06 November 2013

NHL: The Legend Of "LOL" David Legwand

By Spaceman 
Nashville, TN 

The Nashville Predators are a hockey club with a short history. Preds fans have no memories of Cups won to fall back on during the injury-filled doldrums of the long NHL season. All we have is our story: expansion, playoff progress, ownership debacles, and the hope against all sane expectations that someday defense really will win us a championship. Likewise, we have no Maurice Richard, no Bobby Orr, no Wayne Gretzky in our lore. What we have is a man who says everything there is to say about the franchise: David Legwand.

David Legwand, Nashville's longest-serving NHL player.
(Photo: Frederick Breedon)
There’s been no player who has appeared in as many games, dished as many assists, scored as many goals, or won as many games on the final shot as David Legwand. Picked second overall in the 1998 draft, just behind Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier, Leggy holds all those Predators records mainly by default. Injuries have limited him to just 894 games in his 14 previous seasons. His 526 points in that span (200 goals and 326 assists) are a touch underwhelming, especially compared to the guy taken ahead of him (383 goals and 491 assists in 1,037 games), but nobody with a scoring touch has ever stuck around Nashville long enough to seriously challenge the mark. Instead the franchise’s top scorer - fittingly, given the style of play around here - is a two-way player who’s only topped 50 points twice in his career.

Though he’s easily the most accomplished player in franchise history and holds a special place because of it, there’s still a bit of a love-hate relationship with him. For all that scoring over the years he’s still been prone to zoning out during games and making some pretty ridiculous decisions. Even Preds coach Barry Trotz once said that Legwand can be “as good as he wants to be” - a nicer way of saying he doesn’t put forth full effort often enough. Just the 2012 playoffs alone gave us three serious WTF moments:

1.) Covering up the puck in the playoffs 

Legwand nearly cost his team a penalty shot in a playoff game against the Red Wings:


2.) Grabbing Johan Franzen from the bench 

This is from the same series against Detroit. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to motive, but for some reason Leggy decided to grab Johan Franzen’s sweater from the bench and took a spear as a result. But the refs saw his move beforehand, so there were offsetting penalties as a result. If Franzen hadn’t lost his cool this could have been another disaster for the Preds:

  

3.) Throwing the puck in front of the goal

The second round of those same playoffs saw Legwand actually gift the Phoenix Coyotes with a goal in one of the biggest blunders of his career:

  

This is why I told my friend Brandon, when I took him to his first Preds game against the Jets a few weeks back, that I call the longest-serving Pred “LOL Legwand.” For all the good things he’s done over the years, he’s also done all sorts of baffling things. As goofy as Leggy can be, though, he still seems to turn it on when you least expect it - and often that comes when the rest of the team has been playing like crap.

For instance, at the game where I told Brandon about my nickname for Leggy, the veteran center made a steal in the Winnipeg zone and dished to Craig Smith for the game-winner with 17 seconds left in overtime. Two games later he put up a goal and two assists against Phoenix, and in the next game he scored twice to help the Preds beat the Kings. All told he has seven points in his last four games - something to be happy about, for sure, but also somewhat maddening when you consider how often he just disappears on the ice or acts on some bizarre impulse. If that kind of inconsistency isn’t worth an LOL, what is? 

David Legwand's contract is up after the 2013-14 season.
(Photo: AP/David Zalubowski)
Leggy’s contract is up at the end of this year. He’s the last remaining on-ice link to the franchise’s early days and his family lives here in Nashville; being part of the Preds family is a strong pull for the front office to give him another deal. He’d be able to play his 1,000th NHL game in a gold sweater if that were the case. On the other hand, he’s pretty expensive for sub-50-point production and isn’t quite as fast as he used to be, especially compared to the youth movement we have here these days. My guess is that he gets a one- or two-year extension, but there’s really no telling at this point. Whatever happens, he’ll always have a place in Nashville Predators history.

SO HOW ARE THE PREDS DOING ANYWAY? 

Playing without superstar goalie Pekka Rinne has been a rough ride so far. Carter Hutton (3-1-1, 2.76 GAA, .914 SV%) has done an admirable job between the pipes as Rinne fights off an infection in his surgically repaired hip, but there’s only so much an inexperienced backup goalie can do when he plays behind a team that gives up lots of shots every night.

THE GOOD

Even without the services of Mr. Rinne, Nashville finished out the first month of the season at 6-5-2 - not terribly impressive, but enough to remain competitive in the Central Division. They got November off to a good start with a hard-fought 4-3 win over the Kings (thanks in large part to Leggy’s two goals).

THE BAD 

Pekka Rinne had a procedure to remove the infection from his hip and picked up a second infection - this one E. coli - along the way, forcing him to miss six to eight weeks in total. The Preds were blown out 6-1 by St. Louis back on 10/26, marking their second big loss to their division rivals in this young season. The penalty killing unit, which had gone seven straight games from 10/12-10/24 without surrendering a power play goal, has given up four on 10 opportunities since 10/26. The offense, which averaged better than 31 shots through the first eight games this season, has dropped off to just 25.8/game since then; their opponents have averaged 32.8 shots in that same span.

THE OTHER 

The Preds have averaged 3.00 goals per game since Carter Hutton took over in goal, but they’ve given up 3.75 per game in that same span. Four Preds (Legwand, Patric Hornqvist, Shea Weber, and Eric Nystrom) are tied for the team lead in goals with four through 14 games. Leggy and Hornqvist are the only Preds with at least 10 points in that span. The team’s next five games are on the road against Colorado, Winnipeg, New Jersey, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh, completing a seven-game trip before returning home for one night to face Chicago for the first of five games this season.

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