Thursday, December 31, 2009

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

Congratulations to Tim and Danielle Darling on the birth of their son, Hayden Daniel Darling. Hayden weighed 8lbs, 2oz. Tim is the Director of Communications for the Nashville Predators and a great guy. Welcome to Hayden, a future Predator.

Dancing is a perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire.

In a little known action, the Treasury Department raised the guarantee for mortgages issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two giant government mortgage lenders, to over $400 billion. That simply means that the U. S. taxpayer is on the hook for bad (read: uncollectable) mortgages that have been issued by these entities. We pay attention to the stimulus funds approved by Congress and new federal programs such as socialized medicine that is under consideration. The fact is that spending by Congress and the wasteful use of OUR money is out of control. And unfortunately, there appears to be no end in sight. Spending at these levels and failure to recognize our mistakes dooms future generations to a significantly lower standard of living. It's time for all of us to pay closer attention to the cesspool that is our federal government and the waste that is going on with impugnity.

You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

A new year awaits, with numerous opportunities and challenges. As this year unfolds, my wish for all of you is that this year be filled with great blessings and joys for you and all your loved ones. The challenges we will face will be difficult, but they are not insurmountable. In the face of great difficulty is when the best rise up to meet the challenges before them. My hope for each of you is that the challenges you face will bring out the very best in you.

If you were going to shoot a mime, would you use a silencer?

And that, my friends, is my view.

Predators Continue Their Dominance of the Blue Jacket With a 2-1 OT Win

The Predators came in to the game with the Columbus Blue Jackets with four key players out of the line up, and this game shaped up as a trap game for the Preds. Playing in Columbus against a team that desperately wanted to reverse their fortunes, this contest shaped up as one that could give the Predators fits.

Raffi Torres scored off a rebound to give the Jackets a 1-0 lead, and the way the game progressed, it appeared that the BJ's would finally end their futility against the Predators as they kept them bottled up all night. Matthieu Garon made some key saves when called upon, and the Predators were stymied offensively for much of the game.

That would change in the third period when Joel Ward worked hard to corral the puck along the boards and flipped a perfect pass to Andreas Theuresson who was alone in the low slot. He roofed a puck past Garon to tie the game at one. The score remained tied heading in to overtime.

Just :28 seconds in to the extra period, Joel Ward again dug out a puck and got it to David Legwand, who went high over Garon's shoulder, and the Predators skated away with another victory over the Jackets by a 2-1 score.

With this victory, the Predators have run their record to 22-2-1 over the BJ's over the last four years.

With so many starters out of the line up, it would have been easy to say this game wasn't meant to be for the Predators. It was a game that could have easily gone into the loss column, and one could look at the line up and say that a loss was to be expected. Players out due to injury and playing in a hostile environment were not factors that were in the Predators favor.

What was in their favor, however, was the heart and fight in this team. When key players were missing from the line up, it was incumbent on the call ups to step in and play quality hockey. And play quality hockey they did. Players that were thrust in to key role stepped in and played solid hockey. Players contributed that were not expected to contribute, and because of their effort, the Preds now have 51 points and 24 wins.

Since October 28, the Predators are 21-8-2. This has happened because this team has the heart of a champion. They have grit. They don't quit. They get contributions from all lines. This team isn't flashy. They don't garner a ton of accolades. All they do is win.

Dan Ellis steps in and stops 31 of 32 shots. Andreas Theuresson scores his first NHL goal. David Legwand steps up in overtime and pots the game winner. Joel Ward does the dirty work to set up both goals. Unheralded, this team is the sum of its parts, all meshing together to get wins.

This team was not expected to be where it is today. Winning games and in the playoff hunt. Tied for 5th in the Western Conference. However, this team believes in itself, in each other, and in their system. They now know that when they go out and play the style of hockey for which they are built, they can win.

You can cite the All-Stars and the Olympians that each team has. You can cite statistics and leading scorers. What you cannot measure is the heart, the drive, and the desire of a team. This team has those characteristics in an abundance. Keep up this style of play, boys, and you will continue to confound the experts. and you will find yourself in the playoffs.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Predators Defeat Blues 4-3 In a Chippy Contest

The Nashville Predators snapped a three game losing streak, outlasting the St. LouiS Blues 4-3 in a contest marked by chippiness and cheap shots by the Blues. With this win, the Predators have now tallied 23 wins and 49 points for the season and maintained their hold on second place in the Central Division.

St. Louis opened the scoring with a goal by Carlo Colaiacovo just 1:29 in to the contest as he blasted a shot past Pekka Rinne.The Predators tied the game just over four minutes later as J.P. Dumont set up Marcel Goc for his eighth goal of the season, tying a career high for goals. The Predators took a 2-1 lead at 12:49 of the first period as Patric Hornqvist potted his 13th goal of the year by doing the tough work in front of the St. Louis net. He was able to deflect a shot from the circle by Martin Erat past Blues goalie Chris Mason. That score stood for the remainder of the period.

Joel Ward scored the Predators third goal with a tip in in front of the net for his sixth goal of the season. Again, this goal was scored by a Predator going in to the "hard areas" as Head Coach Barry Trotz calls them. Areas that require toughness, areas where you will pay a price to maintain position, but areas where you can be rewarded for the hard work. Wardo was rewarded for his efforts, and because of them, the Predators extended the lead to two goals.

J. P. Dumont stretched the lead to three goals with a beautiful rush, fighting off a defender and sliding the puck five hole on Mason. At 4-1, this game looked well in hand.

Looks can be deceiving. The Blues cut the lead to 4-2 with a sharp angle goal by Alex Steen at 9:08 of the third, beating Rinne to the far corner top shelf. That goal seemed to breathe new life into the Blues and they turned up the intensity. From that point on, the Preds looked as if they were just trying to hang on for the win.

Andy MacDonald scored on an easy tap in on a Blues power play, as Pekka Rinne could not control a rebound. Keith Tkachuk slid the puck over to a wide open MacDonald for the score at 12:30 of the third, and all of a sudden, the Predators were hanging on for dear life.

Although the Blues had some great scoring chances, Rinne was able to shut the door and the Predator defense bottled up the Blues and limited the quality scoring chances against the Predator net. The clock ran out, and the Predators had the win they needed to right the ship.

This was a chippy contest, and the Blues took every liberty they could on the ice. Kevin Klein was knocked out of the game by a head shot from behind by Tkachuk in the first period. Marty Erat was taken out of the game by a knee on knee hit from Barret Jackman in the second period. There was plenty of rough stuff in front of the Blues net as Patric Hornqvist took a number of hits after the whistle. Chippy. And Cheap. The Blues looked like a desperate team trying anything, legal or not, to end their home ice losing streak.

I had mentioned that the Predators needed their best players to be their best players for this team to have an opportunity to win. Tonight, the best players stepped up. Shea Weber had three assists and was solid in the defensive zone. J. P. Dumont had a goal and an assist. Marty Erat had an assist before being taken out of the game. Patric Hornqvist continued his tough play in front of the opponents net and was rewarded with a goal. Joel Ward scored by going to the net. This is the way this team has to play to win. Tonight, they played Predator hockey. Tonight, they skated off the ice with a win.

With this win, the Predators are 24-6-3 against the Blues since the 2005-6 season. These are tough games, but the kind of games the Predators need to win to stay in the playoff hunt.

It would have been easy to wilt under the pressure that the Blues exerted in the third period. The Predators bent, but they didn't break. They didn't quit. They played with heart.

The wars will continue. Every game will be a battle. Everyone on this team will have to battle, have to show heart, and play with grit. Expect the battles. Play to win. Play Predator hockey and continue the march to the playoffs.

A Classy Act by a Class Act

While Predator fans were enjoying a 2-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at the Sommet Center on November 14th, a very classy gesture occurred that got no notice. It was a gesture that I think epitomizes the character of the one who did it and provides a glimpse into why the Predators have enjoyed the success they have.

If one look around the arena at a Predators game, you might notice a box above the seats in section 315. Sometimes General Manager David Poile can be spied in that box, or Director of Hockey Operations Mike Santos. One person who is always in that box is Predators video coach Robert Bouchard. "Bouch" is like the coach in the press box at a football game, giving the high angle view of the game and other information down to assistant coaches Brent Peterson and Peter Horachek via the headphones. Far removed from the action on the ice but integral to the play of the team, Bouch spends the game in his lofty perch above section 315.

I had a chance to talk to Bouch over the Christmas holiday and he told me that when he was in the locker room for the second intermission of the Montreal game, Head Coach Barry Trotz came up to him and said don't go back upstairs. Instead, he wanted Bouch on the bench to coach the third period. Remember, this was a 1-0 contest going in to the third, and the game was still in the balance.

Bouch told me that the import of this gesture was beyond words for him. You may not know this, but Robert Bouchard is from Montreal, and has lots of friends and family that pay close attention to this game. Coach Trotz knew that, and took his "eye in the sky" out of his usual location and put him behind the bench to coach, confident that the team would uphold their end of the bargain. And in the process, honored one of his staff members.

I had a chance to listen to Steve Sullivan yesterday when he was XM Radio's Home Ice segment. Sully was asked what it was like to play for Trotzy, and he said that he was accessible, a good communicator, and most of all, respected the people around him. This quiet gesture by Coach Trotz to one of his coaches personifies the quality of respect that he has for those around him.

People that follow hockey often marvel and ask the question about how Barry Trotz is able to get so much out of his players each and every season. I think this example provides a glimpse into an aspect of how he is able to squeeze so much out of his talent. And it provides a glimpse into Barry Trotz, not just as a coach in the NHL, but as a man.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Defensive Lapses Cost Predators a Critical Win

The Predators lost a heartbreaker to Chicago 5-4 as Patrick Kane scored the game winner with :43 seconds remaining in the third period. While the Predators showed more heart and a much better effort in this contest than in the one the night before, defensive breakdowns cost this team two vital points.

John Madden scored two goals for the Hawks by taking long lead passes and getting behind the defense to beat goaltender Dan Ellis. His first tied the game at 2, and his second gave the Hawks a 3-2 lead. Both occurred in the third period, a period that the Predators started with a 2-1 lead.

Marcel Goc opened the scoring for the Predators with his seventh goal of the season, one off his career high. Marty Erat continued his hot streak by notching 14th goal of the season early in the second, and the Predators maintained the one goal lead for the rest of the period.

The wheels came off for the Predators in the third, as the aforementioned Madden tallied consecutive goals and Brian Campbell added a power play marker with Dan Hamhuis in the box. With six minutes remaining in the game, and staring at  a 4-2 deficit, the Predators looked dead in the water.

This time, however, the team showed heart and refused to quit. With traffic in front of the net created by Joel Ward, Dan Hamhuis scored from the blue line with a knuckleball that went five hole on Blackhawk goalie Antii Niemi. The Predators kept the pressure up and :52 seconds later, Cody Franson scored to tie the game. This time, there was no quit in the Predators.

Kane (aka "Twenty Cent") ended the Predators hope for a victory with his late goal, and although the Predators had a flurry of activity in front of the net, they couldn't get one in the net to force overtime. Some rough stuff occurred at the horn as Brent Seabrook took a cheap shot crosscheck on Marty Erat, and several scrums broke out as a result. It remains to be seen if the League will review the extracurriculars for any supplemental disciplinary action.

The Predators have now lost three in a row. The positives of this game is that this team showed some heart and fight and stood skate to skate with a very talented team. The negatives are the defensive breakdowns, penalties at inopportune times, and the inability to hold a lead. Build on the positives and learn from the negatives, because it is not going to get any easier.

Tonight, this team, at times, exhibited the type of hockey that they need to play to win games. They shot the puck, crashed the crease, won battles on the boards. I have said this all season, and I will repeat it now- this is what you have to do to win. Play this way, and you will be fine.

A word to a couple of players. Jason Arnott, J. P. Dumont, Steve Sullivan, and David Legwand: this team needs you to start stepping it up. You guys are too talented to be this inconspicuous and too essential to the success of this team to be this invisible. You haven't been around much lately, and we miss you. And the team misses you.

It's not going to get any easier boys. Recognize that and get ready for the battles. They are a comin'. You have shown that you can win the battles, and now it is time to go out and get back on the winning side of the ledger. You showed that when you want to, you can play with the best.

Everyone that follows the game has been surprised by how well you have played to this point. That's history. Time to set your sights on beginning a new winning streak. No more breakdowns. No more lapses.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Contender or Pretender?

I will admit that I'm not in a good mood while writing this. With a chance to close the gap with Central Division leader Chicago, the Predators came out flat and failed to answer the challenge that was before them. An opportunity to step up and instead there was a disappointing step backwards.

It's cliche, but your best players have to be your best players. Tonight, with the exception of Marty Erat tallying the Predators lone goal, the best players were invisible. The Predators never mounted a serious offensive threat all night as they were dominated in the defensive zone and could not move the puck through the neutral zone effectively. All in all, a frustrating night.

There is no doubt that Chicago is a talented team. It's true that for the Predators to have a chance against the Hawks they have to play their best game. This team has proven that they can play with the Chicago. But not tonight.

The aspect of this game that is beyond me is how, as Captain Jason Arnott said in his post game remarks that this team came out flat. Flat! In a game that was one of the most important games that this team will play. Flat! In front of a sellout crowd. Flat! In your own barn. Frankly, this is beyond comprehension.

Pekka Rinne got the start, and he was victimized by turnovers in the offensive zone, odd man rushes, and poor defensive coverage. Pekka is owed an apology by his defense.

Look, this is the time to play hard hockey. Predators, you are the hunted. You have to play with an edge, with energy, and with heart. Anything less will result in the pathetic effort that we saw tonight.

The things that got you to this point- grit, heart, winning the battles- were not evident tonight. Coming out flat is unacceptable. I place the responsibility for this on the leadership in the locker room. Words are one thing. Lead by example. Tonight, the best players, the leaders, disappeared.  No example of heart and leadership.

Two games in a row, two ugly losses. Two games don't make a trend, but two games have exposed some of the softness of this team. When challenged, you didn't answer. That is disturbing. When faced with an opportunity to make a statement, there was no heart. And that has to change. Now.

The time to remove this cloud is tomorrow night. Against the Hawks, the team that dominated you in your barn. Time to play like contenders. And time to get me in a better mood.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My View

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Isaiah 9:6

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his town to register. 

So Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An Angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the Angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today, in the town of David a savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the Angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth, peace to men
on whom his favor rests."

Luke 2: 1-14

Light has pierced the darkness. Good news has been given to all mankind. It is my hope that the peace and joy of this Christmas season be yours every day in the coming year.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Canucks Crunch Predators 4-1

The Predators winning streak came to a crashing halt at GM place in Vancouver, as the Canuckleheads Canucks thumped the Predators 4-1. This was the Predators last game before the Christmas break and the Predators played as if they were ready to be home. Outworked and outhustled for most of the game, the Predators never mounted a serious threat to desperate Vancouver squad looking to get back in to the playoff hunt.

The Predators survived a first period onslaught 0-0 where they were outshot 14-6 and under duress for the entire period. Dan Ellis got the start in net and was called on to make some quality saves as the Canucks peppered the Nashville net. Offensively, the Predators did not seriously challenge Roberto Luongo, and were fortunate to escape with a scoreless tie.

That changed in the second period as Steve Bernier found himself alone in front of Dan Ellis and deftly slipped the puck in the net for a 1-0 Vancouver lead. Ten minutes later, Daniel Sedin scored on a power play goal to make the score 2-0. The Predators survived the remainder of the second with no further damage.

Damage occured in the third period, though, as both Sami Salo and Henrik Sedin tallied with even strength goals to push the margin to 4-0. Patric Hornqvist scored a beautiful goal over Luongo's shoulder for the Predators only goal, and the streak came to a halt with the 4-1 loss.

A major concern for the Predators is the long term health of forward Jerred Smithson, who left the game after two shifts when he blocked a shot and appeared to injury his hand or wrist. Smithson is being evaluated by team doctors after the team arrives back in Nashville.

I'm not going to go all Scrooge on the Predators by dwelling on the shortcomings of this game. I'm certainly not happy about the outcome or the effort. I am going to focus on the 7-2-1 record in the last ten games and what it took to win those games: heart, hustle, grit, and determination. Those were not on display tonight. So be it- I don't like it, but that is what happened.

Now there are several days off and the opportunity to rest and recharge. Do that, boys, because it is a long season and the sixty minute wars are only going to get tougher. Steel yourself, because you will jump back in to in a big way with the home and home series with the Blackhawks.

The importance of losing a game such as this is that it can bring the focus back on to the things that made winning possible. No, losing is not fun, but it can be invaluable in reinforcing the necessary lessons about how to win, especially in the course of a long season.

Time to regroup and start a new winning streak. In the spirit of the holidays, time to be Scrooge for a lot of other teams.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Predators Are Visited By Santa

Ho, Ho, Ho, it's the jolly old fat guy here... What? NO, not Ken Hitchcock! Santa Claus! Kris Kringle. I have , ahem, "borrowed" the View's blog to share some early Christmas cheer with my favorite hockey team, the Predators, their fans, and the Nashville sports community. So let's take a look in the old bag... I swear if there is one more Mrs. Claus joke from the elves when I say that they are all fired! Anyway, let's see what we have for the boys.

Ah, for my favorite agitator, Jordin Tootoo, I have some kevlar boots for the next time he is on the ice with Shea Weber. Friendly fire and all that, you know. Get healed up soon, my boy.

Look what I have for David Legwand and Marty Erat- a calendar with the start of hockey season circled in early October. You boys were MIA for the first month of the season, but ol' Santa sure likes the way you are playing now.

For Patric Hornqvist, I have a Swedish masseuse to massage out all the the bumps and bruises that you get from the beatings you take in front of the opponents net. Ol' St. Nick will get her to you shortly. Just want to make sure she is, uh... properly trained. Yeah, that's it. Properly trained.

Steve Sullivan, I have a back for you that is as strong as your heart.

For Joel Ward, Marcel Goc, Ryan Jones, Jerred Smithson, and Dave Scatchard, I have new lunchboxes. You guys are the epitome of a lunch pail group of guys, but you bring it like Santa, only every night.

Ho, Ho, Ho, let's see what else... What? Phone call from Mr. Woods? Oh, tell him that's not what I meant!

Anyway, where was Ol' Santa? Oh, yes...

To Head Coach Barry Trotz,  some extra large vise grips to continue squeezing all the talent out of these guys that he can. Oh, look, and some mistletoe to distribute to the voters of post season awards so maybe, just maybe, he can get a little love when it comes time to vote for Coach of the Year.

Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis, I have groins made out of rubber bands for you guys. You boys have made Santa happy with some amazing saves, and Santa likes to be happy. Keep it up, and Santa might bring you boys one of those Swedish masseuses as well. Ho, Ho, uh... nevermind.

Oh look, Santa has a special gift for the Nashville Sports Authority. A book for each member entitled "Leases for Dummies: An Understanding of How Their Lease With the Predators Works". Hey, Sports Authority members- Santa's watching you. Don't make me put coal in your stocking.

And for the good boys in the Predators Ownership Group I have ... Butts. Lots of Butts. In seats. At the Sommet Center, or whatever you're calling the big concrete place on Broadway. Happy butts, eager to see hockey and spend money.

A last minute gift for the Tennessean. Your sports section is beginning to get it and not treat the Predators as an afterthought, and Santa likes that. But for the rest of you guys... well let's just say that you're lucky Ol' Santa didn't leave something worse than coal in your stocking, if you know what I mean. So for Nate, Michael, Brad, and anyone else that chooses to write about the off ice affairs of the Predators, my present to you is the ability to be a real reporter, not a wannabe. Dig deeper; ask the follow up questions, and fairly present all sides of the story.

Santa has just a couple of more gifts for some very special people, and Santa has put a lot of thought in to these gifts.

For William "Boots" Del Biaggio a big burly cell mate.Who thinks you are cute.

For Jim Balsillie, an NHL franchise in Hamilton. Attendance is horrific as fans in Hamilton decide they like curling better. The franchise is later acquired from you, and despite assurances to the contrary, is moved in the dead of night to South Florida.

And finally, for Pete Weber and Terry Crisp. You guys are the best and Santa likes the way you good boys call the game. So for you, Petey, no "pre-mature flaming" (we all know how embarassing that can be), a continued encyclopedic knowledge of all sports, and the stamina to keep up with your broadcast partner. And for you, Crispy, an endless supply of "Bubba's", 'cause Santa likes to take a drink every time you say that. Ol' Santa sometimes has a hard time remembering past the first period, but, Ho, Ho, Ho, that's just fine. That's what DVR's are for. And a "bobble" of fine wine to share with your lovely wife.

Santa has many more gifts in his sack, but you're just gonna have to wait until Christmas morning to see what I bring. I have to get these elves cracking since time is short. They really no longer like to be called elves, so since they work for me, I refer to them as subordinate clauses..

Any way, I had better give the View back his blog. Merry Christmas to all of you good Predator fans.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Predators On Fire, Down Flames 5-3

On November 30th, the Flames came to Nashville and dominated the Predators 5-0. Yesterday, the Predators returned the favor at the Pengrowth Saddle Dome, besting the Flames by a 5-3 margin to continue their torrid play of late. Since that loss in Nashville, the Predators are 7-1-2, and 22-11-3 overall.

The Predators have shown an annoying habit of starting slow and battling their way back to win games. Against Calgary, the Predators reversed course and jumped out to a 2-0 lead. MartinErat opened the scoring with a wrister from the low slot off an assist from Marcel Goc and Jerred Smithson. David Legwand scored in front of the net as he tipped a shot past Mikka Kiprusoff, and both of the Predator goals were the result of players going to the front of the net to fight for space and gather rebounds in prime scoring territory.

Calgary cut the margin to 2-1 on a power play goal by Dion Phaneuf at 13:41 of the first period, and that score stood for the remainder of the period.

In the second period, Calgary came out flying and controlled play for much of the period. Jerome Iginla lasered a shot past Dan Ellis, who was getting his second consecutive start in goal for the Predators. Iginla made the Predators pay for a horrible turnover by Dan Hamhuis as he fired a shot at Ellis, who made the initial stop. The rebound caromed back to Iginla, who beat Ellis when his shot banked off a sliding Dan Hamhuis, who was attempting to get back in to the play, and in to the open side of the net.

Momentum was now Calgary's, and they applied pressure on the Predators and generated several quality scoring opportunities. Fortunately, Ellis was strong in the net and held the Flames off the scoresheet.

The Predators grabbed the momentum back from the Flames at the 17:10 point of the second when Marcel Goc potted his sixth goal of the season to tie the game at 3. Goc has blossomed into a quality addition for the Predators, and spent much of the night centering the first line of Martin Erat and Steve Sullivan with Jason Arnott scratched for this game with an upper body injury. Goc has played solid minutes for the Preds and has been very versatile while beginning to show the promise that San Jose saw in him when he was drafted by the Sharks.

Going in to the third period tied at 3, it was anyone's game. In times past, the Predators would not have matched the intensity and pressure of their opponent. That was then. The Flames brought the pressure and the intensity. The Predators matched it and did not fold with the game on the line.

Cody Franson gave the Predators a 4-3 lead with a wrist shot from the blue line that eluded Kiprusoff. Calgary came back with a vengeance and were storming the net, but Dan Ellis was equal to the task. Dave Scatchard iced the win for the Predators with an empty netter at 19:34, and the Predators had their first win in the last six games against the Flames.

The Predators win tied them for first in the Western Conference with 47 points. Yes, you read that correctly. Tied for first in the Western Conference! A team that many thought would have no offense and would be out of the playoff race by the end of November.

This team is where it is because of heart and grit. This team is where it is because they play their game and not the game that makes highlight reels. They shoot the puck, they crash the net, they get rebounds into the goal.  Not pretty. Not fancy. But winning hockey.

It's a long season, and there is a lot of hockey to play. This is a team that is playing hockey for the long haul. Gritty hockey. Refuse to buckle hockey. And this is a team that is on fire.

Friday, December 18, 2009

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

Much is made about the sales figures for the Christmas season. Strong retail sales are perceived to provide a great economic boost in the U.S., and if retail sales are up, there is heard the sound of great rejoicing in the land; if they are down, there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The real economic effect of the Christmas shopping season in the U.S.? Virtually none. We as a nation are a net importer of finished goods. Consider, for example, there are no shoe factories in the U.S. Also no television factories. Many of the finished goods we purchase as gifts are manufactured outside the borders of this country. So, many of these dollars that are being spent during this time of year are flowing to manufacturers in other countries. The real impact of retail sales figures are as an indicator of consumer sentiment. Rising sales figures can indicate that there is more confidence from the consumer. And for our economy, that is a good thing.

I have given up on buns of steel. Now, I want buns of cinnamon.

And speaking of the consumer, it was announced this week that the savings rate in this country had risen to 4%. Last year, it was 1%, and just several years ago, it was a negative number, meaning that we spent more than we earned. So as a nation, we have become thriftier. Good news, right? Well, not exactly. Remember earlier I said that we are a net importer, meaning that we don't make very much stuff here in the U.S. The majority of our work is in service jobs. So if we, as consumers are becoming thriftier and cutting back on spending for discretionary goods and services, we are crimping the growth of the economy. Consumer spending accounts for 67% of our Gross Domestic Product, and since we as consumers are spending less, the economy is contracting. And that is why unemployment is over 10%.

I believe you should follow your dreams. Except that one where you are naked at work.

The Centers for Disease Control released its rankings of the happiest states in which to live based on a survey of objective measures of good living. Climate, crime rate, air quality, schools, and other factors were polled to come up with a measure of happiness. It goes without saying that Tennessee would rate very high in these categories compared to some of the congested northeast states, for instance. And there is no disputing that these factors are very important in determining the quality of life of a city or a state. However, the aspect of Tennessee that , in the opinion of the View, contributes more than any other factor to quality of life and happiness here are the people. There is a sense of compassion toward the neighbor that you may or may not know that is often lacking in other locales. A true sense of warmth and caring for one's fellow man. And that makes me happy.

If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest have to drown, too?

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Predators With a Slick Win over the Oilers

The Predators began a western Canada road swing by getting punched in the mouth in the first four minutes of their game with the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers came out flying and the Predators didn't match their speed. Four shots, two goals, a 2-0 Edmonton lead, and all of a sudden this game looked out of hand.

Coach Barry Trotz used his timeout, pulled starting goaltender Pekka Rinne, and told his team to start skating. Dan Ellis came on in relief, and the complexion of the game began to change.

The Predators cut the deficit to 2-1 when Wade Belak, working hard in front of the net, got the puck to Ryan Jones and Jonesy notched his 4th goal in four games. Gritty goal. A blue collar goal. A goal that served notice that the Predators were not going away quietly.

Joel Ward tied the game at 2 with his 6th goal of the season with some good work in the hard area around the net. Ward was in the right place to gather in a rebound and bury the shot because he was taking a beating battling for precious position. Grit and heart. Nope, the Predators were not about to give in to the Oilers.

Marcel Goc gave the Predators their first lead of the night with his 5th goal of the season off assists from J.P. Dumont and Patric Hornqvist. The Predators had seized momentum because of their resiliency and their unrelenting effort. You could see the Oilers reaction- "Is this the team we smoked 6-1 in Nashville?" The answer is "No".

In the span of four minutes, the Predators had seized the momentum and had taken the crowd out of the game. The effort would continue in the second period as Patric Hornqvist notched his ninth goal of the season on a nice give and go with Jason Arnott. Patience and efficently moving the puck set up Hornqvist for a wide open shot that he buried.

The Predators gave up their second power play goal of the game to the lightning fast Robert Nilsson at the 14:12 mark of the second. That score made it 4-3 Predators, but the Oilers were flying and had seized momentum. It appeared that the Preds were just trying to hang on and get out of the period when Dustin Penner was called for holding. With just four seconds left in the period, Ryan Suter fired a slap shot from the blue line that was tipped by Patric Hornqvist in front of the net. 5-3 Predators. Period over. Heart ripped out of the Oilers.

In the third period, the Oilers applied pressure, and lots of it. Ellis was strong in net and the Predators were able to withstand the onslaught. Jerred Smithson and David Legwand broke in on a two on one, and Smithson took a nice feed from Legwand and fired the puck past Oiler goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers at 19:16. 6-3 Predators. Game over.

In the first 18 games of the season, the Predators scored 39 goals, an average of 2.17 goals per game. In the last 16 games, the Predators have scored 62 goals, and average of 3.875. Why the turnaround? Coach Barry Trotz said it best when he said that this team is playing like they are instead of like what they want to be. And this team is blue collar. They are gritty. They play with resilience and heart. and when they play like that, they are winners.

They got punched in the mouth early in this game. They responded like a winner. They took the punch, got back up, and threw their own punches.And in so doing, knocked out a worthy opponent.

With this win, the Predators are now tied for first in the Central Divsion with Chicago with 45 points. This is the third fastest team to get to the 20 win plateau in the history of the franchise.

It's a long season. There are more punches that will be thrown at you, boys. You have now shown you can take the hits and deliver your own. That comes from knowing who you are. That comes from heart. Keep punching, boys.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Predators Strike Lightning in 7-4 Blowout

The Predators faced an unfamiliar foe in the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Nashville Arena on Tuesday night. As the first period unfolded, the game looked eerily similar to the Detroit game on Saturday. Getting outworked on the boards, losing physical battles, and seeing the first period end with the visitors taking a 2-1 lead to the locker room. Not a good feeling about the game and the play of of the Predators.

Jerred Smithson had opened the scoring for the Predators as he gathered in a rebound of a David Legwand wrap around attempt and fired a shot past Lightning goalie Antero Nittymaki. Good start so far. However, momentum was about to change.

Steve Stamkos tied the game as he exhibited his blazing speed and beat Shea Weber down the ice on a break away. The puck rolled off his stick but slid past Predator goalie Pekka Rinne to tie the game at the 11:35 mark. The Lightning took a 2-1 lead on a power play when a Vinny Lecavalier slap shot that beat Rinne on the glove side. 2-1 to end the period, and the Predators definitely looked like a team that had played a game the night before. A sluggish first period and a deficit heading in to the intermission.

It would be interesting to know what Head Coach Barry Trotz said to the team in the locker room at the first intermission, because in the second period, the Predators exerted their will on the Lightning. Two goals in three minutes and the momentum had swung to the Predators. They began to dominate the game, firing pucks at the net and swarming Nittymaki.

David Legwand tied the game 1:12 into the period as he worked hard to get open for the shot. Ryan Jones scored on a rebound of a Nick Spaling shot 1:45 later to give the Predators a lead they would not relinquish. Patric Hornqvist swatted in a rebound at 12:22, and with the score 4-2 Predators, Lightning Coach Rick Tocchet pulled Nittymaki and inserted Mike Smith into goal to try to change momentum.

The Predators made Smith feel welcome, in a Predator, way by scoring just :28 seconds after Smith entered the game.J.P. Dumont backhanded in a rebound to make the score 5-2. Dan Hamhuis scored with 3:51 remaining in the period to make the score 6-2. Five goals in a period. This from the "offensively challenged" Predators.

A chippy third period saw Kurtis Foster score on the power play to make the score 6-3. Vinny Lecavalier tallied his second goal on a breakaway to make it 6-4. Martin Erat scored his 11th goal of the season to quell any rally attempts by the Lightning and make the score 7-4. The Predators controlled the remainder of the game and stymied any further rally attempts by the Lightning. Final: 7-4 Predators.

Notice the Predator players cited for tallying goals? Seven goals scored by seven different players. Every line scoring for the Predators. And it was not fancy. None of the goals were highlight reel goals. Instead, they were blue collar goals- goals that game from being around the net to gather rebounds. Goals that came from being strong on the puck. Goals that in a word, were workman like.

This Predator team is not flashy. This Predator team doesn't score highlight reel goals. This Predator team is, however, a tough team against which to play. This Predator team is a dangerous team when they play their style of hockey. They can be relentless in crashing the net and pressuring the other team. Tonight, fans saw the results of that relentless effort.

This is the type of hockey that the Predators have to play. And when they play that type of hockey, they can win against anyone.

Twelve goals in two games. Twelve goals that are the result of unrelenting effort and blue collar hockey. They don't grade the goals on style points, boys. They count 'em when they are in the back of the net.

This team is rugged and built for the rigors of an 82 game season. Be consistent, bring the effort you did tonight every night, and you will continue to see the wins pile up. Wins that come from playing Predator hockey.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Predators Continue Dominance Against the Jackets

The Nashville Predators continued their dominance of the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 5-3 win at Nationwide Arena. The win was the Predators third in three meetings this season against the BJ's and the 21st in their last 25.

Steve Sullivan obviously likes to play against the Blue Jackets, as he has 43 points in 39 games against the Central Division opponent. Tonight, he continued to feast on the Jackets as he notched his fourth hat trick as a Predator. Sully opened the scoring as he fired an unassisted slapshot over the glove of Jackets goalie Steve Mason.

The Predators controlled play for much of the first period until Antoine Vermette tied the game with a power play marker at 16:52, and both teams went to the locker room tied at the end of the first period.

Patric Hornqvist gave the Predators a 2-1 lead at 8:27 of the second as he notched his seventh goal of the season. Just :25 seconds later, Sullivan knocked a rebound past Mason to give the Predators a 3-1 lead.

Three minutes later, Jakub Voracek scored on another power play goal, and at 3-2 it looked as if it was any one's game. The crowd was in to the game and the Jackets were buzzing (sorry, I couldn't resist).

Sullivan stepped up again to quieten the crowd with a blistering slapshot from the high slot for his third goal of the game. Sullivan had exerted his will in the offensive zone and had once again made the Jackets pay. His goal sucked the life out of the building and the BJ's.

Ryan Jones tallied his third goal of the season with a re-direct of a Dan Hamhuis wrist shot from the Blue line for a 5-2 lead. Although Columbus would get another goal as an R.J. Umberger shot would skitter off Dan Hamhuis' skate and past goalie Dan Ellis, this game was over. The Predators ran out the clock and went home with a 5-3 victory over a division rival.

Dan Ellis got the start and stopped 28 of 31 shots for a .903 save percentage. Ellis looked good in net for the most part and has continued to provide qualityminutes in the back up role. This type of play from Ellis will be critical for the Predators as the compressed schedule will require him to give the team some quality outings.

It goes without saying that these games against a division rival are critical for the Predators. They are trying to separate from Columbus, St. Louis, and Detroit, who are all behind them in the standings. They must continue to take care of business and pile up the wins. Against a team like Columbus, the Predators have to continue their dominance.

The Predators are now 19-11-3, and after a slow start, have started to string together wins and points. Their 41 points are good for 6th in the Western Conference and they sit one point behind 5th place Calgary.

These wins have come by playing within themselves and playing Predator hockey. Shoot the puck and go get rebounds; win battles in the corners and on the wall; play solid defense; and get sound goal tending. This is Predator hockey. Tonight, Predator hockey was on display.

Enjoy the win against the BJ's. You know what worked against them. Continue to apply those lessons in the coming games. Continue to pile up the wins. Continue to show the rest of the league that you will be a contender.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Predators Sluggish in 3-2 OT Loss to Wings

The Nashville Predators were fortunate to salvage a point against the Detroit Red Wings at the Nashville Arena, eventually dropping a 3-2 overtime decision to their division rival. Felon, thug, winger Todd Bertuzzi had two goals, including the overtime winner.

The Predators were out shot in the first period 14-5 and lost most every batle on the boards and in the corners. Frankly, if not for the play of Pekka Rinne, the game could have gotten out of hand as Rinne made some stellar saves to keep the Wings scoreless.

The aforementioned Bertuzzi scored early in the second on a spin-o-rama move that surprised Rinne. Drew Miller batted a puck out of the air and past Rinne, and just like that, the Wings had a 2-0 lead and appeared ready to choke the life out of the Predators.

The Predators cut the lead to 2-1 as Steve Sullivan, playing the point on the power play, unleashed a shot that was deflected by ryan Jones and past Chris Osgood to cut the lead to 2-1.

David Legwand tied the game at 2 at 4:45 of the third as the Predators finally decided to begin playing Predator hockey. Applying pressure in the offensive zone, Legwand corralled a puck at the side of the net and fired a shot under the crossbar. The rest of the third period was scoreless as both teams had chances but were unable to capitalize.

The aforementioned thug, uh winger Bertuzzi took a Predator turnover and broke in on Rinne, sliding a puck past him for the game winner.

Kudos to Ryan Jones for his first multi-point game. He played hard and with heart tonight.

There is concern for Jordin Tootoo as he got hit in the foot with a Shea Weber bomb late in the first period and did not return to the game. he is going to be evaluated by the medical staff tomorrow.

The Predators inexplicably came out flat, and were horribly outworked in the first period and about half of the second period. Coach Trotz said after the game that it took the Predators about half the game to get their legs moving. How this happens, especially against a hated division rival, is beyond understanding.
Hockey is a game of emotion. Sure, it's a long season, and it is understandable that some nights the puck just doesn't bounce your way. To come out flat, however, against a division rival in your own barn is just inexcusable. The Predators were outworked for much of the game. For this team to win, they have to outwork their opponents, but tonight, the work ethic wasn't there for much of the game.

Sure, the Predators salvaged a point. They are still in front of Detroit in the standings. Predator fans have to feel good about that fact. The truth is that these good feelings won't last with these kinds of efforts.

It's time for leadership in the locker room to step up. Don't accept this kind of effort. Demand better from yourselves, because you are better than the effort we saw in the first half of the game. It's time to get back to Predator hockey.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Are the Predators Moving? Not Likely

The Tennessean's Nate Rau penned an article titled "Sports Authority Members Worry that the Predators Could Leave Town" and cited several factors that could precipitate that action. Cited in the article as concerns were the bankruptcy of Predator lender CIT Financial; the bankruptcy of former part owner William "Boots" Del Biaggio; and a tax lien filed against David Freeman, the majority owner.

There is no doubt that each of these issues are problematic for the Predators in varying degrees, but how much so? It would have been instructive for the reporter in the article to dig a little deeper into these issues to discover how much of a problem they could become. Since he didn't, I will attempt to do so.

CIT Financial was a major lender in the sports world, providing financing for various sports venues and team needs in all the major sports. CIT has filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Simply put, this means that CIT is still in business, but is attempting to restructure its debt and find new sources of funding for continued business operations. As regards the loan to the Predators, or any other entity to which CIT has loaned money, those loans remain unaltered as long as payments are made on time and the borrower is in compliance with all loan covenants. There is no indication that the Predators have missed payments or are in non-compliance with any loan covenants that may be in place. The CIT bankruptcy is, as far as the Predators are concerned, a non-event as long as the team is not in default.

Where the CIT bankruptcy could become a problem is if the loan matures and CIT were to ask the Predators to move the debt to another lender. It is unknown the maturity date of the debt, but should this action occur, it would be incumbent on the Predators to find another lender or a way to pay the loan. At this time, it appears that CIT will successfully emerge from the bankruptcy reorganization to continue in business. Whether the firm will continue to be active in sports lending is unknown. What is known is that the market for these types of loans to sports entities is much tougher today than it was in 2007 when the Predators initiated the loan.

The Del Biaggio bankruptcy has no effect on the day to day operation of the Predators from a cash outlay perspective and does not effect their operating profitability. At this time, the bankruptcy trustee in the Del Biaggio case is attempting to recover funds and assets from Del Biaggio and sell those assets for recovery to the lenders. At stake for the Predators is the 27% ownership interest in the team that Del Biaggio fraudulently obtained. There are no payments required on that ownership interest, rather, the trustee is going to attempt to sell that interest in the team for maximum value to return as many dollars as possible to creditors. The problem for the trustee- and for a potential buyer- is determining the value of a minority interest in a NHL hockey club, especially a club in a "non-traditional" market. 27% of the Nashville Predators is decidedly worth less than 27% of the Toronto Maple Leafs due to market conditions, longevity of the franchise, and other factors.

Where the bankruptcy does impact the Predators is that an owner, in this case Del Biaggio, is unavailable to fund any losses or owner contributions that might be necessary. Additionally, the current ownership group has claimed to the bankruptcy court that they have a right of refusal as to any potential new owner. Obviously, the current owners would like to have a say on any potential new owner that might join the group. I'm certain, for instance, that they would be reluctant to have Jim Balsillie buy this interest given his past maneuverings. It is my understanding that the ownership group has made an offer for the Del Biaggio interest, but no decision from the trustee has been made.

David Freeman, majority owner and governor of the franchise, has announced that he has a $3MM federal tax lien that has been filed by the IRS relating to his 2007 tax filing. Freeman states, without giving details, that this is related to a short term advance he made to Del Biaggio to assist with his acquisition of part of the team. Freeman has also gone on to state that he is working out an arrangement with the IRS to settle this claim. In the interim, the IRS has filed a lien on his property. Unfortunately, this creates a aura of financial instability in the ownership group, and it merits attention. While I do not know the details of the lien or of Freeman's personal financial situation, these types of actions are not uncommon. Tellingly, Freeman is not in arrears on his 2008 taxes, which leads me to believe that this action by the IRS has occurred because of a restatement or reclassification of certain filings or claims on his 2007 return. Given the curveball that Del Biaggio threw the owners, this is not surprising.

The NHL requires owners to be of good character and have the financial wherewithal to purchase and operate a franchise. One would hope that the current owners were properly vetted by the League, although given the NHL's past history, this could be in question. A reasoned observer may have concern about this lien and the effects on the financial condition of an owner, but it is my belief that this is a situation that Freeman will be favorably resolved.

Which brings us to the Nashville Sports Council and, according to the headline in the Tennessean, their concern over a possible relocation of the franchise. A reading of the lease states that the team can move the franchise in two years if attendance fails to meet a minimum average of 14,000. Since the team met that target last season, it would be 2011 at the earliest before that out clause would be effective. The lease also allows for movement of the franchise if losses exceed $20MM cumulatively since the lease was signed in 2007. The Predators operated at a breakeven position last season, according to the team. Losses are not anywhere near a $20MM cumulative total since 2007. A reasoned person might question the concern for the exercise of the opt out clauses cited by Sports Council members Rusty Lawrence and Steve North since it appears that neither condition has been triggered.

The Sports Council has a duty to observe keenly the financial condition of the Predators since there is taxpayer money involved with the lease on the Nashville Arena. The Council also has a duty to understand the lease and the clauses that pertain to the ability of the owners to move the team. To state that the Predators could "soon move the team" and that the Council is "held hostage" to another city with a better offer shows disingenuousness at best and a basic lack of knowledge about the terms of the lease and facts surrounding their major tenant at worst. The Council also seems to ignore the fact that any move by the Predators would have to be approved by the NHL. Given the recent history of the League to work to keep franchises such as the Coyotes in Phoenix, a move seems unlikely.

Should the Sports Council, and Predator fans be concerned about losing the franchise? It would seem that this possibility is virtually non-existent.

There is no doubt that the Council has a responsibilty to monitor the Predators financial situation closely. The Council also has a responsibility to be honest in their statement of the facts and not speculate about a situation that is not happening. The City of Nashville, and Predator fans, deserve better than that.

Predators win 13th Straight on Home Ice Against the BJ's

Playing the Columbus Blue Jackets is somewhat like playing a whack-a-mole game. Knock one mole down and another pops up. Such was the game against the BJ's last night in the Nashville Arena.

Nashville took a 1-0 lead against the BJ's in the first period as as Dave Scatchard knocked home a beautiful cross ice pass from Kevin Klein just four seconds after the Jacket's Derek Dorsett exited the penalty box for a holding penalty. Up to this point of the contest, both teams had been probing and looking for a weakness and neither had generated many quality scoring chances. Getting the goal from the fourth line seemed to give the Predators a lift as they turned up the offensive pressure and generated 16 SOG in that period.

The first mole to pop up for the BJ's was Kris Russell, who slipped into the low slot and roofed a shot under the crossbar that goaltender Pekka Rinne was nearly able to stop. That score was offset less than two minutes later when Martin Erat notched his 10th goal of the season to put the Preds up 2-1. Erat has been playing exceptionally well over the last 10 games, and it is good to see him start to get his mojo back.

Seven minutes later, another mole, this time Raffi Torres, scored on the power play as he squeezed a puck by Rinne on the post to tie the game at 2. Fine. That mole was whacked late in the period when Jason Arnott took a nice lead pass from Ryan Suter and skate in alone on Mathieu Garon and deftly flipped a backhand in for a 3-2 lead.

It looked as if the moles, uh, BJ's might finally be contained as the Predator offense was controlling the puck early in the third period and exerting some good pressure in the offensive zone. It looked good, that is, until Jerred Smithson was hit in the face with a high stick that created a turnover near the Columbus blue line. Several Predator players, expecting a whistle for such a blatant foul, stopped skating. Unfortunately for the Preds, the biggest mole in the BJ lineup did not. No whistle was blown and Rick Nash skated in alone on Pekka Rinne and buried the tying goal.

Okay- let's stop right here. I know that I am a Predator blogger and fan, but can someone explain to me how you can hit an opposing player in the face, the force of which knocks him to the ice, and there is no call? .... I'll wait.....What's that? Officials didn't see it? Shnikey! I hope they weren't driving themselves home.

The game remained scoreless through the rest of the period and through overtime. On to the shootout, and while Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has been very good in the shootout, Columbus goalie Garon has been exceptional, winning 13 straight. At the start of the shootout, it appeared that the odds were in favor of the BJ's, and this one time, on home ice, the mole wouldn't be whacked.

Kristian Huselius for Columbus and Marcel Goc for the Predators each scored in the first round. Rinne stymied Rick Nash and Jakub Voracek in the next two rounds while Garon stoned Martin Erat and David Legwand. Fedor Tyutin scored in the 4th round, putting the pressure on the Predators. Head Coach Barry Trotz sent Jason Arnottover the boards with the game on the line. A surprising move considering that Arnott has not taken a shot in a shootout this season. The captain was able to move the puck through Garon's five hole, continuing the shootout. Pekka Rinne then smothered Antoine Vermette's attempt, setting the stage for Steve Sullivan. The speedy winger skated in and flipped a shot over the pads of the sprawling Garon for the Predators 13th consecutive win against the BJ's in Nashville.

The vagaries of the schedule create stretches of home games and road games for all teams. It is critical that you protect your home ice and get the points in your barn. It is essential that your don't let varmints, like moles, get in create havoc. For another time, the Predators can say "Mission Accomplished". Or perhaps more appropriately, mole whacked.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My View

The current debt limit for the United States is $12.1 trillion dollars. TRILLION dollars. Think of the debt of the United States as if the U.S. were a consumer and the $12.1 trillion dollars was owed on their credit card. A reasonable person might look at that and say that there is going to be a very sizeable bill that will have to be paid, and perhaps you, Mr. Consumer, should slow down your spending. However, this is Washington and the U.S. Congress about which we are speaking, and reasonable is not a part of the conversation. In fact, House Democrats have introduced a resolution to increase the debt ceiling by $1.8 trillion dollars. Rather than rein in spending, Congress continues to spend profligately. And this means that some day, there will be an incredible bill to pay. A bill that will be paid by our children and grandchildren.

If I found out I only had a week to live, and I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to the hospital, because that sounds serious.

How do you define a hero? Is it someone who does something dramatic, out of the ordinary, that changes the course of a sporting event? Is it someone who is a great community leader that betters those around them through their efforts and vision? Is it the policeman or fireman that risks their life to save others? Is it a business leader that changes the face of the economy? In some respects, all of these examples could define heroic actions. All of us have watched with morbid fascination the revelations of the tawdry behavior of Tiger Woods, hero of the golf world if not all of sports. Maybe it's time for society to redefine who is a hero. Maybe it is that person that does their job dependably and without qualm. Perhaps it's the spouse that is faithful through thick and thin. Maybe a hero is the parent or parents that sacrifice for the good of their children and give them unequivocal love. Seems to me our world needs some new heroes.

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me in kickboxing.

Is it just me, or does it seem that more and more, we are hearing of cases of corruption, whether in the business world, government, sports, or law enforcement. These violations of trust at any level and in any venue undermine the very foundations of civil interaction in our society. Trust and truth are such  endangered commodities that we try to replace them with voluminous legal documents. It doesn't work. This condition strains at the the fabric of our society and is damaging in every respect. Wouldn't it be refreshing to be able to take someone at their word and with the shake of a hand? That ethic was once prevalent in our society. Maybe it will one day become the norm again rather than the exception.

I would give my right hand to be ambidextrous.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Desperate Financial Times in Big D

Daniel Kaplan, writing in the December 7th issue of Sports Business Journal, is reporting that Tom Hicks, owner of both the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers, has been funding operating losses for the both teams from reserve funds that were set aside for interest payments to various banks that had provided financing for the clubs. Earlier this year, Hicks and his Hicks Sports Group company defaulted on a $525MM loan that was used for the purchase of the clubs.

Interest reserve funds are funds that are typically part of the original loan commitment by the lenders and are segregated funds that are set aside to meet any shortfalls that would prevent the payment of interest to the lenders. Normally, these reserve funds are "airtight" and can only be accessed under very limited conditions. It appears that this was not the case with the establishment of these funds and that Hicks could access these monies to fund operating shortfalls of the two clubs.

The amount of the reserve fund was $17MM. I use the term "was" because according to Kaplan, well placed sources have told him that these funds are nearly depleted. As I reported in an April 2009 post, all payments of scheduled principal and interest on the loans were stopped by Hicks in March of 2009 in an attempt to negotiate better terms. The lenders refused to budge, and according to their reading of the loan documents, could move to take control of the teams after within six months of the default. However, there was a consent letter signed by the lenders, Hicks, and the NHL that gave Hicks until the summer of 2010 to work out of this situation before the lenders could move on the assets. For now, Hicks has breathing room before he loses control of the teams to the lenders.

What is not known is how much of the losses that caused the depletion of the reserve fund are attributable to the Rangers and how much to the Stars. Hicks has not revealed the financial information on either entity, and as a private company, he does not have to do so. He has publicly stated that the Stars are not for sale; and he is attempting to sell an interest in the Rangers. Is it because the Stars are the healthier of the two teams and a more prized asset? Or is it because Hicks fears that given the current market and the financial condition of the Stars, he would face a sizeable loss if he sold the team?

The worst case scenario for the Stars and the NHL is that League will have to fund operating losses for the Stars. The League has been acutely aware of the financial situation in Dallas as they (the NHL) has had to give approval to Hicks each time he has drawn money from the reserve fund.  The League and Hicks could also face legal action if the lenders believe that a good faith effort is not being made to cure the default on the loan. Either of the occurances could potentially create a Coyotes like situation in Dallas.

The situation in Dallas bears watching. It is not a financial situation that is solely attributable to the Stars, but they are entangled in the financial vortex that is the creation of Tom Hicks. For the good of the game, and the fans in Big D, let's hope they come out of this unscathed.

Hats Off to a Consistent Effort

The Vancouver Canuckleheads  Canucks came to the Nashville Arena Tuesday night attempting to rebound from a weak effort against the Carolina Hurricanes. The Nashville Predators were looking to put the less than stellar effort of their last game against the Minnesota Wild behind them. Two teams looking to start afresh and get back on track. Two teams seperated by a mere two points in the standings. Two teams that look to be battling each other for a playoff spot come April. The outcome of this contest would set the tone for some critical upcoming games for both teams.

It's no secret that when the Predators play their style of hockey- gritty defense, aggressive forecheck, solid goaltending, and opportunistic scoring, they can win any game. The problem for the Predators recently has been getting that consistent effort every night. A gut check win on the road against Chicago is followed by an abyssmal loss to the Wild. That is why this game was so important to this team. They did not want to begin a stretch of inconsistent play and sub-par hockey.

Early in this contest, the Canuck forwards were deep in the offensive zone and forechecking aggressively. Pekka Rinne made several good stops in net to thwart Vancouver scoring opportunities. The Predators weathered that initial charge and started to mount offensive pressure of their own, generating some good scoring chances that were stymied by Roberto Luongo. Back and forth, shaping up to be a goaltending battle was how this game was looking.

What seemed to change the tenor of the game however, was the physical force that the Preds started to bring to the contest. Canuck D-man Alex Edler was knocked out of the contest midway of the first period by a thunderous hit from Shea Weber. Edler immediately left the ice holding his arm, and did not return. The Predators started to check, and check hard, and as the Predators stepped up the physical nature of the game, the Canucks backed off the aggressive forecheck.

Martin Erat scored his first goal of the contest as his shot from behind the goal riccocheted off Luongo's skate and went behind him for a 1-0 Predator lead with just over four minutes to go in the first period. Erat continued to be an offensive force early in the second when he caught the Canucks on a bad line change on the PK and broke in on Luongo. A sweet move caused Luongo to open the five hole and Erat deftly slid the puck between his pads for a 2-0 Predator lead.

The Canucks cut the lead to 2-1 near the end of a 5-3 power play as Jerred Smithson (unjustly, in my opinion) received a 5 minute major for charging and a game misconduct. He hit Alexander Burrows along the side boards, temporarily injuring him and drawing the penalties. Predator fans may recall that it was Burrows last season that left his skates on two seperate occasions to deliver a shot to the head of J.P. Dumont and Scotty Nichol, which subsequently knocked Nichol out of the next 38 games.

In the third, Patric Hornqvist found himself alone at the side of the net on a Predator power play and Jason Arnott got a nice pass to him to beat a helpless Luongo and extend the margin to 3-1. That two goal lead held up until the 16:25 mark when Daniel Sedin scored. Marty Erat sealed the Predator win with an empty netter. This was Marty's second career hat trick, and capped a very complete game from him.

This was a consistent effort from start to finish; the team was solid in all zones; and skated away with a victory by playing the type of hockey they can play. Now we need to do it consistently. There are a lot of teams bunched up in the Western Conference. At the end of the season, the eight that advance to the playoffs will be those that brought the effort night in and night out.

A tip of the hat to Marty Erat and the Predators for a consistent effort throughout this game. Time to string together this type of effort over a number of games. Do that, and I will tip my hat to you. Play like you did tonight, and I will throw it on the ice.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lackluster Effort Dooms the Predators

I know it is the season of giving, and charity begins at home, but seriously. How many turnovers do you have to give the opposition? How easy do you have to make it? Apparently, the Predators were feeling charitable and in a giving spirit as they turned the puck over time and again to the Wild in a 5-3 loss at the Nashville Arena.

Frankly, there is not much to say that is positive about this game. It wasn't as close as the score indicated as Jason Arnott and Marcel Goc scored late goals to account for the final margin. The Predators were never in this game after the first period.

In the first, Martin Erat scored on the power play to give the Predators a 1-0 lead. It went downhill from there, as the Predators failed to convert on four other power plays in the first. Letting a team like Minnesota hang around is playing with fire, and the Predators got burnt. Minnesota tied it on a gaol by Andrew Ebbet as he beat the defense of Kevin Klein and was open on a drive to the net. James Shepherd scored with :12 seconds left in the period as he was left alone in front of the net and slid the puck past Dan Ellis.
Andrew Brunette scored on the power play at 11:21 of the second and Antii Miettinen tallied with just over two minutes to go to move the lead to 4-1. Eric Belanger scored on the power play just over three minutes into the third and the game was over.

Ellis did make some very good saves for the Predators, or the score would have been much worse. Ellis was hung out to dry by his defense for several of the goals, and was pulled at the end of the second period. Pekka Rinne finished the game for the Predators.

After playing an exceptional game the night before in Chicago, the Predators just flat out stunk in this game. Turnovers were abundant and this team couldn't enter the zone efficiently. The energy level just wasn't there, and it showed in the effort on the ice.

The Predators have shown they have the capability to beat any team on on any night. They have also shown they can lose, sometimes badly, to any team on any night.

For this team to be successful this season, they have to have a consistent effort every night. For some reason, it appears that they forget this imperative on occasion. When they don't bring their best effort, the play like they did tonight, and the results are unacceptable.

I know it is the Christmas season. We are all in a giving mood, but stop giving the puck up and allowing the other team easy scoring chances. It's time to bring the effort and the drive every night, boys. This is the best present you can give your fans.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Predators Show Heart, Thump Hawks

A Predators team that had misfired in their past two games faced the superior talent of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. If you were a betting man, your money would be on the Hawks in this one. The Predators defied the odds and bested the Hawks by a 4-1 score. Perhaps you can borrow a few bucks from Patrick Kane.

Jonathan Toews opened the scoring for the Hawks with a highlight reel goal as he undressed defenseman Dan Hamhuis with a sick move and slid the puck past a sprawling Dan Ellis. Although the Hawks swarmed the net, especially in the third period, they were unable to get another puck past Ellis. who stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced. Chicago had several glorious chances, but were foiled by Ellis, good defense by the Predators, and the occasional lucky bounce for the Preds.

Ellis is going to be called upon to play some big games for the Predators as they have a number of back to back games with the compressed schedule. Ellis has shown that he can be a solid goaltender, and tonight he was at the top of his game.

The aforementioned Dan Hamhuis got the Predators on the board in the first period with a rocket from the blue line that got past a screened Cristobal Huet. The period ended with the score tied at one, but the talent of the Hawks was on display. They created several quality chances with their speed and puck movement, but, fortunately for the Preds, were unable to find the net.

The only goal of the second period was scored by Martin Erat as he deflected a shot by Jordin Tootoo past Huet. Erat's goal was his fifth of the season. Erat has stepped up his play over the past seven games, and he must continue to play at this higher level for the team to be successful.

Nursing a one goal lead going in to the third period, the Predators couldn't feel safe. Chicago unleashed a furious assault on the Predators net, and Ellis was up to the task. Admittedly, Chicago misfired on several glorious scoring chances, and the Predator D was scrambling a lot. The Predators refused to buckle under the pressure, showing tremendous resilience and grit.

Jordin Tootoo gave the Predators breathing room at 17:57 of the third period when he slapped a rebound from the low slot to make the lead 3-1. Although Tootoo has not tallied many goals, his speed and desire have been evident, and his play has lifted his team mates. Just :35 seconds later, Joel Ward was the beneficiary of a nice feed from David Legwand on a two on one break and slid the puck under the pads of Huet. Chicago could not mount a serious scoring threat after that goal, and the Predators left the United Center with a huge win.

Notice the names on the score sheet? Hamhuis, Erat, Tootoo, Ward. Scoring by committee. That is the Predator way. Unrelenting effort, consistency in all zones, grit- these summarize the characteristics of the predator hockey club. No, this team will not spend like the Hawks. This team will compete like the Hawks. Not with dollars, but with heart.

One big win doesn't make a season. One big win can define a team, however, and give them the confidence to continue to push toward the playoffs. The Predators, small market and small payroll, are three points behind the Hawks in the Central Division. They have won 13 of their last 18 games. They have played with heart and with grit. They have played Predator hockey. And tonight, Predator hockey thumped the Hawks.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

Fallout continues to occur from the sham science of global warming. After the discovery of falsified data from the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University in London, data has been requested from NASA in the United States regarding their contention that anthropogenic (human caused) global warming is, as NASA has stated, a fact. NASA has so far refused to release their data. It would seem that if there was nothing to hide, this raw data would be forthcoming. Scientists in various venues receive government funding (read: your tax dollars) to research global warming. It is obvious that if they- the scientists- can claim that there is human caused global warming, they will receive more money for more research. They have gamed the system. When all else fails, follow the money. Invariably, it will lead you to the real facts about what is happening with so called human induced global warming.

The only stupid question is the one never asked. Except maybe, "Don't you think it's time you audited my tax return?"

Greg Wyshynski, blogger extraordinaire over at Puck Daddy (link to the right of this blog), has named the ten best hockey coaches of the past decade. Checking in at number five on his list is the Nashville Predators own Barry Trotz. Quoting the Puck Daddy, "If there is a coach that deserves an award for doing so much with so little, it's Trotz." True words there. Nice to see a good guy and a very good coach who is unheralded get some positive recognition in a national venue. Congratulations, Coach Trotz.

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

The next two Saturday home games for the Predators will be their Christmas Toys for Tots drive. Collection bins will be set up at each entrance to collect a new, unwrapped toy. This is a great opportunity for Predator fans to give a gift that will benefit less fortunate children in our community. We are blessed in Nashville to have a professional sports team like the Predators that does so much community outreach and is truly a caring organization. The Predators Foundation does an amazing job of reaching out to numerous charitable enterprises and making a significant impact for good in our community. This is a wonderful opportunity to partner with the Predators to assist those in need.

I told my wife that a husband is like fine wine that gets better with age. The next day, she locked me in the cellar.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Predators Give Away a Point in a Wild Game

It is the Christmas season, a time of generosity and giving. The Nashville Predators were in a giving mood last night against the Wild as they turned the puck over numerous times and gave away a win.

The Predators and Wild played a seesaw affair, with the Predators eventually dropping a 5-4 overtime decision to the Wild. Although the Predators picked up a point in the contest, they gave away the second point with some inopportune turnovers and sloppy defense.

The Preds were victimized on several occasions when they turned the puck over in their offensive zone and the Wild made them pay. Two goals by the Wild resulted from defensemen being knocked off the puck in the offensive zone, and result was the puck in the back of our net. The usually sound Predator defense looked shaky at times, and these lapses cost them goals and eventually the game.

The positive aspects of this game was the return of the top line to the score sheet. Jason Arnott had two goals and two assists; and Steve Sullivan had one goal and three assists. For this team to win consistently, the top players on offense have to produce, and they did in this game. When this top line plays as they did last night, they are very dangerous and can score on anyone. The Predators need this line to continue to be dangerous.

Marcel Goc recorded his third goal of the season off a beautiful assist by Martin Erat. Goc has already surpassed his goal total from last season with the Sharks, and he is exhibiting a nose for the net. His game is elevating, and this bodes well for the Predator offense.

The game against the Wild demonstrated what has been said about this team all season- they must play solid hockey in all three zones to have a chance to notch a victory. The offense was sharp; the defense was not; and the goaltending was average. This team needs all three components to mesh well to succeed. They have done it in the past. They did not last night and it cost them the two points they need in a tight Western Conference race.

Although it is the season of giving, the Predators need to be more like Ebenezer Scrooge and clutch tightly to the points they have rather than giving them away. Every point is precious to this team; every point is to be hoarded. The next time you have two points in hand, channel ol' Scrooge and say "humbug". Lock them up. No more charity.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Predators Pounded by the Flames

I'm staying away from the obligatory but trite sayings such as "The Flames Burn the Predators" or "The Flames Torch Preds" after last night's contest in Nashville. Because the fact of the matter is that the Flames pounded the Predators en route to a 5-0 win.

Calgary is the best road team in the NHL, and last night they showed why, as they slowly and methodically strangled the life out of the Predator offense. Goaltender Mikka Kiprusoff was never seriously challenged by the Predator offense, as the Flames defense created all sorts of problems in the neutral zone for the Predators. Their forechecking kept the Preds from gaining the zone with speed, and once inside the zone, their defense in front of Kiprusoff clogged shooting lanes and eliminated most second chance opportunites. The net result is that the Predators couldn't find the net and never mounted a serious scoring threat all night.

In an 82 game season, there will be nights where things just don't work and you get your head handed to you (not in the Keith Ballard-Tomas Vokoun sense). We have seen that earlier this year from the Predators (think Chicage and 13 SOG for the entire game). The aspect of this game that is problematic is that the top offensive threats for the Predators were completely- and I mean completely- shut down by the Flames defense. Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont, Martin Erat all registered zero SOG against the Flames. Three of the top six forwards and no shots. This cannot happen for this team to have a chance at winning. It's cliche to say it, but your best players have to be your best players, and when some of your best players are not getting any shots on the net, your probablity of winning the game is very low.

This team has to have a workman like effort every night from all its players. That means you have to show up. That means you have to do the tough things that get you in a position to win. That means when you have a night against an exceptional opponent, you work that much harder.

The Predators made up ground in the Western Conference race by stringing together wins. Those wins occurred because they played solid, fundamental hockey and brought the effort every night. This needs to become the norm again for the Predators. It is not enough to win one and lose one. Wins have to start piling up again because the Central Division and the Western Conference are too tough to just tread water.

There are lessons to be learned when you play the best road team in the NHL and one of the better teams in the Western Conference. Painful lessons. Learn from those lessons and know that every night, every time you step on the ice, you have to bring it. Balls to the wall. Play like that, and you will win games. Don't, and you will get pounded.