Preds' Colin Wilson hopes to use minimal 2011 playoff role as motivation

Sunday, September 25, 2011 at 9:05pm

Thoughts and words. 

Typically they are identical. What pops into one’s mind comes out of the mouth for all the world to hear. 

Then there are those instances that require a filter, or perhaps a dam in order to contain words capable of damage. Never mind that the mind generates the same thought over and over and over. 

If anyone knows the mind of Nashville Predators forward Colin Wilson as the 2011-12 season approaches it is Ryan Suter, his roommate on the road for all of last season as well as a fellow first-round draft pick. 

The commonality of their experiences includes the ignominy of being benched during the postseason. It happened to Wilson back in the spring, when he made just three appearances during the Predators’ longest playoff run ever, just as it did to Suter, when he sat out an entire five-game postseason series with San Jose at the end of his rookie season. 

“I know it’s easy to say learn from it,” Suter said. “I feel like part of what helped me is it pissed me off. That next summer I worked my butt off to get better, and I came in here with the mindset … I wasn’t public with it but inside I was like, ‘Screw you guys. I deserve to play, and I’m going to be out here playing.’ ” 

With fewer than two weeks before the start of the regular season, Wilson has said all of the right things. Just as important — if not more so — he has done the right things. 

“I like the fact that some of the things we asked him to look at and change, he put a real conscious effort in the summer to do that,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We said, ‘We’re going to rely on you to produce offensively.’ He’s starting to do that.” 

Wilson scored Nashville’s first goal of the preseason in a 5-3 victory in the first half of a doubleheader at Florida. The next day against Washington he added an insurance goal in the third period of a 2-0 victory. 

Before he was sent to the bench in the playoffs, the seventh overall pick in the 2008 draft actually played all 82 games during the regular season and scored 16 goals, which was twice the number he had during his rookie season. 

Thus, Wilson did not know what to think the first couple times he was not included in the lineup. He said the only time in his life he ever had been benched was as a young boy – when his father did it to him. His coach at Boston University, where he was the 2009 USA Hockey College Player of the Year and a Hobey Baker Award finalist, threatened it a couple times but never
followed through. 

After years of being a star player at every level, Wilson admitted he had never even considered getting pulled was a possibility. 

That’s when he turned to Suter. 

“He was my roommate throughout the whole playoffs and throughout the whole year,” Wilson said. “Every time we got back in the room after a game, we’d obviously talk about the team. Then we’d talk about how it is. He told me, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re going to get back in.’ And sure enough I got back in.” 

He appeared in the last three games of the second-round series against Vancouver after having not dressed for a single contest in the first-round victory over Anaheim. 

His role was minimal. He played no more than 13:34 and as few as 8:01 in those appearances, did not have a goal or an assist and got just two shots on goal. 

“I was really happy with, when I came back and played those three games, how I did,” he said. “I thought I bounced back pretty well. Yeah, I’m definitely going to learn from it and it’s a privilege to be in the lineup. You can’t take it for granted. 

“…Even though I did get in, it didn’t matter. Bottom line: The coach took me out of the lineup. Yes, he put me back in but I still take that very hard.” 

That was not news — nor was it unwelcome — to Trotz, who reviewed the situation with Wilson during season-ending exit interviews and again throughout the summer when he and his assistants made regular calls to Wilson, as they did with every other player on the team. 

Suter responded the season after his playoff benching with eight goals (still his career-high) and 24 points — a 50 percent improvement over the previous season. A fixture in the lineup ever since, he has played every game in three of the past five seasons and has missed just 16 total over that span due to injury. 

“I think, for [Wilson], he just has to reset and just be ready to go from Game One,” Suter said. “It’s so easy to get sidetracked. He just has to stay focused and know that he’s good enough. If he plays well, it’s all forgotten.” 

Until then, some anger remains. It’s natural. 

“I think that’s a good emotion to have,” Wilson said. “A player who gets healthy scratched and then is … very carefree about it, that’s when you have a problem.  … Experience is getting healthy scratched and is going through a drought of 15 games without a goal and learning to deal with that. 

“Going through all of that is just going to make me better for this season.” 

Sounds good. And it is probably best he does not say what he really thinks.