannan has played 28 games for the Predators and things have only gotten worse as the season has gone on. He’s a step slower than most of the players he’s trying to defend, taking away the physical side of his game and leaving him prone to being blown past. He isn’t clearing the puck from the Nashville zone effectively, allowing opposing teams to spend lots of time firing pucks at Pekka Rinne. The only defensive partner he has proven unable to drag down is two-time Norris Trophy runner-up Shea Weber.
Scott Hannan has come under particular scrutiny from Nashville fans in the last two games against Vancouver and Calgary. He was on the ice for all three of Vancouver’s first-period goals and another in the second period on Friday night, plus both of Calgary’s markers in the opening frame on Saturday. The plus-minus statistic doesn’t always tell an accurate story, but this year it clearly shows that Hannan has been terrible compared with every other Nashville Predators defenseman:
More than a third of the games the Preds have played this season haven’t even been close, and Hannan eating up a lot of minutes in those games has resulted in the team’s only double-digit minus rating. Nashville would have been better off splitting his minutes between Victor Bartley, Jonathon Blum, Ryan Ellis; even if they somehow managed to be as bad defensively in aggregate as Hannan has been all by himself, they would at least have added some offensive upside to make up for it.
If Predators fans are lucky, GM David Poile will find some playoff-bound GM to give up a late-round draft pick in exchange for all that veteran grit he thought he was getting when he originally signed Hannan. In all likelihood that would involve getting the other GM highly intoxicated first, or perhaps even knocking him out and forging his signature on some legal documents. I’m not sure Poile has that kind of dastardly deed in him, though.
The best we can probably hope for is that Hannan’s minutes will diminish for the rest of the year. In the last two embarrassments against Vancouver and Calgary he only played 14:31 and 15:27, respectively, so perhaps Coach Barry Trotz has identified Hannan as a major leak. The more likely scneario is that he’ll continue to eat up 20 minutes a night and the Nashville defense will struggle right along with him. Then the season will end, he’ll be on his way, and Nashville can try to find a younger, more reliable free-agent defenseman who better complements the rest of the team.