Saturday, February 28, 2009

Evil Empire Dominated and Vanquished

If I told you that the Preds and the Wings had played a hockey game and one of the teams had won 8-0, who would you think had won the game? Suppose I told you that the winning team had 19 takeaways and 23 blocked shots along with limiting the opponents scoring chances. How about winning the battles on the boards and in front of the net, not to mention solid D that limited scoring chances? If you said the Wings had won the game, that might be a reasonable guess. Tonight, however, it was the Preds that dominated from start to finish, crushing the Evil Empire with the most complete game that this team has played in years. Five (count 'em-5!) first period goals, the result of throwing pucks on the net and crashing the crease. Perhaps more importantly, this team didn't take their foot off the gas, scoring one goal in the second and finishing the third with two more goals. The Preds never let the Wings get a chance to establish much offensive flow, and when they did, Pekke Rinne was outstanding in net. The Preds were disciplined, taking only two minor penalties along with Shea Weber's fighting major (a fight in which Shea pounded Andre Lilja). This was total domination from start to finish as the Preds captured a vital two points. The Preds now have 66 points and sit in the 8th playoff spot, one point ahead of Minnesota, which is playing at the time of this post.

This team, offensively challenged for most of the season, has now potted 17 goals in their last three games. The aspect of their play that impresses is that they have simplified their game- shoot on net and crash the crease, support the puck, and play solid D in front of Pekke. The play in net has been stellar and gives this team confidence. Vital to the offensive success they have enjoyed is that contributions have come from all lines. Arnott had a hat trick; Legwand, Antii Pihlstrom, Joel Ward, Ville Koistinen, and Shea Weber also tallied for the Preds.

Three games played in a critical five game home stand and six points in the books. Edmonton comes to town on Tuesday night, and they are on the heels of the Preds. Enjoy the victory and take the lessons from this game and continue to apply them in this drive to the playoffs. This is your time, boys.

The Evil Empire Invades

Detroit (aka The Evil Empire) comes to town on a roll, going 10-2-1 in the month of February. The Preds are 10-5-1 in their last 16 games and fighting for their playoff lives. We know what the Wings bring offensively, averaging over 4 goals a game. For the Preds to be successful tonight, they must continue to play sound defense, throw pucks at the net, and crash the crease. Most of all, they have to stay out of the sin bin. Detroit has shown they will make you pay for taking penalties, ripping the Preds for 5 PP goals on 6 chances in the last meeting. Cal O'Reilly has been called up from Milwaukee and it remains to be seen if Marty Erat will play after tweaking a groin against Phoenix on Thursday night.

Game 3 of a 5 game home stand. Time to continue the winning ways.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Learning to Dance

Keeping with the theme of tripping the light fantastic....

The Preds captured an essential two points last night against the struggling Desert Dogs, winning 4-1. The Preds remain in 11th place in the Western Conference with 64 points. Minnesota, Dallas, Edmonton, and Anaheim occupy the 7th through the 10th spot and each have 65 points.

I entitled this post "Learning to Dance", because, like a neophyte on the dance floor, this team is learning to move to the rhythm of what makes them competitive and successful when they hit the ice. The last two games the Pred have embraced the attributes of what will carry them into the playoffs: an aggressive forecheck; being relentless on the offensive attack; being strong on the boards and in the corners; and playing solid D. I have called out the offense as being inept, or challenged. Last night they fired 47 (47!!) pucks on Bryzgalov and created numerous scoring opportunities. The Preds won 57% of their faceoffs while missing the leading faceoff man in the NHL. The Preds also limited penalties. This type of effort will lead to this team having their dance card punched for the playoffs.

The Evil Empire comes to town on Saturday night. They are moving at a different beat than the Preds, and that's okay. Stay within yourselves and keep the rhythm going boys. The Motown Sound has had its time. Let's rock and roll!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

You Dance With Who Brung Ya

Game night against the Desert Dogs as the Phoenix Coyotes roll into town. The Yotes come in with a 3-7 record in their last 10 games; the Predators sport a 5-4-1 record. Phoenix sits in the 14th spot with 59 points while Nashville occupies the 11th spot at 62 points. Gretzky's squad has shown they can play good hockey- witness their great start to this season. The Preds have shown they can play outstanding hockey and win games against the best in the league. For the Preds to capture and essential, nay*, a CRITICAL, two points tonight, they must dance with what has brought them success. Win the battles on the boards and in the corners; throw shots on net; and crash the crease. Score by committee if you must, but by all means score. Gotta shoot the puck and play sound D. Game 2 of this important 5 game home stand faces off tonight at 7:00. Center Ice has the only television coverage; 104.5 will have radio coverage.

* I have been trying to figure out how to get "nay" into a blog post for some time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The Kansas City Star is reporting that New York Islanders owner Charles Wang is considering a possible relocation of the franchise to Kansas City. KC, as you may recall, has built the new Sprint Center, but as of yet does not have an anchor tenant. The Islanders owner has proposed a new development called the Lighthouse Project in Nassau County, home of the Islanders franchise, that will include a new arena, a luxury hotel, and a minor league ballpark among other amenities. The proposal hinges on Nassau County and Hempstead Township agreeing to a lease on 150 acres on Long Island to Wang and the Islanders, which I am certain will have favorable terms for the team. The Islanders currently play in aging Nassau Coliseum and have a lease through 2015, however, there is an out clause should the local authorities fail to make significant upgrades to the coliseum or provide an acceptable alternative to the team. According to Wang, "I'm not contemplating it, I'm not negotiating with anyone, but I am keeping my options open- and they should be open all the time."

In Phoenix, TV station KNPX is reporting that the City of Glendale is foregoing $4MM per year in rent from the cash strapped Coyotes and making other concessions that total approximately $15MM. Owner Jerry Moyes is currently negotiating the sale of the franchise with up to three potential buyers, all from outside the Phoenix area. It is rumored that the NHL is also assisting the Coyotes with the payment of operating expenses. One might guess that a new owner from outside the Phoenix area would be contemplating relocation of the franchise as a condition of the purchase. Details will no doubt emerge in the coming weeks.

These developments point out the value of the diverse ownership group in Nashville and the favorable lease that the hockey club has at the Sommet Center, not to mention the broad based corporate support that that club has gathered form the local business community. The addition of Brett Wilson as a new member of the ownership group adds sound financial backing to a solid local group. We all know what it was like to have a carpetbagger attempt to take our franchise. We now know what it is like to have a quality group of owners and a franchise on solid ground.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Win That Can Define A Team

Down 3-1 at the end of two periods, the offensively challenged Preds looked like they were going to drop a game on home ice to the Hawks. The offense awoke with four third period goals to top the Blackhawks 5-3. Not only was this victory huge for the two points the team garnered, but it was a win that this club can build upon for the stretch run to the playoffs. I have said before that we have to have scoring from other lines besides the Arnott line, and tonight the Preds got it. Legwand gets a hustle goal to make the score 3-2. Dumont and Weber add power play goals (the PP unit finally seems to understand that you have to shoot the puck on the power play). Joel Ward gets a goal in the tough area in front of the crease, burying a rebound off a Marty Erat shot. In an earlier post, I had called out Marty for being held off the score sheet for the past nine games. Tonight, he responded with three assists and the first star of the game. Tonight, as a team, this club responded in the the face of adversity.

Granted, Chicago was at the end of an arduous road trip, but every team in the league has arduous road trips on their schedule. This is an explosive Chicago squad that possesses speed and skill, and for two periods, the Preds shut them down. More importantly, the offense came to life and overcame a two goal deficit in crunch time. This is a confidence builder, a win that the team can look back on and draw strength and use to believe in themselves. Winning breeds winning, and a comeback win like this breeds an air of confidence that will be invaluable to this club. Use this win, nurture the confidence, and take care of business.

A New Partner

Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun is reporting this morning that Calgary billionaire Brett Wilson has entered into an agreement to become an investor in the Nashville Predators. Wilson describes his investment as "nominal" (what's nominal to a billionaire?) and has been consumated by a "handshake". The formal documents have not been signed, and the league has to give approval of the transaction, but both are expected to occur without any complications.

Wilson is 51, and has been an investment banker in the oil and gas industry. He is also the lead investor in the English soccer club Derby County, and is an investor with Preds majority owner David Freeman in the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx AA baseball club in Jackson.

I believe this is a positive development for the Preds, bringing in some additional financial horsepower and solidifying the ownership group after the del Biaggio fiasco.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Push

Five straight home games, beginning with Chicago on Tuesday night, and the drive to the playoffs is in high gear. The Preds will be without Radek Bonk for at least two weeks with the recurrence of the mysterious "upper body injury". Speculation is that he again injured the wrist that originally put him on the shelf for a couple of games. The loss of Bonk means that the Preds lose their top face off man and a presence in front of the net on power plays. Now is the time for other players to step up and fill the void. I'm looking for better production from Marty Erat, who has been held off the score sheet for the past eight games and is a minus six.

For the Preds to succeed during this critical stretch, everyone has to step up their game. Scoring has to come from all the lines, especially the Arnott and Legwand lines. This is the time that winners step up and deliver. Pekke Rinne has been stellar in goal. Time to give him some support, boys.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Digging In

The last game in the season series with St. Louis went as expected: tough, physical play; great goal tending by both goalies; and neither team able to mount a consistent offensive attack in regulation. This was the type of game that was going to be won by the team that showed the greatest heart and refused to give up. Fortunately, it was the Preds that prevailed in overtime with Shea Weber blasting his 15th goal of the season through Chris Mason. This was a game that would have been easy to lose, yet the team was resilient, tough, and persistent. These are the qualities that the Preds have to bring to each game to continue their push to the playoffs.

The Preds now have 60 points and sit 3 points out of the 8th playoff spot occupied by Edmonton. The Western conference continues to be a log jam with six teams jockeying for a play off spot. The stretch drive in the latter part of the season will be as much about mental toughness as quality play on the ice. Veteran leadership in the locker room must come to the fore, and in turn, translate to quality play and maximum effort for the Preds to succeed. It's playoff hockey, and it's time to dig in for the stretch drive. Five straight home games, and the Preds MUST protect home ice. Dig deep- smart hockey and an unbending will to win, boys.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Different Spin, Same Results

The Preds came to play for the first two periods. Unfortunately for the Preds, it is a three period game, and the Preds were decidedly outworked in the third before falling 2-1 to St. Louis in overtime. There is nothing to say except the Preds are watching their season slowly slip away. For this fan, it is like watching a loved one die a slow death.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stop me if you have heard this before

An embarrassing loss to the Evil Empire as the Preds PK is shredded for 5 goals in 6 PP opportunities by the Wings in the process of falling 6-2. Another weak start, inept penalty kill, and little offensive pop doom the Preds. Same song, different verse, and frankly, this is becoming a tired tune. At some point, 6 guys on the ice have to take responsibility for their effort, heart, and level of play. The one positive out of this game is that the two Pred goals were scored by Steve Sullivan, his first tallies in over two years.

For the Preds to achieve the 90 point plateau, which I believe will be necessary to make the playoffs, they will have to go 16-7-1 over the remainder of the season. While the playoff possibilities are not gone, there is little margin for error for this team. It is now time for each player in the locker room to look deep inside themselves and ask how badly do you want it. Time to show the heart and grit necessary to win. No more excuses, boys.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

15 Days

The March 4th trade deadline looms large for teams in the playoff hunt in the NHL. The question for the fan of any team is "Will we be buyers or sellers?". For teams such as the Preds that are on the playoff bubble, that question will be decided in the next few weeks. It is informative to see who on the Preds roster is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. UFA's are free to sign with any team with no compensation to the team that lost the player in question. For a GM, the questions are many, including how does a particular player fit in with the future plans of the team; salary considerations; positional depth; and what does the market look like for potential replacements.

The following players are moving to UFA status at the end end of the season (along with their current salary) :

Steve Sullivan $3,200,000

Greg DeVries 2,750,000

Radek Bonk 1,600,000

Vernon Fiddler 900,000

Greg Zanon 750,000

Ville Koistinen 700,000

(Source: NHLPA)

With the current roster, the Preds have $11,356,000 in cap space. Will we buyers or sellers? GM David Poile faces some critical personnel decisions in the coming weeks. The Preds in times past have benefited from wading into the free agent pool, notably Paul Kariya and Jason Arnott. Do we go after another free agent? Do we trade one of the players mentioned above? The next few weeks on and off the ice will interesting for Preds fans.

Monday, February 16, 2009


The Preds offense showed as much effectiveness as a stimulus plan from Washington and could not overcome a 2 goal first period deficit, losing the game to the hot Ottawa Senators 2-0. Further proof that this team needs a good start and the offense has to click on all cylinders to get the W. No offensive consistency and the inability to solve backup goalie Alex Auld ends the Preds two game winning streak.

A busy and important week for the Preds as they face the Evil Empire on Wednesday, St. Louis on Thursday, and the Blues again on Saturday. Time to re-group and get back to doing the little things that lead to big wins.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Virtue of Patience

The Pittsburgh Penguins this afternoon announced that Head Coach Michel Therrien has been fired and replaced with Dan Bylsma from their AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Owner Mario Lemieux apparently lost patience with the coach of the struggling Penguins and decided to pull the plug on his coaching tenure. Pittsburgh sits at 27-25-5 and 59 points and is struggling to get to the 8th playoff spot in the East.

It is rumored that Therrien had conflicts with several players and that the locker room was less than cohesive. It can be argued that with the talent the Pens put on the ice they have underachieved so far this season.

In the view of The View (?), this is illustrative of the value of the coaching staff for the Preds. I will contend that Head Coach Barry Trotz and his staff have provided an environment that is not only stable, but affords the talent we put on the ice an opportunity to succeed. Players know what to expect from the staff, which is invaluable in fostering good chemistry and the ability to concentrate on hockey and avoid the extraneous distractions that sometimes affect the performance of a team. I believe that this coaching staff is unparalleled in getting the most out of the talent that they have been given.

The coaching staff of the Preds has earned the patience and support of the fans and the front office.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Beast is Tamed

A solid three periods of hockey against the best team in the NHL results in a Preds 3-2 shootout win. Kudos to David Legwand with two goals in regulation and the shootout winner and to Martin Erat who skated hard all night and scored the goal to extend the shootout. Pekke Rinne continues his mastery in the shootout by shutting down the Bruins, allowing a goal only to Blake Wheeler.

I had said in my previous post that scoring from the second line, specifically Legwand and Erat had to pick up, and tonight they came through. Tonight the Preds found out that a solid three periods of hockey can yield positive results.

The Preds are 7-3 since the All Star break. The log jam in the west continues as 5 points separates Anaheim in the 7th position and LA in the 12th. Nashville is currently 11th with 57 points and sits 3 points out of the 8th and final playoff position. Ottawa comes to town on Monday night and on a roll. The Preds have to continue to play desperate hockey. This is the playoff chase now, boys.

Offensively Challenged

TSN had an interesting column on Friday that ranked the best lines in the NHL based on even strength scoring with a minimum of 400 shifts together (the data is from Here are the best lines:

San Jose: Marleau, Thornton, Setoguchi 112 points

New Jersey: Parise, Langenbrunner, Zajac 112 points

Pittsburgh: Malkin, Dupuis, Crosby 112 points

Boston: Lucic, Savard, Kessel 98 points

Detroit: Hossa, Datsyuk, Holmstrom 98 points

Boston: Wheeler, Ryder, Krejci 98 points

Washington: Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin 85 points

Washington: Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kozlov 73 points

Detroit: Franzen, Datsyuk, Holmstrom 72 points

Philadelphia: Gagne, Knuble, Richards 68 points

So how do the top two lines for the Preds stack up? Keep in mind that there have been several different incarnations of our top two lines, so I have aggregated the scoring at even strength by the various line combination's and will call them first line and second line:

First line: 82 points

Second line: 52 points

Based on even strength scoring, our top line would rank in the top 10 lines in the NHL in point production. There is a significant drop off in the production of the second line, which has been reflected in wins this season. The top line for the Preds is going to draw the opponent's top D pairing, so for the Preds, production is essential from the second line to continue their march to the playoffs.

Management has made a significant investment in players like Legwand and Erat that comprise significant components of the second line. These players have to step up their game and show this investment was justified. This team (and these players) have to continue to work hard, and most importantly, have to produce for the Preds to have a shot at the playoffs.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Not for the Faint of Heart

WOW!! For the first time this season, the Preds pull the goalie and score at the end of the game. With three seconds to go Jason Arnott scores on a rebound to tie the Blues at 3. Steve Sullivan scores the only goal in the shootout and the Preds take a 4-3 win over division rival St. Louis. A huge two points as the Preds now stand at 55 points and keep the Blues at bay.

Two goals by the Preds D (Hamuis and Klein) and the goal that tied the game scored by Jason Arnott. The offense continues to struggle as the top two lines can't pot a goal until the last seconds of the game. For the Preds to continue to advance production HAS to come from Dumont, Sullivan, Legwand, Erat, and Jones. The top lines have to bear down, take the shot, and get the dirty goals. It is imperative that this team start better in the first period and for the top lines to produce as we continue the march to the playoffs.

Resiliency and heart were shown tonight. Believe in yourselves, boys, and play the kind of hockey that you can play. Boston in town on Saturday night, and it will take a total team effort to beat the beast from the east.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

90 Points and Reality

Nashville sits in the 12th spot in the Western Conference with 53 points. If you think, as I do, that it will take 90 points to secure a playoff spot, the Preds MUST go 18-9-1 over their last 28 games. The margin for playoff elimination is becoming razor thin, and the team does not have the luxury of taking off a period during a game or playing uninspired hockey. It's obvious this team is not as skilled offensively as ones in the recent past. So be it. Heart and the will to lay it all out on the ice can carry this team. Show me what you got, boys.

Game time is at 7:00

A solid second period of hockey by the Preds made for an interesting game last night before the good guys ultimately fell to the Evil Empire. Unfortunately, a horrific first period against a great team created a deficit that could not be overcome. Coming out flat, standing around and watching the other team skate, not ready to play- all accurate characterizations of the effort in the first period. Frankly, it is beyond me to understand how a team can NOT be up for a rivalry game like this one.

On to next one against St. Louis on Thursday night. Now is the time to play with some intensity, and yes, even some desperation. Game time is at 7:00, boys.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bounce Back Time

Big D stands for disappointment as the Preds drop a 4-1 decision to the red hot Stars. A fluky goal, a soft goal, and a goal that came after an awful clearing attempt by Dan Ellis that resulted in a 5 on 3 goal put the Preds in a 3-1 hole. Dallas finished the contest with an empty netter. Time for the Preds to put this one in the rear view mirror and get ready for a pivotal week of hockey. The evil empire from Detroit rolls into town on Tuesday; the resurgent Blues, currently nipping at the heels of the Preds in the standings come to town on Thursday; and on Saturday, the Beast from the East, Boston, comes calling. The resiliency, heart and toughness of the team gets tested in a big way this week as the march through February and a possible playoff berth continues. Tough week and an opportunity for character to shine through.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Playoff hockey in February

As of Sunday morning, the Western Conference standings were:

San Jose 79 points (Division leader)

Detroit 75 points (Division leader)

Calgary 64 points (Division leader)

Chicago 66 points

Anaheim 59 points

Dallas 57 points

Vancouver 56 points

Minnesota 55 points

Columbus 55 points

Los Angeles 53 points

Nashville 53 points

Phoenix 53 points

Colorado 51 points

St. Louis 50 points

As the standings indicate, every game is critical to the playoff push for a number of teams. The Preds have started the month of February 4-0 and have played themselves back into the playoff race. This is the time that winners step up and do the necessary things to win games- play with heart, grit, and determination. The Preds are on the road again with a 5:00 face off in Dallas. This is the time where we find out who wants to win and who will fall by the way. Time to show us what you got, boys.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hockeynomics 101

The Tennessean reported this past week that the Predators expect to show a small profit at the end of the season. Obviously, this is good news for the Preds and the viability of the franchise in Nashville. Several factors come into play when looking at the economics of a hockey franchise, notably per game attendance, corporate sponsorships, and the stability of ownership, to name the most prominent factors. In looking at these factors, one would say that the trends are positive for the Preds. Attendance is averaging right at the magical 14,000 per game to participate in the league's revenue sharing program, with per game attendance approximately 800 more fans per game than at this time last season. Local ownership has done a great job signing up more local sponsorship, notably Nissan and Vanderbilt Medical Center. In cannot be understated the positive impact that a local ownership group has had in this area as well as the general stability of the Predators franchise. The Boots del Biaggio saga notwithstanding, local ownership has made great inroads into the Nashville business community, and the results are being shown in the bottom line. Hockey fans in Nashville will always be grateful to Craig Leipold for bringing hockey to Nashville, but Craig's biggest shortcoming was that he did not have local ties to the Nashville business community and was, for all intents and purposes, an absentee owner. This precluded the necessary ties to the business community and the resultant support that comes from those relationships. So for the 2008-2009 season, the financial outlook looks positive.

For me, the question becomes what happens next year. With the economy in the throes of the the worst recession since the great depression, can this franchise (or for that matter, any franchise) continue to enjoy financial success? The league is currently working with Phoenix, a franchise in desperate financial straits, to salvage the franchise. David Shoalts of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper reports that the the Coyotes are losing $30 million dollars a year, and that owner Jerry Moyes is actively seeking financial partners or attempting to sell the franchise. Moyes, the owner of Swift Transportation, a trucking company, can no longer fund the operating losses of the franchise and is locked into an unfavorable long term lease (25 more years) at arena in Glendale. Additionally, Moyes owes $80 million to a New York hedge fund that was used to purchase the franchise. By comparison, the Predators have a more favorable lease with the City of Nashville; they have managed their payroll well; debt is manageable; and the owners have approached the ownership of the franchise from the perspective of civic pride, not profitability. Certainly, they do not want to hemorrhage red ink, but profits from hockey operations, while essential, are not the first priority.

The tenuous economy forces one to look at the critical factors for the financial success of the Predators franchise. First, will ticket sales hold up for the coming year? Increasing season ticket sales is essential. A significant drop off in season ticket sales bodes ill for any franchise, especially the Predators. There is no doubt that this will be a major push in the off season, and for the franchise to be stable, ticket sales must remain at or near current levels. Secondly, corporate sponsorships must continue to be added. Over the years, Nashville has lost some corporate and regional headquarters (such as American General and Kroger's). Corporate sponsorship dollars tend to gravitate to the city that is home for those corporations, which has been a detriment to the large dollars being available in this market. The front office has to continue to make available sponsorship opportunities that fit with our business community. Lastly, the ownership interest that del Biaggio had (25%) must be resolved to solidify the stability of the ownership group. TSN has reported that Calgary investment banker Brett Wilson has reportedly been in negotiations to buy del Biaggio's interest in the Predators. Wilson has some ties to the current ownership group as he is a partner with David Freeman in the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, a AA baseball club in Jackson, TN. It will be up to the bankruptcy trustee in the del Biaggio case to resolve the disposition of his interest. With vultures such as Jim Balsille around, and until the trustee does so, that cloud hangs over the franchise.

Overall, Preds fans should take heart in the fact that the franchise is financially healthy. This summer poses many financial challenges, not only to the Predators, but to the league as a whole. Ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, and stability of the ownership group are the critical variables that fans of the Preds should be watching.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Character shines through

The Preds take down Minnesota 2-0 to improve their February record to 4-0. Character, or heart, shows itself in many ways. Dan Ellis plays in his first game since January 17th and pitches the shutout. This team took the approach that it was a new season after the All Star break and they have played with grit, fire, and character. The trait that stands out to me is that there is no quit in this team. The march through February continues with a Sunday faceoff in Dallas.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tough goals, good win

The Preds take down the Ducks 4-2. Three of the four goals are scored in the "hard" areas, with Ryan Jones, Jason Arnott, and Marty Erat crashing the front of the net to score. The Preds are showing heart and doing what it takes to win in this critical stretch drive. They are now 3-0 in the month of February. Showing some heart and doing what it takes to win. On the road tomorrow against the Wild.

Log jam in the West

The march through February continues tonight as the Anaheim Ducks, aka the "Quack Attack" invade the Sommet Center. Currently, Vancouver sits in the 8th playoff spot with 54 points; Edmonton, Columbus, and Phoenix all have 53 points; and Nashville, Los Angeles, and Colorado all have 49 points. It goes without saying that each game is critical to the playoff hopes of the Preds, especially these games in our barn. Time to man up and play some inspired hockey, boys.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

So far, so good

The team continues to show some heart and is winning the games they need to win with a good win over the Coyotes. This continues the positive start to a crucial February stretch as the Preds get a 2-1 win over the Phoenix, which stood ahead of them in the standings. Anaheim on Thursday night. Edmonton sits in the 8th spot with 53 points; Nashville is 4 points out of 8th with 49 points.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Stable or Stagnant?

A big win yesterday afternoon in Edmonton. The first step is a good one in this critical month for the Predators.

The Ottawa Senators today announced the firing of head coach Craig Hartsburg. Cory Clouston from the team's AHL affiliate in Binghamton has been named as interim head coach. This is the Sens fourth head coach since their Cup final appearance in 2007.

I mention the situation with the Senators because there was some grumbling prior to the All Star break that it was time to get rid of the Predator coaching staff and start anew. The question becomes one of when the staff becomes ineffective, or worse yet loses the team. When does a franchise cross over from being stable to being stagnant? And most importantly, have the Predators crossed that line?

Any answer to that question is subjective, whether it the fan sitting in 111, the GM, or the owner making that call. So what metrics do we use to determine that answer. Again, it is subjective, but I would offer three for your consideration:


Is this a team that demonstrates that sometimes ephemeral quality that we call "chemistry"? Is the locker room solid; is there cohesiveness on and off the ice; do the players care for one another? This season has shown us that chemistry can be a fragile thing- witness the start to the season for the Dallas Stars with Sean Avery in their locker room. Good chemistry can carry a team through the tough times that inevitably emerge in each 82 game season. Bad chemistry rips apart a team when they encounter those stretches. Good chemistry manifests itself in grit, effort, and perseverance.


Coaches coach and players play the game, but it becomes very apparent when the players have tuned out the coach. The recent past is littered with successful coaches that have lost their team- Hartley in Atlanta; Tortorella in Tampa Bay; Paddock in Ottawa. Regardless of the talent the coaches had on their roster, the on-ice product was woefully lacking. A coaching staff that is stable adapts to the talent on the roster. More importantly, they take that talent and produce results. One can look at the Senators roster today and see the talent and look at the standings and realize that there was a disconnect between the players and the coaches. A great staff can and will squeeze every drop of talent possible out of a squad.


Now it gets tricky. There are numerous questions to ask: will ownership open the check book to sign talent; does the front office properly evaluate the players on the roster as well as the potential players that could be added; is the farm system deep with talent; and are the coaches allowed to coach? There are other questions, I'm sure, but these come to the fore when asking if your franchise, your team, is stable or stagnant. And for this fan sitting in 111 and not privy to the inner workings of the front office, I can't answer those questions. Much like the chemistry in the locker room and the adaptability and skill of the coaching staff, the front office is critical to stability, and an incompetent front office can destabilize a team. I would submit that management can do this more quickly than any other component of a franchise. From a Cup final in 2007 to a team in shambles in 2009, Ottawa is a case study for management ineptitude.

There is a fine line between a stable, successful franchise and one that has become stagnant and in disarray. Right now, it is my belief that the Preds are a franchise that is stable and solid. This is a fragile condition that has to be continually nurtured. The players have to realize the opportunity they have been afforded; the coaches have to continue to get the most out of their talent; and, most importantly, the front office has to continue to provide the tools and the environment for success.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Heart means many things to people. In the vernacular of sports, heart can indicate a burning desire to win, picking up your team and carrying them on your back. Call it grit, determination, desire, whatever your favorite term, the winners display it and the losers lack it. Sometimes heart is displayed by an individual that rallies his teammates; sometimes heart is the composite of a team doing what it takes to win.

15 games in February. The season and a possible playoff berth on the line. This is the drive to the post season for the Predators. Time to dig down deep and do the things that produce victories. Win the battles in the corners; be immovable in front of the net; throw the puck on goal. Time to show some heart, boys