The Senators signed veteran centre David Legwand to a two-year deal on July 4. I talked with George Scoville (@OTFGeorge) from On the Forecheck and J.J. from Kansas (@JJfromKansas) from Winging It In Motown to find out more about the newest Senator. Thanks to both George and J.J. from Kansas for their help with this post, it's greatly appreciated!
First, George answered some questions I had about Legwand's career in Nashville.
How would you describe Legwand's career in Nashville before his trade to Detroit? What was his role? How was he regarded by the organization? How was he regarded by the fans?
Legwand was the "Original Predator" - literally. He was the organization's first ever draft pick, in the 1998 entry draft, and went second overall behind Vincent Lecavalier (incidentally, this was the same draft class as former Ottawa Senator/current Nashville Predators Mike Fisher). Because he was so high in that draft, and because he had put up 105 points (51 G, 54 A) with the Plymouth Whalers (OHL) the season beforehand, I think everyone expected him to grow into a legitimate scoring threat. He never really did, and he only broke the 60-point mark once in Nashville, in 2006-2007, when he played on a line and power play unit with Martin Erat and Paul Kariya. He tallied 63 points that season. He has also broken the 20-goal plateau only twice in his career. But the Kariya/Legwand/Erat trio may have been the most effective line in franchise history. But that's not to say Legwand wasn't incredibly highly regarded within the organization. He and Erat were tasked with, for example, playing shutdown hockey against Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg for many years when the Red Wings were still in the Central Division. Despite the fact that he never really blossomed as a scorer, fans always cheered for Legwand because he was the Original Predator, and we all understood how important he was in stopping the Red Wings threat - see also "the Legwand Hat Trick" (how can you not root for that?).
At the time of the trade, Legwand was leading Nashville in points. What kind of offensive production can Sens fans expect from him?
He spent most of his career in a 2C role for Nashville, but that only makes sense when you look at the dearth of scoring talent our organization has had over the years, and Barry Trotz's trap-like coaching style. It's not unreasonable to expect 40-45 points out of Legwand, but depending on who he's lined up with, or what role he's in, that could go up or down.
Many in Ottawa have been penciling him in as a 2C or 3C, which role is he best suited?
Without close familiarity with the rest of the Sens lineup, and what each man's strengths are, it wouldn't surprise me to see Legwand as a 3C, with some time on the power play. Even if he's not potting 20+ goals himself, his shutdown abilities should help shore up Ottawa's negative goal differential from last season.
Legwand's underlying defensive statistics are solid. How was that aspect of his game when he was with Nashville?
Defense really was his game in Nashville. He's the model Barry Trotz-style forward. Legwand could easily be a Selke Trophy candidate in many seasons, but lacks the star power that really grabs enough PHWA attention to win the hardware.
What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses?
He can be pretty flashy when he's moved out to the wing. He has a deceptively fast, hard wrister. His years spent shutting down Detroit's aces paid handsome dividends, too: Legwand became a very cunning, playoff-savvy veteran leader (the Predators would eventually win that quarterfinal against the Red Wings and advance to the second round, where they flamed out against the Phoenix Coyotes). He shows up strong for big games, and can sometimes appear lackadaisical for lesser foes. He is an incredibly strong, fast skater, so the potential is there for him to occasionally dazzle with a game breaking play.
What sort of production should Ottawa fans realistically expect?
Like I said, Legwand's numbers can be all over the map, but a point every other game is a pretty typical clip for him. He's going to work hard, though, and he's going to frustrate opponents. He will be a mentor to the younger guys, and if the Sens make it back to the playoffs next year, you will be glad to have him in the lineup.
The Senators kick off the season against the Predators in what will be Legwand's return to Nashville. What kind of reception should he expect?
He'll get the same treatment everyone else who has ever left the organization under good graces, and returned with a different team, has gotten: there'll be some kind of tribute video on the jumbotron, likely during a TV timeout in the first period, and for the rest of the game he'll be (endearingly) mocked and razzed like any other opponent would be, likely with chants of "YOU SUCK!" (By contrast, Ryan Suter, who strung David Poile along through contract negotiations in 2011-2012, only to allegedly renege on intentions he had expressed to re-sign with Nashville as a UFA, still gets booed when the Minnesota Wild come to town.)
Next J.J. From Kansas answered a few questions about what went wrong during Legwand's brief time in Detroit.
The Wings made a splash when Ken Holland traded for David Legwand. What did you think of the trade at the time?
At the time, the necessity of the trade was apparent. The Wings were trying to find a way to make it into the playoffs, but were facing down the prospect of having Joakim Andersson center their top line (if you're not sure how terrible that is, know that currently about half of Red Wings fans wouldn't blink an eye if he were put on waivers and he probably wouldn't be claimed). However, the obvious desperation showed in the price they had to pay. The Eaves & 3rd/2nd round (became the 2nd rounder when DET made the playoffs) pick was known immediately, but I remember a sense of dread as we waited to hear who the prospect heading to Nashville would be. No other team was paying premiums that high for guys comparable to Legwand. It was immediately clear that the team overpaid and I wasn't happy about it.
How would you describe Legwand's time in Detroit? What did he do well? What did he struggle with?
Legwand was able to stabilize the lineup during his time and provided that same kind of gritty play that had made him so popular in Nashville over his career. He's not really great at anything, but he's a dogged north/south skater who attacks the puck. His struggle in Detroit (which saw him relegated to 4th line winger by the playoffs) was inconsistency in being able to match up to other teams' top players and to work within Detroit's system.
Were you surprised the Michigan native wasn't re-signed, especially considering what the Wings gave up for him in March?
I wouldn't say I'm surprised. In fact, I may be a little cynically surprised that the Wings didn't try to sign him to an extension just to justify the price (which is compounding one mistake with another and would have made me angry). I honestly do believe that without making the Legwand trade, Detroit probably misses the playoffs last season, but his time in Detroit made it clear that there's something that was there which made it so he wasn't a good fit. He's still a very capable NHLer (and I thought that he looked very out of place on Detroit's 4th line), but I haven't seen anybody really dig into why things happened with Detroit the way they did. I'm very much looking forward to his time in Ottawa to see how he performs there.