The Preds held the Skate of the Union meeting tonight to provide updates on the team both on and off the ice. Some of the highlights were:
Forget about Radulov. He will not be back this season. Although he has stated that he wants to come back, he cannot get out of his KHL contract. The money quote regarding A-Rad was this, "I don't understand how you can walk away from a contract in the NHL but have to honor one in the KHL."
As regards the team, Poile said that they signed the free agents that they wanted- Sullivan and Ward. Poile said he expects the team this year to be very good, with the younger players improving and veterans like Legwand and Erat to have a strong season. The key will be staying healthy throughout the season. He acknowledged that some fans were disappointed with the selection of Ryan Ellis with the first pick, but that fans should realize that he is a Steve Sullivan type player that plays defense.
He mentioned that adding Martin Gelinas as Director of Player development for the team was a significant hire. He considered Gelinas a consummate professional when he played and would be a great influence on the young players and their development.
Ticket sales are comparable to where they were at this time last year. He expects ticket sales to pick up now that the schedule has been released and we move closer to the beginning of training camp.
Parking will be an issue with the onset of construction of the new convention center, which will be behind the Sommet Center. The team has been working with the downtown businesses, parking companies, and the Chamber of Commerce to make certain that parking problems do not materialize.
Spoke of the "Predator Way" of building this team. He indicated that the team would not make a huge splash with free agent signings. They would be very selective about going outside the system. Instead, fans should focus on the young talent and its development to fill needs. He felt this was the best way to build the team for the long term- develop your draft picks and then retain the ones that you need and want.
He spoke about the del Biaggio bankruptcy filing and said that it is not close to resolution. That resolution will come when the bankruptcy trustee decides to do something. He said that this is a distraction but has no impact on the team.
He mentioned the third jerseys would be unveiled sometime in September. They would, according to Freeman, have an "original six old school" look and he thought the fans would be pleased.
Freeman cited the strengths of this team: the scouts; the General Manager and front office staff; the coaches; and the passionate fan base.
"I wanted to come back to Nashville." He indicated that he and his family love the city and its people and he felt good about the team and its prospects. He is excited about playing on a line with Arnott and Dumont. He said the back was good and that his exercise regimen is yielding good results.
When asked which young player on the Preds squad impressed him, Sully said Cal O'Reilly. He does a great job distributing the puck.
JP echoed the sentiments about loving it here in Nashville. He said the fans were amazing, vocal, and passionate. He said that this is noted by other teams/players when they come to the Sommet. He cited the cheer that occurs during the TV timeouts. It gets the attention of the other team and they are impressed with the fan support. Other players on other teams that he talks with comment often about the loudness of our arena.
When asked how the power play could improve, JP said the improvement was sitting next to him (Sully).
It was interesting to get the perspective of the folks on the "inside" both from an operational and a player perspective. Sully brought up a point that I think bears mentioning. Those players on the roster that are in their mid 20's and have been in the league for a while are going to make noticeable jumps in their level of play. They will play better and smarter, with fewer breakdowns. They are hitting the prime of their hockey life, and this should bode well for a team that has been built like the Preds.
The goal of this team, stated by all on stage, is to provide an exceptional fan experience and get the team back to the playoffs. If it plays out like they suggest, the upcoming season should be an exciting one for hockey fans in Nashville.
(No blogging for a while as the View is heading to the beach. Be sure and keep up with all the Pred news with the great bloggers, many of whom were here tonight, that are listed on the right of this blog.)