W hen the Nashville Predators claimed Bobby Butler off of waivers from the New Jersey Devils on March 4, it was a low-risk gamble.
If Butler managed to progress in Nashville’s system, the Predators would gain a role player essentially for free.
If he didn’t work out, they could just put him back on waivers and either let someone claim him or let him go to the AHL and join the Milwaukee Admirals.
To this point, the Butler seems to have earned his waiver claim.
While he has only been in Nashville for 8 games, he has managed to produce 4 points – all assists. All 4 points have come in his last 3 games, his latest effort being a 2 assist performance in Nashville’s 5-2 win over Columbus on Saturday night.
“I love this system,” Butler said. “Guys are bearing down on the net, which is good.”
In 14 games with the Devils this season, Butler scored 1 goal and 1 assist – both came in the same game. Butler has doubled his points output in the last week with Nashville. In addition, since joining Nashville he has played over 11 minutes in 7 of his 8 games. With the Devils he only saw that kind of time in 6 of the 14 games.
“It’s always good to get on the ice,” Butler said. “Passes are going to guys and they’re going in. There’s a lot of luck and bounces, but I’ll go with it. The more you get on the ice, you get more comfortable and you just have to keep playing.”
Last summer, the Ottawa Senators bought out Butler’s contract, making him a free agent. Butler had spent 92 games at the NHL level with Ottawa, but only managed 6 goals and 10 assists through 56 games last year. Ottawa decided to move along without him. Between that and landing on waivers, needless to say, Butler is playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
“I definitely have to be able to prove myself,” Butler said. “I want to be able to play and stay. I’m just playing one game at a time.”
In addition to adjusting to a new system, Butler has had to adjust to an entirely new locker room. Unlike many situations, where a young player will come up in an organization, Butler walked into a locker room 3 weeks ago in which very few of Nashville’s players had even heard of him.
“It’s different, but all hockey guys are similar,” Butler said. “They’re all great guys. They kind of open their arms to you and they’re just a great group of guys.”
After having two teams more or less show him the door, Butler still has much to prove in Nashville. However, his offensive output over the past week has moved his game in a positive direction.
“I just have to work hard, show the guys I’m working hard and just help the team win in any way and go from there.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua