Predators make a trade, send another tough guy packing

Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 12:52pm

Another true tough guy has come and gone for the Nashville Predators without having gotten much of an opportunity.

The Predators traded Brian McGrattan to the Calgary Flames on Thursday for defenseman Joe Piskula, who immediately was assigned to Milwaukee (AHL). The move came one day after McGrattan, a 31-year-old forward, cleared waivers and was assigned to Milwaukee.

Piskula, 28, played three years at the University of Wisconsin (2004-07) and has spent the majority of his professional career with the AHL affiliates of Los Angeles and Calgary. In 10 career NHL games (five each for the Kings and Flames) he has eight penalty minutes and no points.

Nashville claimed McGrattan off waivers from Anaheim two games into the 2011-12 season with the idea that he would inject some much-needed toughness into their lineup.

Like so many before him, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder ultimately spent a lot more time in street clothes than he did in the face of opposing players. He appeared in 30 contests last year, none after mid-January. His 61 penalty minutes (he had six fights) were second on the team.

He played just twice this season and had a total of 12:34 of ice time before he mercifully was shipped out and added to the list of enforcers whose unique talents coach Barry Trotz and his staff chose not to utilize.

A rundown of some of the more notable heavyweights who have come through the organization:

• Patrick Cote (1998-2000): He appeared in 70 games and led the league in fighting majors during the franchise’s inaugural season but quickly fell out of favor and set the precedent for what has happened since. He played 21 games the following year and was traded in the offseason.

• Marc Moro (1999-02): Primarily a prospect on defense during the early years, he had 75 penalty minutes in 27 appearances over parts of three seasons before he was traded late in 2001-02.

• Brantt Myhres (2000-01): Considered an important free agent acquisition and the replacement to Cote, he played just 20 games and was traded prior to the end of the season.

• Stu Grimson (2001-02): Regarded as one of the game’s all-time greats in regard to the tough stuff, he actually appeared in 30 of the first 31 games before his season — and his career — ended due to concussion issues.

• Wade Brookbank (2003-04): A preseason waiver claim, he racked up 38 penalty minutes in nine games before he was traded away a little more than two months after he was acquired.

• Wade Belak (2008-11): In nearly three full seasons with the Predators he played in a little more than one season’s worth of games (92). The most he played in one season was 39 games in 2009-10.

The one who actually managed to maintain a role was Jim McKenzie, who made 61 appearances for Nashville in 2003-04. He had 88 penalty minutes to go along with four points (one goal, three assists) in the last of his 15 NHL seasons. He played in just one of that year’s postseason contests, though.

Increasingly, the Predators have relied on the likes of Jordin Tootoo and Darcy Hordichuk, smaller players with outsized toughness, to try and handle things on the ice.

Tootoo, the franchise’s all-time leader in penalty minutes, fought 61 times, including a career-high 12 in 2006-07, during his eight seasons in Nashville.

Hordichuk, acquired in a draft day deal with Florida in 2005, played 74 games and had 13 points with 163 penalty minutes in 2004-05. His appearances, though, decreased to 56 and 45, respectively, each of the next two seasons and he was traded away following 2007-08.

Following Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to Anaheim, which included defenseman Scott Hannan’s second fighting major of the year, Nashville was tied for 19th in the league with nine fighting majors. Rich Clune (5-foot-10, 207 pounds), a player in the mold of Tootoo, has a team-high five.