Friday, October 30, 2009

My View

Some random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

There is much political debate over proposed new governmental programs that affect health care, energy, banking, and other areas. There are valid ideas and proposals on both sides of these issues, but these ideas are often lost in the heated political discourse. Rather than ask "What's good for our country?" both sides are asking first "What's good for my party?". Statesmanship has gone by the wayside as both Republicans and Democrats have coarsened the debate and seek to score points for their side. And our country is the worse for it.

Today's subliminal thought is

James Mirtle is a very good writer for the Toronto Globe and Mail and blogs on his From the Rink site. James and a friend made a trip to Nashville last season to see Predator hockey firsthand. James has written a six part series about hockey in Nashville. Part six has just been posted, and it can be found here: Predator fans should take a look at this good read.

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

Today, Time Magazine announced that they were cutting 6% of their workforce. This announcement comes on the heels of the New York Times announcing that 200 staffers were losing their jobs. Television and the traditional print media continue to face upheaval and job losses as news and information dissemination continues to evolve. Blogs and social media have become the new channels by which information is becoming more popularly distributed. This especially holds true for the sports media, as mainstream outlets continue to downsize their reporting staff. Kudos to the NHL for embracing the new media and the changing manner in which information is broadcast. And props to the Predator nation for a plethora of quality bloggers to augment coverage (or lack thereof) by the traditional press.

What did they go back to before they invented drawing boards?

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My View... From 13,000 Feet

Boarding the helicopter. Here we go!

Prepping for the jump in the helicopter

And we are out!

Turning a few somersaults after we leave the helicopter

Rangers jumping out of the helicopter after we have jumped

In space

Soaring through the sky

Notice the Rangers that are flying behind us

Our landing zone is the runway area on the right

The view was amazing

Deploying the chute

Coming in for a landing after a great jump

A happy jumper

Being congratulated by Col. Andrew Poppas, the base commander at Ft. Campbell

The Jumpers and the support team

I was privileged to spend the day at Ft. Campbell, the home of the 101st Airborne, the famed Screaming Eagles, to participate in my first parachute jump. We were hosted by Colonel Andrew Poppas, the base commander, and several of his officers. This was my first parachute jump, and if it was going to be my first, I might as well jump with the best.

These young men and women were some of the most impressive individuals that I have ever met. Eager, professional, and very well trained, they made all of the novice jumpers feel secure and at ease. Our jump master, Captain Jerry Lancaster, was a confident 25 year old Captain that had already recorded 2300 jumps. His commitment to us was to bring us down safely, and his confidence made us feel that there was no other possible outcome.

Captain Lancaster was the jumper that would jump in tandem with us. There were five other members of the Air Assault squadron that jumped with us. They were jumping solo to get some jumps in before they deployed to Afghanistan, which was to occur in the coming week. All were ready to go and serve. Truly amazing young men.

We were to jump from a CH-60 helicopter from 13,000 feet. Quick math tells you that is approximately 2.5 miles up. Quite a jump for the first time.

Once aboard the helicopter, it took approximately 15 minutes to climb to altitude. 15 long minutes to think about leaving the tangible steel of the helicopter and stepping out in to space. Suited up and strapped in, we began our ascent. When the Captain called out "one minute", the doors were opened and we were greeted by the rush of the wind, the sound of the motor, and a 30 degree temperature change (65 degrees on the ground, 35 degrees at altitude). When I was hooked in the harness to Captain Lancaster, he told me to sit in the door and hang my feet out of the helicopter (you want me to do WHAT!!). A member of the jump team equipped with a camera went out, and a tap on the shoulder to signal go, and we were out of the helicopter.

Frankly, I could not have done that except for the faith I had in Captain Lancaster to fulfill his word and bring me down safely. Sitting in that door way at 13,000 feet violated every tenet of common sense I had, and yes, I had butterflies. The size of elephants. Surprisingly, once I rolled out of the helicopter and was in free fall, I got very relaxed. I knew that everything that was going to happen was out of my control, and I had to rely on Captain Lancaster.

The free fall was absolutely exhilarating. We turned a couple of lazy somersaults and then deployed the drogue chute, which stops you from spinning. Getting in to the dive position you have time to observe the scenery. From that perspective, the view is awesome. Falling at 120 miles an hour, we covered 8,000 feet in about a minute. Captain Lancaster deployed the main parachute at 5,000, and then we began to fly. He allowed me to fly the chute for while, then took the controls and brought us in for a smooth and, yes, safe landing. This has to be as close to being a bird as a person can experience, and it was indescribable.

While I had a great experience, I left with the utmost respect for the young men and women that serve our country and stand in harm's way on our behalf. They are brave and unhesitant to do their duty. They deserve our sincere gratitude and respect for all they sacrifice and do on our behalf. They deserve our prayers for their safety.

I never thought I would enjoy jumping out of a perfectly good aircraft. I am ready to go again. My sincere thanks to Colonel Poppas, Captain Lancaster, and all the men and women that made this possible.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Simple Game

Hockey is a simple game. Score more than your opponent and you win. Keep the puck out of your net and you win. Both have been a challenge for the Nashville Predators this season.

Through ten games, the Predators stand 3-6-1 and have seven points. Offensively, it was known that the Predators would need scoring from the top two lines to be successful. Scoring from the top lines has been spotty at best. The point totals for the top six forwards are:

J. P. Dumont 7

Patric Hornqvist 7

Jason Arnott 5

Steve Sullivan 2

David Legwand 1

Martin Erat 1

Dumont's seven points come by virtue of a five point effort against Ottawa; Arnott is on IR and has missed the last two games. His replacement, Cal O'Reilly, is without a point.

Notable in this list of forwards is the production, or lack thereof, of Sullivan, Legwand, and Erat. In the off season, all three were rewarded with new contracts. Erat, Legwand, and Arnott are the highest paid players on the team; Sullivan is the fifth highest paid player. Production from these forwards has not been commensurate with their compensation, and this is being reflected in the record of the team.

Obviously, you have to shoot the puck to score. This fact seems to be lost on some of the forwards. In the first ten games, Erat is averaging 2.1 SOG; Sullivan 1.8 SOG; and Legwand a paltry 1.3 SOG. It is a simple game- shoot the puck and you have an opportunity to score. This has to change quickly for the offense to have a chance at being productive.

Third and fourth line scoring has been virtually non-existent. These lines have combined for two (count 'em- two) goals. This simply means that the top two lines face the best D pairings of their opponent every night and they are effectively being contained. Secondary scoring has yet to materialize and thus the offense continues to sputter.

One of the supposed strengths of the Predators was their defense. This strength has turned into a disappointing weakness. The first D pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are both even in the plus/minus column. The second pairing of Dan Hamhuis (currently out due to injury) and Kevin Klein have been atrocious. In seven games, Hamhuis is -7 and through ten games Kelin is -8. The third pairing of Teemu Laakso (who was sent to AHL affiliate Milwaukee after seven games) and Francis Buillon are -2 and -4 respectively. Defensive breakdowns have left players alone in front of the net or in prime scoring positions and have resulted in the puck in the back of the Predators net. Through ten contests, the D corps has yet to look settled and the result is that the Predators are typically out shot in every contest.

General manager David Poile staked the season on young players being able to make the jump to the NHL level and be productive. Adding free agents to bolster the offense or to replace free agent losses to the defense were shunned in favor of bringing up young talent from Milwaukee. So far, this experiment has not yielded the results expected, and this is being reflected in the play on the ice. The youngsters on the roster show promise, but the question is when will this promise translate into performance?

Ten games do not make the season, but ten games allow trends to emerge. Those trends do not bode well for the Predators- anemic offense and shaky defense. How quickly veterans start to produce and young players make the adjustment to the NHL will determine if this season will be successful.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My View

Some random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

I was privileged this past Tuesday to spend some time with the men of the Bastogne Brigade, 1st Combat Division, at Ft. Campbell. These young men are consummate professionals and their training is absolutely the best. They are eager and ready to stand in harm's way on our behalf. The air assets of this division are being deployed this coming week to Afghanistan, and these men are ready to go. We should be grateful for each of these men and women who are ready to defend our freedoms. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

The definitive cause of Michael Jackson's death has been determined. It was a defective Billy gene.

There is an old Arab proverb that says "Once the camel's nose is under the tent, he is soon inside". The "public option" for nationalized health care is now back in the discussion. Despite all claims that this will not lead to other insurance companies vacating the health care market, I would remain skeptical. Once the federal government enters any market, that market immediately becomes skewed as market forces of cost and profit are altered. Pay attention to this debate, as it will impact all of us.

Wouldn't it be delicious irony to have the workers at a bowling alley go on strike?

Net neutrality. You may be hearing more of this phrase and concept in the months to come. Simply put, it means that internet service providers cannot discriminate against the content that is carried on their networks. On the surface, this sounds reasonable. Look below the surface. A carrier, such as AT&T for instance, must give the same access to content that hogs bandwidth, such as movie downloads, as it does an e-mail between friends. This means that the proprietary service of a carrier has no priority over any other service. If you are paying tremendous amounts of money to build YOUR network, shouldn't you have a right to prioritize the delivery of your service? The fact is that the U.S. broadband system lags behind other countries, and this rule will stymie efforts to upgrade and build out the system. This is a complicated issue that bears watching.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm Still Beautiful

No, not me. The View is anything but beautiful. The "I'm Still Beautiful" Event is a concert and fashion show to benefit young adults that are struggling with cancer or are on the road to recovery from cancer. This event is being held TONIGHT at the Mercy Lounge at 1 Cannery Row in Nashville. Local rock bands will be playing and there will be a fashion show with cancer survivors modeling fashions from local designers.

All proceeds from the event will be donated to I'm Too Young For This, an organization that provides resources and support to cancer survivors from their late teens to their early thirties.

The event starts at 7:00 tonight and runs until 11:00. Admission is $10.00 at the door.

All of us have been touched in some fashion by cancer, whether it is a loved one, a friend, or perhaps us as individuals that have been stricken by this disease. It is especially difficult for the young survivors to maintain a healthy self image after chemo or radiation or surgery. This wonderful organization provides resources to assist those young survivors through this difficult time.

Come out tonight and support a worthy cause.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Predators Give Back to the Community

The Predators make a stop back home in the midst of a five game road trip to spend some time giving back to the Nashville community. On Monday, October 19th, every member of the team will make an appearance at various community service events throughout Middle Tennessee. Appearances will be made at hospitals, schools, youth hockey clinics, and community centers. The players will be reading and interacting with students, visiting patients, conducting youth hockey clinics, and greeting fans.

The events that will be open to the public will be held at:

O'Charley's at 17 White Bridge Rd from 5:00-6:00, where Jordin Tootoo and Colin Wilson will greet and serve guests.

Lexus of Nashville at 1636 Brentwood Cr. in Brentwood. Kevin Klein and David Legwand will be there from 5:00-6:00 to greet guests and sign autographs.

McDonald's 2499 Murfreesboro Pk, Nashville. Dan Ellis and Wade Belak will be there from 5:30-6:30 to greet guests and serve food

Hardee's 508 Waldron Rd in LaVergne. Teemu Laakso and Cal O'Reilly will be there from 6:00-7:00 to greet guests and serve food.

Other members of the Predators will be involved in classroom events and hospital visits that will not be open to the public.

This team plays on the ice with great character and heart. That character and heart does not stop when they leave the ice, but is manifested in many worthwhile events throughout the community. This is an off day for the team, a time when players can spend resting or being with their families. They are giving up this time to make our community a better place and improve the lives of those of those less fortunate.

We in Middle Tennessee are fortunate to have a caring group of athletes in our community who support us as much as we support them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My View

Some random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

There was the sound of great rejoicing in the land as the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 10,000 this week. The last time the DJIA was above that level was on October 7th, 2008. This is seen as an indicator that the economy has turned the corner and the markets are responding accordingly. In the words of that great market analyst, Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend." The economy still continues to struggle with unemployment that hovers close to 10% and anti-business and high tax proposals that are coming out of Washington. A falling dollar has helped to boost market returns, and while we enjoy it in the short term, long term this will be painful. Be cautious about assuming the worst is behind us.

It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to have to paint it.

Yesterday's saga of the balloon boy is beginning to appear as if it was a publicity stunt. Final judgement is awaiting, but in my view, it is a sad commentary that so many in our society have resorted to brazen stunts to garner their 15 minutes of fame. And this is a family that appears to savor the spotlight as evidenced by their previous appearances on reality television shows. My thought- you want your 15 minutes of fame? Try doing something that is worthwhile that betters the lives of others.

If you drink, don't drive. Don't even putt.

People of all political leanings are frustrated at the bloated and mostly unresponsive government in Washington and a Congress that seems to be disconnected from the people they ostensibly represent. There is much that can be said about that, but perhaps the most succinct summation comes from a founding father and U. S. president, John Adams. Adams said, "In my many years, I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a shame; two is a law firm; and three or more is Congress." Unfortunately, those words are still ringing true today.

Always practice safe lunch- use a condiment.

And that, my friends, is my view

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Predators Foundation Collecting Baby Supplies Tonight

The Predators Foundation will be collecting baby supplies for the Martha O'Bryan Center at tonight's game against the Chicago Balckhawks. Supplies may be droppedat collection points when you enter the Arena. Especially needed are formula and diapers of all sizes.

The Martha O'Bryan center is a community resource center that works with families to address family issues and causes of poverty, and has been doing a great work in Nashville for a number of years.

Each person that makes a donation will receive a discount ticket voucher for a future Predators games.

The Predators Foundation does a tremendous job of identifying needs in our community and working with organizations to meet those needs. The Foundation is a reflection of the generous hearts of the Predator Nation, and through your generosity, you make our community a better place.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


You don't win the Cup in October, but you can certainly lose it. In the last two games, the Nashville Predators have displayed the traits of a team that is destined to not even have an opportunity to play for the Cup. After beginning the season with two gritty wins and a 1-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres the Predators have completely fallen apart in their last two games.

Consider these scary numbers: the Predators have been outscored 12 -1 ( a 6-1 loss to Edmonton and a 6-0 shutout to Dallas) in the last two games; the Predators are the lowest goal scoring team in the NHL, with 5 goals scored in regulation and one shootout goal; a goal has not been scored by anyone other than the forwards on the top line (Mike Santorelli, a second line winger, scored the shoot out goal); and after five games, the Predators shooting percentage is 3.8% (no- that is not a typo).

In the past two games, defensive breakdowns have been abundant. The second D pairing of Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Klein are a combined -10 through five games. Defensive coverage has been eratic, and these breakdowns have led to numerous scoring chances from close in. Often, the Predator goalies are left defenseless (pun intended). In the Edmonton game, the Oilers scored four goals on their first nine shots. In the Dallas game, the Stars scored goals on their first three shots.

This Predator squad will win by playing tough defense and getting balanced scoring. Neither are happening. The result has been two embarrassing losses.

Is it time for the Predator nation to panic? Not yet. This team has to get back to playing within themselves- solid D and attack the net- and stop digging the early hole. The coaching staff has mixed the lines to try to improve chemistry and get better offensive production. This group has to have veteran leadership step up and take charge and stop this funk right now.

Warning signs are flashing and there is cause for concern. How will this team respond to these embarrassing losses? Will there be a return to sound, intense play? Will they show some heart?

This team is better than this. It is time to stop embarrassing yourself on the ice.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Amazing, Incredible Disappearing Offense

Four games in to the season, an interesting, and troubling, trend has emerged for the Nashville Predators. All six goals scored have come from the number one line with Jason Arnott netting three goals, Patric Hornqvist two, and Steve Sullivan one. No other Predator has been able to find the back of the net, and this team must have contributions from the other lines if they want to be successful this season and get back to the playoffs.

Once you dig a little deeper in to the statistics of the first four games, one of the stats that jumps out is that the second line of David Legwand, Martin Erat, and Mike Santorelli have not only been held off the score sheet, but the two most experienced players, Legwand and Erat, are not shooting the puck. Through four games, Erat has eight shots on goal while Legwand has six. Rookie Mike Santorelli, the other winger on this line, has eleven shots on goal. By contrast, fourth line center Marcel Goc has nearly as many shots on goal (5) as either. Now, I'm not a coach, but it seems to me that your probability of scoring would increase substantially the more you shoot the puck.

Both Legwand and Erat were signed to new contracts last season that made them the highest paid players on the roster, and both of these forwards chew up minutes each night. Erat leads all forwards on the squad, averaging 19:59 of ice time; Legwand is fourth averaging 18:46 minutes. The problem for the offensively challenged Predators is that two of the top forwards on the team are on the ice for a significant amount of time and are not shooting the puck and generating quality scoring chances. This second line has to become productive with this much time on the ice.

Both Legwand and Erat possess solid offensive skills. Legwand posted 42 points (20G-22A) last year while Erat netted 50 points (17G-33A) before both had their seasons cut short due to injury. They have proven the capability of being productive and Legwand, 29, and Erat, 28, are entering the prime of their hockey careers.

Four games in doesn't necessarily dictate how the season will develop, but it is going to be critical that these two players get pucks to the net and score. I'm not down on either player, but frankly, both have shown a tendency to disappear for stretches at a time. This cannot happen now, and it is time for their play to be commensurate with their compensation.

It was known that goal scoring would be at a premium for this team, as has often been the case for the Predators. Goals by committee has been the way this team has operated- successfully- in the past. It is the way they can be successful now. As head Coach Barry Trotz said at the outset of the season, for this team to return to the playoffs, David Legwand and Marty Erat have to step up their game and have a very strong season. They are an integral part of the goal scoring "committee" of the Predators. Time to tell them the meeting has started and their presence is requested.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lazy and Stupid

Adam Datar a writer for Versus and blogger that covers the Avalanche, posted on the Versus blog a piece of tripe that was entitled "Music City Off Beat for the NHL". In this article, a tired and disproven meme is trotted out that Nashville does not deserve an NHL team, primarily because the arena was not at capacity for the home opener. Datar points out that Colorado only had 13,000 for their second home game, less than the Predators, but falls back on the fact that the Avs have had a string of 487 sellouts (which has been broken) and that they have merited their team because of their past success at the gate and on the ice.

Frankly, this line of reasoning is both lazy and stupid, and is an idea whose time has long passed. The fact is that hockey in Nashville will always compete with college football, and it was disingenuous at best to say the attendance was bad "even though they were the only pro sports team playing in town that night." There are no other pro sports teams that play against the Predators on a Saturday night. The college football landscape, however, directly affects fall hockey in Nashville. Attendance at Predator games starts to uptick in January and is very solid through the end of the season. You might want to check that out sometime, Adam, except I suspect that would be too much effort for you. Since there is no college football of note in Colorado, there is no worry about the impact of a Buffalo or Rams game on the Avs attendance, and I'm sure it's difficult to draw a comparison.

The truly stupid aspect of the line of reasoning is if you contend that the economy is going to impact attendance, and if you posit that teams that don't sell out or get very close to selling out don't need a team , then you are arguing for league contraction. In that case, let's start with Colorado and then we can move on to say... Detroit. They didn't sell out all their games and their play off games, so according to your logic, they are history. What? That's not what you were implying? C'mon Adam, if nothing else, at least be consistent in your logic.

Sure, Nashville has had bumps in the road- every franchise has. And you're right, Adam, the economy is going to have an impact, a negative one, on all sports. The hockey market in Nashville is strong, and it is growing, and it will succeed. No, there is not a string of 487 straight sellouts, and we will live with the competition from college football early in the season. The internecine bickering from writers such as you and the lazy perpetuation of a stupid theme that has been disproven does nothing to help the game.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Science Of Building A Winner

Building a winning team is as much art as it is science. Blending experienced veterans, untested rookies, and players added via trade or free agency is akin to a chemistry experiment in a science lab. Although you have known individual components, the final outcome once they are combined can be surprising.

Our resident mad scientist, GM David Poile, has built this version of the Predators using all of these components- rookies, veterans, and acquisitions. The outcome of this experiment is a work in progress, but so far, has started the season looking as if the experiment will yield success. It is instructive to look at the components of this team to see how they have blended on the ice.

The Predators are typically not going to be a team that makes headlines with free agent acquisitions or trades. That doesn't mean that they have been inactive in this area. The Predators have shown that they will make an acquisition or a trade- at the right price- if it fits in to the overall team concept. This year, the Predators have acquired free agents Marcel Goc, Ben Eaves, Peter Olvecky, and Ben Guite. Not exactly headline names, but players that bring grit and energy to a team that thrives on that style of play, are strong on the PK, and can chip in with timely goals. Guite and Goc are on the roster, while Eaves and Olvecky are with the team's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. Captain Jason Arnott was acquired via free agency after the 2006 season and has been the highest profile free agent acquisition (Peter Forsberg notwithstanding).

The Predators have a core of veterans that have been developed through the draft and have matured in their system. On opening night, 11 of the 20 players who dressed for the Predators were drafted and developed by the team. This is the manner in which this team has operated since their inception- scout well, draft smart, and develop the talent within the system. This group included three first round picks (David Legwand, Dan Hamhuis, and Ryan Suter), Two second round picks (Kevin Klein and Shea Weber), a third round pick (Teemu Laakso), one sixth rounder ( rookie Mike Santorelli), two seventh rounders (Martin Erat and Patric Hornqvist), and and eighth round pick (Pekka Rinne). For a team that operates with a limited budget, this is crucial to long term success and speaks volumes about the success of the system.

It has been standard operating procedure for the Predators to start rookies in their farm system to let them develop, and it is rare to see a rookie make the jump straight to the big club. This season, Mike Santorelli is starting his rookie season as a second line winger for the team, and rookie Colin Wilson, the outstanding center from Boston University, is on the roster and waiting in the wings as he recovers from a groin strain. This is a function of the team's need for scoring talent and the fact that these rookies have shown the skill to compete successfully at the NHL level. Captain Jason Arnott has said that the young players bring an energy and excitement to the team that makes going to rink fun. These rookies are being counted on not to just fill a spot on the roster, but to contribute, and as the season progresses, they will have to continue to mature and be productive for the team to be successful.

Taking these component parts and making them a successful team falls to Head Coach Barry Trotz. The only coach in Predators history, and the second longest tenured coach in the NHL, Coach Trotz and his staff is known for squeezing everything out of his talent and putting a hard working team on the ice. The system will fail if the component parts are not melded into a productive unit, and Trotz has been a master at this.

Steady, consistent development of the talent in the system doesn't generate buzz or flash. It also doesn't generate explosions in the laboratory that is a hockey club. This is the way the Predators will continue to build this franchise. And it is a formula for success over the long term.

My View

Some random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

Nashville is a "non-traditional" hockey market. That means that we are not part of the original six or north of the 49th parallel to most hockey purists. Those of us who live here know that Nashville is a growing and vibrant hockey market that is putting down deep roots, and one of the areas that is outstanding in this market is the quality of the bloggers and writers that cover our hockey team. Nashville's blogging community takes a backseat to no one when it comes to insightful, informative and creative blogging. Buddy Oakes has put together a site that lists all the local bloggers as well as relevant information about our beloved Predators. Check out his site at:

Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.

There are rumblings from different corners of the globe about continuing to use the dollar as the world's reserve currency. Middle Eastern oil producers are discussing using a basket of currencies for oil trading purposes instead of the dollar. Russia and China both have lobbied against the use of the dollar the world's reserve currency. And you may ask, "So what?" Just know this: we are the world's largest debtor nation, and we finance that debt by selling our treasury bills and notes to investors all over the globe. Our dollar's status as the world's reserve (read: most stable and secure) currency allows us to sell those bills and notes readily, and thus finance our debt, very cheaply. If the global marketplace were to use some other currency, or basket of currencies, as the de facto reserve currency, the impact on the dollar would be to lessen its value relative to other global currencies. This means the U.S. would have to stabilize the value of the dollar, and one of the ways they would do this is by raising interest rates. And that will have a significant impact on us on and our economy as we struggle to climb out of this recessionary hole.

My fan blows, my vacuum sucks, but my 'fridge is chillin'.

Props to the Predators marketing and technical wizards that put on the pre-game and in-game entertainment on the jumbotron and throughout the arena. I have been fortunate to see games in 12 other NHL arenas, and I can say that none compare to the energy and creativity that is reflected in the work of our folks. In talking to fans of other teams that have been to our barn, that is one of the comments that I often hear. We have an entertaining and exciting product, both on and off the ice. Oh, by the way, we have the only sports team in Nashville with a winning record. If you haven't taken in a Preds game, by all means, you need to enjoy the experience.

I tried using invisible ink once, but drew a blank.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Meet the Predators 2009

Dan Ellis and Marty Erat

Shea Weber and Steve Sullivan

Gnash was there to greet the many fans who come out to the event

Jordin Tootoo signing autographs

Terry Crisp, the View, Tom Callahan, and Pete Weber

Colin Wilson

Ryan Suter, Dan Hamhuis, and Francis Buillon meeting fans and signing autographs.

The 2009 Meet the Predators event was held at the Sommet Center, and fans had an opportunity to meet the current Predators team and get numerous pictures and autographs. Approximately 4000 fans turned out for this event. This is a great event for the fans and the players seem to enjoy it as much as the fans in attendance.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A Conversation with the Grim Reaper

Stu Grimson was known as one of the most fearsome fighters in the NHL, patrolling the ice for eight different NHL teams and playing 729 regular season games during his career. The Grim Reaper, as Stu was known, was not just a fighter, however. He was a solid hockey player and a leader both on and off the ice. Once his hockey career was over, Stu obtained his law degree from the University of Memphis Law School and began his legal career with the NHLPA. After a stint with that organization, Stu and his family returned to Nashville, where he is in private practice.

Stu was gracious enough to sit down with the View to talk about some hockey issues and life after hockey. Stu is articulate and affable, and talking to him feels like you are talking to someone you have known all your life. His perspectives are interesting and insightful.

Our first topic of conversation was about the current state of the NHLPA and the potential for a work stoppage in 2011. Stu believes that there will be no strike at the end of the CBA in 2011 and that a new agreement will be in place to prevent a work stoppage. "I think you could see one of two things happen with the salary structure in the NHL. One, you could still have a ceiling on salary, but eliminate the floor. The floor is very problematic for small market teams such as Nashville. The floor and ceiling are determined by league wide revenues, and small market teams have faced a rising salary floor since the implementation of the current CBA. Revenues, and revenue opportunities, are greater in a larger market and as the league's revenues rise, mainly because of what is happening in the larger markets, smaller markets are forced to spend money they may not have. So one option is to eliminate the floor and make it easier for small markets to spend to a budget that is appropriate for them."

"Another option is to eliminate the salary cap altogether, but establish a salary tax over a predetermined amount similar to what baseball has currently. A team can spend any amount they want for salaries, but over a predetermined amount, a tax is assessed against that team and redistributed to other teams in the league."

"The thing you have to remember and know is that you cannot purchase a championship in hockey. It takes an entire roster to win, and injuries can change the face of a team instantly. Hockey requires the contribution from every member of the team, and this is what successful teams get."

The conversation turned to the NHLPA and its recent firing of Executive Director Paul Kelly. Stu worked for the NHLPA, and because of some on going issues, did not want to discuss the current situation specifically. He did say that for the Players Association to function effectively, more players had to be engaged in the the activities of the PA. They cannot cede their responsibilities to the individual player reps or the leadership of the organization. Greater player involvement will lead to a healthier organization, in his opinion.

The conversation turned to the ice, and I asked Stu about the young players that are trying to make the jump to the NHL and what advice he would offer them. "I would tell any young player that he should do three things: listen; watch; and learn. It is not unwise to be deferential to experience. The guys that have been in the league are there for a reason, and they have a wealth of experience. Draw from that. See how they practice, how they are in the locker room, and what makes them successful as a player."

All teams need great leadership but especially those with a younger roster. I questioned Stu about leadership and what makes a great captain and leader. "Leadership comes from the captain and other leaders in the locker room. The words and actions of a few set the tone for the team. The best leaders and captains that I played for were extremely humble. I remember Steve Yzerman, a great hockey player and captain, answering every question that was asked of him. He was especially visible and accessible after a loss. That was not him just being the captain, but it was who he was as a person. At times, it would have been easier to duck in to the training room and avoid some of those questions, but he didn't. He was a leader."

Stu was a solid hockey player who carved out a career in the NHL as a policeman on the ice. Naturally, our conversation turned to fighting in the NHL. I asked Stu about staged fights- fights that are agreed upon and occur after the drop of the puck. "I find the term 'staged fights' peculiar. In my mind, there is no difference between that type of fight and a fight that occurs while a play is in progress. You are doing the same thing- letting someone know that their actions will not go unpunished or attempting to change momentum. If I asked a guy if he wanted to go at the drop of the puck or while we were skating down the ice, and they said yes, the result is the same. So I don't think there is a 'staged fight'."

We talked about the scraps that often break out after a clean check that flattens a player, and his response was very interesting. "There are two considerations here. The first is that you cannot let another team appear to have physical superiority. You have to respond physically to their physical play and show that you're not intimidated. The second is that if you are on the ice and this happens and you do not respond, you are wondering 'What is my coach going to think?' You were on the ice and didn't respond, and you could find your ice time limited if not eliminated. You do not want your coach negatively evaluating your play because you didn't do your duty."

Stu only played 30 games for the Predators when his career was cut short by an injury. We talked about life after hockey. "Even though I was well prepared for life after my playing days, it was a difficult transition out of hockey. I felt I still had games to play. As an athlete, accolades and opportunities seek you out. When you leave the game, you are staring at a blank canvas and you have to create something new and different with your life. I was able to finish my undergrad degree at Belmont through a league program called Life After Hockey, which works with each player to custom fit a program of development. I knew that I wanted to continue my education and get a graduate degree, and law was the field I chose. I never thought, however, I would practice law in the traditional sense. I thought I would tend toward being an agent or involved in some way in sports. And while I don't actively seek opportunities in hockey today, I don't rule anything out." Stu is practicing law at Kay, Griffin, Enkema, and Brothers in Nashville. Stu met my son, Matt, at a Predators ticket drive earlier this year. I introduced Stu as "The Grim Reaper", to which he responded "My life has changed and now I'm the Grim Reader."

"Hockey taught me to be a great team mate and it taught me accountability. Come to the rink, practice hard, and do your job. That has translated to my law practice. My goal is the same as all the attorneys in our firm- to provide exceptional legal counsel. The lessons I learned in hockey have carried over to my professional life."

I asked about Nashville and what he thought about living here. He said that when he told his wife there was an opportunity to come here, her response was "There is no way we are going to Nashville." Stu and his family are now firmly ensconced in our community and enjoy living here. Stu is active in the community and can occasionally be heard on Preds Radio doing color with Tom Callahan and can be seen at the rink. Stu is one of the good guys, and he is a shining example of an athlete that has taken the blank canvas of his life and is creating something new, different, and worthwhile. Our community is fortunate to have Stu and his family in our midst.

The View is grateful to Stu for his time, his candor, and his insight.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Youth Doesn't Care About History

The Predators continued to exorcise their demons of playing in the American Airlines Arena by besting the Dallas Stars 3-2 in a shoot out for a victory in the season opener for both teams. Great recaps of the game can be found at , and The AAA has historically been a house of horrors for the Preds, with the good guys winning only 4 times in their last 20 appearances. In the win last night, this team showed great resiliency, dealing with an injury to a top line forward (J. P. Dumont) and a horrific turnover that led to the tying goal. The game was eventually won in the shoot out with rookie Mike Santorelli firing a puck five hole on Marty Turco for the deciding goal.

At the Predators luncheon earlier in the week, captain Jason Arnott said something that came back to me as the game was unfolding. He mentioned that the young guys on the team have kept the veterans fresh and have made it fun to come to the rink. As this game hung in the balance and the Predators appeared to be giving the game away, the young guys continued the intensity and refused to wilt under the pressure of the moment or the weight of the history of this team in this arena. Patric Hornqvist moved up to the top line after the Dumont injury and picked up an assist on the night and played a solid game. And the aforementioned Santorelli netted the shoot out winner in an obvious pressure packed situation. The young guys didn't give a rat's rear end about the past failures. They didn't care that it was a hostile environment. They just played solid hockey and came through when it mattered.

Every team needs veteran leadership, guys that have been through the wars and can impart wisdom and share experience. Every team needs youthful enthusiasm as well. Enthusiasm and energy that doesn't know better, doesn't respect the negatives of the past, and embraces the challenge of the future. Look for the young pups to continue to play a prominent role for this team. And look for them to make their own history.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

The news that the Penske purchase of the Saturn division of General Motors is now a no-go is very troubling on several levels. There are the remaining approximately 1300 jobs that will be lost when the plant closes for good in November. There is also the loss of the ancillary jobs that were held by suppliers and logistics firms. These job losses will ripple through our local economy in a very negative way, impacting numerous families and businesses. The demise of "a different kind of car company" will be analyzed for years to come. Perhaps if it were truly different, GM would not have been compelled to shut it down.

I once went to a general store, but they wouldn't let me buy anything specifically.

A lot of focus right now is on the debt level of the federal government and the growth of that debt. Frankly, it is alarming when one truly considers the size of the federal deficit. A fundamental question one might ask when considering this debt is "Why doesn't the government just cut spending?" The reality, according to Bruce Bartlett, former Treasury Department economist, is that 62% of all government spending is MANDATORY! This mandatory spending is used to pay interest on the existing debt and pay entitlement programs such as welfare or social security. Of the remaining 32% of annual spending, the majority is spent for national defense, leaving $485 billion for everything else. The 2008 budget deficit was $459 billion. That means a balanced budget would require the elimination of virtually every single domestic program- social programs, road and infrastructure programs, air traffic control, and the FBI, just to name a few. Now we get an understanding of the intractability of this problem and the reluctance of politicians of all stripe to face it.

I have never liked camping. Too in-tents

2019. Keep that date in mind. That is the year that the Congressional Budget Office says we will borrow (read: sell Treasury Bills and Notes to the public and other nations) just to pay the interest on our debt. None of our borrowings at that time will be used for other purposes. National debt is projected to rise by 2019 to 67.8% of our GDP. The warning signs are flashing, the sirens are sounding. It will be interesting to see if we have the fortitude and honesty to deal with what could be a looming financial disaster for our country.

I don't suffer from insanity- I enjoy every minute of it.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Predators Face Off Luncheon- The Season Kickoff

The Nashville Predators held the 11th annual Face Off Luncheon at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville to launch the new hockey season. Coach Barry Trotz, the staff and all the players were in attendance as well as a sellout crowd of supporters. Pete Weber and Terry Crisp were the hosts and Preds radio announcer Tom Callahan was the roving floor reporter, taking questions (one of which I'm sure he wished he hadn't) from the attendees.

Each year, the team has a new slogan for their marketing campaign, such as "It Stays With You." Pete and Terry joked that this year's slogan or catch phrase was going to be "How's Your Groin" after so many players have suffered strains and pulls in camp.

The format was to have Coach Trotz and the leadership group- Captain Jason Arnott and Alternates Steve Sullivan and Shea Weber- speak. Coach Barry Trotz was the first to speak and the comment he made that really stuck with me was his statement that this team is very determined to get back to the playoffs. The attitude of the players was good; they didn't like missing the playoffs; and they were determined to get back.

Captain Jason Arnott spoke next, and he reiterated the comments of Coach Trotz by saying this team has been focused from day 1 of camp toward being the best they can be and getting back to the playoffs. He made some interesting comments about the mix of players on this squad, stating that the young guys keep the veterans fresh and make it fun to come to the rink every day. He said this team has great off ice chemistry.

Steve Sullivan spoke about his absence from hockey and how good it was to get back with his team mates and on the ice. He gave credit to GM David Poile and the Coaching staff for sticking with him when he was unsure if he was going to be able to play again., and that he learned that the power of positive thinking was critical to his recovery.

Shea Weber was the last player to speak, and he mentioned that it is a tremendous honor to wear the "A", and that a lot of players could have worn it. He said that he is growing in to the role as one of the leaders on the team. He talked about participating in the Canadian Olympic Camp over the summer and what a great honor it is to wear your country's flag in the Olympics.

All four were asked what they liked best about Nashville, and all four agreed it was the fans. Jason Arnott said that no matter what happens on the ice, the players feel the support of the fans, and that it is not like that in every NHL city.

Barry Trotz talked about the effect of then Olympic break on the team in February. He said that the schedule compression meant more games in fewer days and it was going to be a grind for all teams. The teams that come out the best will be those that have the greatest depth. His assessment was that Nashville has built good depth in the organization that should help in this Olympic year.

The team leaves in the morning for Dallas to open up with the season. It is a great time of year as we get ready to drop the puck and explore the potential of this team. No doubt, there are some unknowns, perhaps more than in years past. This is a group, however, that has talent, has great character, and perhaps most importantly, has a fire, a drive to get back to the playoffs. This group will be, I believe, surprisingly strong. Let's go, boys. Time to show us what you have got.