Some random thoughts from your humble blogger about the just completed Predators season...
The Coaches and staff
Rightfully so, Head Coach Barry Trotz has been nominated for the second year in a row for the Jack Adams Trophy, awarded to the best head coach in the NHL. Trotzy and the staff, Brent Peterson and Peter Horachek, guided the Predators to a 5th place finish in the Western Conference despite a roster that was patched together for much of the season. I continue to be impressed with the way the coaches get the most out of their talent. In the course of the season, I had an opportunity to talk to several players off the record, and to a man they all indicated they have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Trotz and the staff. It showed in the way they played for them and the way they responded to the instruction- and occasional chastising- they received.
Trotz will have a vacancy to fill as Assistant Coach Brent Peterson is stepping from behind the bench due to his on-going fight with Parkinson's. While Trotz merits the kudos he has received, keep in mind that Brent has coached the defense for the Predators since their inception, and he has molded the Predators blueliners into a solid unit, with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter emerging among the elite defenders in the league. His contributions, while quiet, have been invaluable to the success of the team.
One other unsung hero is Dan Redmond. As the Head Trainer for the squad, Dan was constantly challenged this season to get players patched up and back on the ice while at the same time protecting their physical well-being. I have watched Dan work with the players, and he is very good at what he does, and the players relate well to him. Dan is solid as a professional and invaluable to the team, considering...
Man Games Lost
The Predators lost 348 man games due to injury or illness and 2 man games due to suspension. When you look at what they accomplished in the face of the staggering number of games lost, it is remarkable. Which leads me to my point about...
Depth and Development
The benefits of having a deep farm system and the philosophy of patiently developing players paid huge dividends for the Predators this season. As the injury toll mounted, the Predators could call up players such as Matt Halischuk, Blake Geoffrion, Chris Mueller, and Jonathan Blum and plug them into key roles and give them critical minutes. Predator fans have seen in times past our call ups look like boys among men. Not now.
Although this is the first year for him to serve in this capacity, I think part of the success with our younger players is attributable to the efforts of Martin Gelinas, the Director of Player Development. Marty was a consummate professional in his playing days, and knew what it took both in-season and in the off season to prepare for success. His influence on the development of our younger players will continue to be profound and positive.
The 7th Man
Just when I think the Citizens of Smashville cannot impress me any more, all of you take it to another level. Both Pierre McGuire and Darren Pang commented in the national media about the energy and the noise that in the tire Barn.
I will have more to say on this later, but suffice it to say this off season will be big for the team. General Manager David Poile has his work cut out for him, and job number one is signing this guy:
We have all seen teams that have gotten trapped in contract hell and how that has devastated their fortunes, sometimes for long periods of time. GMDP has deftly avoided those situations for the most, cough *jpdumont* cough. Weber is an RFA this season and Ryan Suter is an UFA next season. Time to open the checkbook, David.
Getting to the second round of the playoffs certainly felt good, didn't it. For a while there, it seemed as if our team was named "The Nashville Predatorswhohavenevermadeitpasthefirstround", because that was how all the pundits referred to us. And as good as it felt getting to that second round, the loss there hurt even more. Just like last season, when we used the first round loss to Chicago build upon, I think this team will use the this loss to motivate themselves to go farther than ever.
It was also a first to get an abundance of the Canadian media types here to Nashville. In a perverse way, it was amusing to hear their surprise about how solid a hockey market Nashville was and what a great city and fans were here. Guess what, hosers, we have had some bumps in the road, but we have always been that way. And we are getting better. Now that your parochial view of Nashville and the south has been shattered, all y'all come on back more often.
One of the main drivers of the improvement in the off ice product is...
The Front Office
Jeff Cogen and Sean Henry were the high profile additions to the front office, and their energy and direction created a marketing and sales dynamo this past season. Corporate sponsorships were up significantly; individual ticket sales increased as did season ticket sales; and the marketing effort was strong and focused all year long. Using this playoff run, I expect to see the momentum continue to build with these two experienced executives at the helm.
I have some more thoughts and some items to which I will give a lot more attention, but these were just some first thoughts and impressions from the recently completed season.
For fans of the Predators, I believe there are good things ahead, and I look forward to taking that journey with you.