Thursday, July 28, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

At the beach this week, so not really tuned into the news, but here are some thoughts:

It is apparent after spending a few days at the beach that our country is experiencing a severe shortage. Of what, you ask? Mirrors. Our country must have a shortage of mirrors because there is no way that some people would walk out in public looking like they do if they had a mirror.

I enjoy the beach, but frankly, I get really tired of people rolling me back into the water when I'm laying out in the sun.

You know what my biggest disappointment is about the beach? Jellyfish taste nothing at all like jelly.

I bet a triangle player for the symphony really hates to play in Bermuda.

Saw some dolphins yesterday. Anyone can swim with the dolphins. Want to impress me? Hug a wild bear.

I borrowed my wife's GPS for the drive to the beach. All it did was yell at me to slow down.

When my wife asks me for feedback, I make that squealing microphone noise.

The worst thing about getting old is the memory loss and..that other stuff.

And that, my friends, is my view from the beach.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

This will be a little bit different post today. Hang on for the ride.

As we approach the arbitrary August 2nd deadline to resolve our debt ceiling "crisis", there are several things I want each of you to keep in mind. What I am about to point out is apolitical: it is not slamming the left and favoring the right. It is factual, and hopefully it will help cut through the clutter, nonsense, and heated partisan rhetoric that surrounds this very important issue.

First: the government will not turn out the lights, shut and lock the doors, and stop doing business if nothing is resolved by August 2nd. We as a nation may be better off if they did, but that is not going to happen. What will happen is that the government will have to make choices about where the money is spent, just like you and I have to do every day. If we reach our debt ceiling, all that technically and legally happens is that the printing press that the Fed has used so profligately over the past three years stops printing new dollars.There is money there to pay Social Security benefits, contrary to the threat President Obama made that there would not be funds to do so.

Secondly, notice the push back by many in Washington against a balanced budget amendment and amendments that tie budget growth to growth of the economy. Why? Those types of amendments exact a financial discipline that Washington has been unable to self impose, and it prevents politicians from spending and making fiscal commitments that have no real benefit except to reward their patrons and boost their re-election chances.

Finally, and this is the most important aspect of this entire matter, the debate in Washington over monetary matters is not really a debate about fiscal policy. It is a debate about the depth and reach of government over our lives. Know this, the ferocity of attack by some elected officials and by the entrenched bureaucracies is because they see their lifeblood- our tax dollars- being curtailed and fiscal discipline being exerted, and this terrifies those entities. If power- financial and political- reside with us rather that being centralized in Washington, then the trend to an ever growing government is going to be slowed if not reversed, and this threatens the financial and professional existence of  the governing class. This debate is really about who has the power in this country. Will it be Washington and the sycophantic bureaucrats that surround our elected officials, or will it be you and me, knowing intimately what is best for our families, our jobs, and our local communities?

If you think that last statement is a bit of hyperbole, consider this: President Obama said in his interview with Scott Pelley on CBS last  week that he could not guarantee that Social Security Checks would go out if the Republicans did not raise the debt ceiling. President Obama said,
"This is not just a matter of Social Security checks. These are veterans checks; these are folks on disability and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out. I cannot guarantee these checks go out on August 3rd if we have not resolved this issue."
Refer to the paragraph above. The only way those checks do not go out is if Washington decides to play political football with them and refuses to send them. But here is the salient point of that entire quote, and the reason that I put it in bold font: there are 70 MILLION checks being mailed out each month to recipients of some form of government payment, and those 70 million checks represent payments to approximately 48% of the population So in this debate about how to bring our national spending under control and become more fiscally responsible, realize that nearly half of the people in this country will not be affected by any change in tax rates and primarily want to see the payments from the government continue. This has become a power struggle between those that work and produce and those that receive the benefit of those efforts without working.

Several of my clients have said that they worry that the United States is becoming a socialist nation. Read that paragraph above. We are not becoming a socialist nation.

We ARE a socialist nation.

So how did this happen?


The President proposes a budget to Congress, where it is debated, ratified, and sent back to the Executive Branch for approval. Appropriations (read: where we want to spend money) originate in both the House and Senate and are added into the proposed budget, which can, and often has, created a deficit. The Executive Branch, as part of their approval process, can veto the entire budget. The tax structure to pay for our nation's debt originates in the House Ways and Means Committee. This powerful group writes the laws that establish the provisions of the tax code.

Here is the point of this quick civics lesson: the financial mess that we have in this country rests on the shoulders of 435 Representatives, 100 Senators, and the President. No, not just this group of folks that currently hold these positions, but their predecessors as well. The financial well being in our country today and for future generations rests on the shoulders of these current occupants of elected office in Washington. It is this group of elected officials who, over the years and with a calculated political goal in mind, have created this power struggle, and those that reside in Washington have been the beneficiaries of this confrontation.

It is going to be critical that these elected officials in Washington, many of whom have never run a business and felt the pressure to meet a payroll, realize that money "doesn't just happen" as Michael Filozof says. This takes a fundamental shift in the attitude not only of Washington, but in the entitlement constituencies that Washington has cultivated.

This will not be easy.

Do not get me wrong, there are people that have legitimately earned benefits and are entitled to them. They deserve them and should continue to receive them. What has to change in Washington first and then the rest of the nation is the attitude that "money just happens", whether we print it or we extract it from producers through the tax code. What that means for our nation is what it means for every wage earning household in this country: there is a limit to what can be spent and some things just cannot be bought.

That sounds simple, and in principal, it is. But we are talking about politicians and their desire to be re-elected and remain in the ruling class. This will take courage, conviction, and statesmanship to look at a constituency and say, "We can't afford it". Generally, that has been lacking among our elected officials.

Perhaps even harder is to re-align the attitudes of many in this country for whom "money just happens". Government funds don't just happen, and although for decades they seem to have done so, a day of reckoning is looming. To avoid that, we are going to have to change attitudes in this country and re-introduce a foreign concept called "sacrifice". All of us will have to participate in the detox of the wanton spending that has occurred throughout the years.

The recovery from our dire financial straits will not be easy. It will require politicians to set aside their own self interest and become statesmen, thinking first about the well being of our country and not about being re-elected. That will not happen if we as the electorate do not force them to do so. It will also require us a citizens to realize that the recovery back to good financial health will not be easy. In fact, it will be as if we were recovering from major surgery: painful, arduous, and at times frustrating. It will require sacrifice and giving up some of our own self interests.

It can be done.

It will be done.

The choice we have as a nation is if we will do it ourselves, or if the market will do it for us by ceasing to buy our bonds and refusing to lend us money to perpetuate our profligate spending. If the markets correct our financial errors, the consequences of that will be beyond ugly.

Pay close attention to what is happening in Washington, and don't just hope that we start to make the steps to bring our financial house in order. Be involved. Communicate with your elected officials. Most of all, let them know you are aware and will hold them accountable.

It is the first step toward getting our nation back to fiscal health.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rollin' On

Know how to live the time that is given you.

Dario Fo

Another birthday has come and gone, and life just keeps rollin' on. I'm another year older, and hopefully a bit wiser. For those that know me well, that might be up for debate. Nevertheless, give me the benefit of the doubt.

This past year of life has seen some highs and lows.

I have seen a daughter that struggled with all sorts of problems in high school successfully complete her first year of college. A young lady that struggled in high school with all sorts of issues in and out of the classroom began to get her life together. A child who had at times seemed as if life would roll over her started to "get it" and grew personally and academically.

I buried a dear friend, a guy my age that lost his battle with the demons of addictions. A friend that was one of the first people to hold my daughter after we adopted her; a friend that I had enjoyed many great times with decided to shut out his friends and family and slipped away from us even though we desperately tried to rescue him.

Highs and lows.

Life just rollin' on.

Sometimes life rolls like a raging river that has breached its banks, sweeping away anything and anyone in its path. Sometimes life rolls like a peaceful stream, tranquil and calming.

Life rollin' on.

Hopefully, I have learned a few lessons this past year. One that I am taking to heart is to value the people that are important to me. I am going to appreciate more deeply those people that have come into my life that I call friends, people that accept me for what I am and what I can be. People that support me regardless of my weaknesses, foibles, and flaws.

This is not some maudlin post. This is about celebrating those people that bring a smile into your life, that support you, regardless of your shortcomings. Those people are the ones that lift you up and make life that calm, peaceful stream of time.

Those that have been gracious enough to read my blog and share my experiences are those people. You are the ones that I call "friends".

Thank you.

I have learned that my friends are the some of the most valuable people in my life, a gift without measure. That is the benefit of time, another year of life. Time reinforces the importance and value of those people in your life that you can call a friend. Time strips away the superficial and reveals the important. Time shows you those friends that help you through the turbulent times.

Life will keep on rollin' on. How we cope with it is up to us.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Have you heard of "Project Gunrunner"? This was a project that was begun during the Bush administration that originally was to conduct surveillance and to stem the flow of guns from the U.S. into Mexico and ultimately into the hands of drug cartels. The project was initiated in 2005 and supervised by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE). Project Gunrunner used a weapons tracking system known as eTrace that allowed the BATFE to track the origin of confiscated weapons through their serial numbers. By 2009, Project Gunrunner had generated 650 criminal cases against 1400 defendants and resulted in the seizure of 12,000 firearms. In 2009, the Obama administration launched a successor project called "Operation Fast and Furious", and the purpose of this project was to actually sell weapons to known criminal suspects and supposedly interdict or seize the weapons once they had been delivered to cartel members. Guess what? This didn't happen. What did happen was a massive delivery of weapons to criminal elements in Mexico with no seizure of those weapons. And what happened from there? U.S. Border Patrol agents Brian Terry and Jaime Zapata were gunned down with an AK-47 that was delivered through this program. This travesty was sanctioned by the Obama Justice Department. Our country has willingly supplied weapons to criminal elements in another country that have been used in the murder of U.S. government agents because of the inept handling of this program. And this administration should be held accountable for this debacle.

I have washboard abs. The problem is that they are covered with a load of laundry.

There is no denying that our educational system is generally turning out students that are ill prepared or totally unprepared to meet the challenges of a changing economic landscape. Many children graduate from high school and are unable to read proficiently and cannot perform math at a level that many employers require. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most prominent is a corrupt educational system that "teaches to the test" and fails to impart real educational skills to their charges. The most egregious example of this is in Atlanta, where recently 178 teachers and principals assisted students to cheat on standardized tests. The blame for this has been cast on everyone and everything- the system, parents, the No Child Left Behind law- except on the teachers themselves. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal released an 828 page report that castigated the Atlanta school system for systemic cheating and doing anything necessary to pump up the test scores of the students. Let me be the first to say that there are a number of good teachers in this country that sacrifice for the good of their students and do an excellent job of teaching. But there is a problem in this country when we have this type of corruption in our educational system. It is not just in Atlanta, but the Atlanta case is symptomatic of the problems that we have in our educational system. If we as a nation are going to compete in a global economy, we are going to have to improve educational outcomes. It is not teaching to the test, but instead teaching fundamentals and a mastery of those skills. Our educational system has to get back to the basics of teaching math, science and reading and worry less about "fluff" courses and feelings of self esteem.

If you really learned from your mistakes, I would have a Ph.D.

In a July 11th press conference, President Obama, speaking about the debt ceiling negotiations, said, "I do not want, and will not accept a deal in which I am asked to do nothing. In fact, I am able to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional income that I don't need, while, uh, a parent out there is struggling to figure out how to send their kid to college suddenly finds, uh, that they've got a couple of thousand dollars less in grants or loans. That is what the revenue debate is about." Here is a question for you, Mr. Obama. Who will be the arbiter of what wealth I need? Tell me what I need in the way of income and assets. That is what you are asking of all of us in the way you have framed the debate over raising the debt ceiling. Some us have more than we "need", according to you. Forcibly confiscate my assets or my income because the government deems that I don't "need" them is nothing more than legalized robbery. What is the genesis for this type of thinking. I'm glad you asked. The foundational philosophy behind Obama's thinking is found in this quote. "...after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor... after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want...and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly, only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability to each according to his needs." In case you don't remember your history, that famous quote was delivered by the founder of of Communism, Karl Marx. Dear readers, pay attention to what is happening in Washington and to the philosophies that guide this administration.

I'm envious of my computer. It still gets cookies.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Predators Skate of the Union Recap

The Nashville Predators held their 4th annual Skate of the Union last night at the Bridgestone Arena. In addition to unveiling the team's new sweater, fans were updated about what was going on in the world of the Predators during this off season.

Skate of the Union panelists, from left, Sean Henry, Chief Operating Officer; Head Coach Barry Trotz; Chairman of the ownership group and NHL Governor Tom Cigarran; Jeff Cogen, President; General Manager David Poile; and Play by Play announcer Pete Weber, the moderator for the evening.

The SOTU this year did not have any big surprises as far as player developments (you may remember that it was at last year's SOTU that Shea Weber was introduced as Captain), but there was some good information that was shared by the panelists about the team as well as the off ice operation. Here is a summary of the pertinent remarks from our participants.

Tom Cigarran

The goal of the organization is to have the number one hockey club in the NHL and the number one entertainment venue in the United States. He said that the ownership group is committed to continuing to invest in the hockey club and in hockey operations. He stated that the senior debt of the ownership group had been re-financed with Region's Bank. The ownership group is seeking to raise another $20-25 million in equity, presumably from other investors, and that all of those proceeds will be used to pay down the debt. He spoke to the potential of adding Brett Wilson, who hails from Calgary and is a personal friend and co-investor with David Freeman in other investments, as part of the ownership group. Cigarran said that the ownership group is "inching toward the goal line" and slowly making progress toward bringing him in as an investor.
Comment: Wilson was originally indicated to be purchasing 5% of the Predators. There was no mention as to whether that is still the ownership interest that Wilson will have. The fact that the debt has been refinanced is strongly positive. Interest rates are at an all time low, which is favorable to the team's cash flow, and this adds the positive element of stability with the ownership group. If the owners can raise another $20-25 million and use it to pay down debt, the positive benefits will be significant. As Cigarran said in his comments, this saves a lot of interest. Hypothetically, removing $20 million of debt that carries a 6% interest rate frees up $1.2 million per year in interest payments. Those proceeds can be used in other areas of the organization, presumably (hopefully) for player salaries.

Jeff Cogen

Cogen has arguably been one of the most valuable additions to the Predators organization in their history. Cogen is a salesman extraordinaire, and his remarks focused on growing the Predators brand. The organization is focusing on attracting more sponsors and activating the team's partnership with those partners. What the organization is attempting to do is make the sponsorships worthwhile for for the businesses that support the team. They are working to build strong relationships with those sponsors, and he cited the promotion with Pepsi as an example. Last season, purchasers of a Pepsi product that had a picture of Shea Weber could bring the can to the ticket office and receive discounted tickets. What the organization is doing is attempting to make the sponsorship relationship good for both sides.

Cogen mentioned that there were 16 regular season sellouts last year, and the goal this year is for 25. Marketing to the Nashville community will continue to focus on attracting the new fans and hooking them on the experience of a Predator game and getting them to buy ticket packages. The team is also aggressively marketing to the displaced Atlanta fans, one of which was in attendance last night and experienced a "conversion" to the Predator nation. He mentioned that within 48 hours of the announcement of the Thrashers being re-located, the ticket sales staff had put together a package to bring Atlanta fans to Nashville and were aggressively marketing those packages. The team has hired ticket sales reps in the Atlanta area to push these packages.

The relationship with Fox Sports South continues to grow. Five additional games will be broadcast by Fox this upcoming season. Cogen called these broadcasts "fan factories" as they can easily introduce the casual fan to the experience of hockey and the Predators.

Cogen also mentioned that the City of Nashville, lead by Mayor Karl Dean, is aggressively pushing to host an NHL All Star game. Cogen said that on a trip with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Dean told told the commissioner that Nashville WOULD host an All Star game, and that it needed to be scheduled.

Comment: Cogen is a consummate salesman- the man could sell ice to Eskimos. He is always thinking about how to sell the Predators, from the on-ice product to the fan experience to the relationship with sponsors. His ability to establish significant corporate relationships and make it a win for both sides is something that the organization needed to refine, and he has done a very good job of doing that. Cogen exudes confidence in his ability to make the Predators successful, and he has turned the organization into a selling machine, and this has been much needed.

Sean Henry

Henry is the man that manages the operational side of the front office, and he is focused on the maximization of the revenue that the organization and the venue generate. Henry said that season ticket renewals were running at the highest rate in the history of the organization at 92.4%. His stated goal is to take the passion in the stands and engage it in all aspects of the organization, from the players on the ice to the experience in the arena with concessions, vendors and staff. The focus on customer service and the fan experience means that the team is constantly evaluating and seeking to improve what the fan experiences from the minute they step into the arena.

There are arena improvements that are in the offing, some that will be major, and Henry said that the Predators are funding all of the improvements. The convention center that is being constructed behind the arena changes the entire dynamic of the arena, and, as Cogen said earlier, the back door of the arena will soon become the front door. The organization is preparing for that and will make improvements that will be noticeable.

Comment: The focus of Henry and Cogen on the fan experience is refreshing and vital. Entertainment dollars are limited, and they have a keen understanding of the need to make a solid first impression, to make the Predators game an "experience" for the fan. This will attract new fans and help to retain existing fans. The fact that the team is seeing a record renewal rate for season tickets in a tough economic environment makes a statement as to the success of their effort.

David Poile

Poile spoke to the status of getting Shea Weber signed, and stated that he was hopeful to get this done soon. He said that Shea likes it here and more importantly, wants to be here. He spoke about the departing players and said that while they had been valuable contributors, last year the decision was made to turn the keys to the team over to the younger guys, because it was the believed that these were the players that would lead us to the Cup. He mentioned the youth of key members of the core group of players and how their maturity should translate into improved on-ice production (thanks, David, for reading my earlier blog post about this). He mentioned that the organization had great confidence in these young players and was looking for significant improvement out of them. He said that there were some players that looked to be ready to make the jump to the parent club, and specifically mentioned Ryan Ellis. He said that Ellis was going to be a special player.   

As is tradition, he fielded a question about Alexander Radulov, and this time, gave a surprising answer. He said that Rads looked to be close to coming back to the team, possibly next season.

Comment: Although there has been some disappointment that the team has not done more in free agency, there will still be some moves to come, in my opinion. Poile is masterful at picking his spots and getting players that can be contributors at the right price. I think he will make some additions to the line up before the season starts. Don't undersell the addition of Bergfors, who has the potential to be a solid contributor. Operating with the need to spend big money to sign Weber, and to sign Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne at the end of next season, Poile was prudent and right not to participate in a big way in this year's free agent frenzy.

Barry Trotz

Barry received a standing ovation from the fans at his introduction, and rightfully so. He has done a masterful job of developing the talent he has been given and getting good production out of them. He said that the organization looks to develop their talent as players and as people, and this ethic will not change. He spoke about several specific players, and said that Francis Buillon is making progress from the concussion he suffered and looked to be on track to return at the start of the season. he mentioned that Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Gabriel Bourque, and Craig Smith all had the potential to make the club next year. He specifically mentioned that Smith, who has said he will return to Wisconsin for another year of college hockey, has been spoken to and it was "suggested" that he consider the possibility of staying in Nashville.

Trotz was asked about improving the power play. His comment was that the team needed to shoot the puck more. He said, "You don't think I'm not listening when you guys yell 'shoot' when we are on the power play, but I hear you." He said it is something that they will continue to work on, but that the power play cannot run just through Weber alone. And they will shoot the puck more.

Comment: Trotz will have another young team this season, but a team that has a year of experience under their belt. I have full confidence in his ability to get the most out the roster. The young players are the wild card, as some have shown that they have tremendous potential. It is a transition year for Trotz and his staff, as Lane Lambert steps in for Brent Peterson behind the bench. I expect this transition to be seamless.

Although there wasn't a splashy free agent announcement, the sense I got out of this meeting was one that was positive, both on the ice and especially off the ice. The organization is moving in the right direction and has made numerous positive strides financially and especially in growing the corporate and individual fan base. There are on ice questions, but I have confidence in the coaching staff to resolve those questions and put a good team on the ice.

A special thank you goes out to Chris Parker and the Predators organization. I was fortunate to be invited in for an early preview of the uniform along with several other Predator bloggers. The organization has made a great effort to reach out to the blogging community and involve us, and this is appreciated. The organization deserves a stick tap for recognizing the role of the non-traditional media in covering the team.

Ryan Suter, left, and Blake Geoffrion modeling the new sweaters

Ben Ben expresses his sentiments after the SOTU

Is everything perfect in Predland? No. We still have some unanswered questions on the ice and all of us would like to see more offensive firepower.

After last night, however, I think it is safe to say that the Skate of the Union in Predland is solid.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Predators Unveil Bold New Sweater


When asked by Chief Marketing Officer Christian Parker my thoughts about seeing the new sweater for the first time, my first reaction was...


The sweater I was seeing was not the phosphorescent, banana yellow sweater that was leaked in a surreptitious screen shot a few weeks ago. This sweater looked good. It was a bold departure from any look the Predators had worn in seasons past, but in my view, that boldness was eye catching.

Here is the sweater along with the pants and socks:

Obviously, it doesn't look as good lying flat on a table in the Predators front office as it will on a player, but you can get a sense of how the uniform will look.

The sweater incorporates the new Predators logo on the chest, but what grabs the attention is the new dominant color, which has been dubbed "Predators Gold". The Predators logo, while modified to three colors instead of the 14 that were in the old logo, is still consistent from season one, and represents what Parker calls the "Predators brand". That logo is recognized throughout the league, and it was important to the design that there be consistency and reinforcement of the brand.

It is the new main gold color that is radically different, and the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. Parker explained that the team wanted a distinctive look and color in the redesigned uniform. He mentioned that there are 14 teams in the league that wear some form of a blue color as their dominant color, and the desire was to have a color and a sweater that would stand out from all the other uniforms in the league and would be different in a positive way.

The Predators attempted to balance the gold motif with the dark blue that had been part of the uniform since day one. The attempt in the redesign was to create a distinctive look that balanced traditional elements of classic uniforms around the league.

In this picture, you can see some of the detail. A guitar pick that is a nod to our Music City heritage with three stars representing the three grand divisions of the state of Tennessee is on the right shoulder. Inside the collar are piano keys, again acknowledging our the impact of the music industry on our area. If you look closely at the background of this picture, you can see the old mustard colored sweater that was hanging in the conference room and see the contrast between the colors.

Those that saw the Predators second round home playoff games on television saw the "Gold Out" that was in the Bridgestone Arena. Several people commented to me that the gold actually looked orange, so naturally, I asked Chris if these sweaters had been "television tested". How did they look on the screen was a concern. He said that the sweaters had been television tested twice by Reebok, with players wearing the sweaters and television views from all angles. The sweaters look gold in the tests, and really stand out with the blue trim and against the blue pants.

The jersey was unveiled at the end of the Skate of the Union meeting for fans. All in attendance were asked to go out to the plaza and view the Skate of the Union Banner hanging from the Bell South Tower. At the end of a countdown, that banner dropped to reveal a banner of the new jersey.

Here is the video of the unveiling on the Batman Building


Mayor Karl Dean and members of the Nashville Sports Authority were also there in attendance to support the team.

The Predators have made a bold fashion statement with their new look. It is a look that is distinctive, and it is one that the View likes.

They will certainly stand out with the new sweaters. 

Now, they will need their play to stand on the ice next season to stand out like their new look.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pondering the Predators Signings and Possibilities

The Nashville Predators have resolved their issues with their restricted free agents, signing Sergei Kostitsyn, Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, Chris Mueller, and Cal O'Reilly. Kostitsyn signed a one year contract for $2.5 million; Spaling signed for 2 years for $2.1 million; Halischuk signed a 2 year deal for $1.45 million; Mueller signed a one year, two way contract for $550,000; and O'Reilly signed a 1 year deal for $1.05 million.

These signings are good ones for the Predators, solidifying the core of the team. Kostitsyn's signing is particularly important for the Predators, as he led the team in goals with 23 and tied for the lead in points with 50.

While the Predators have resolved the issue of signing their players, there is still a hearing with arbitrator George Nicholau as to the propriety of the process. In talking to the Predators front office, the view is that the Predators organization did not maliciously attempt to circumvent the process of signing the RFA's. They did, however, violate the protocol by failing to fax the offer sheets to the players and the agents. As such, there could be a fine to the organization or a warning issued. That will be decided in the grievance hearing. The probability of the contracts being voided by the arbitrator is considered to be non-existent.

Along with these RFA's, the Predators have also signed in the free agency period Zach Stortini, Kyle Wilson, Niclas Bergfors, and Brodie Dupont. Of these, Bergfors will be the biggest impact player for the team. Last season, he posted 36 points in 72 games, and the 24 year old winger has good offensive upside. Bergfors will have to improve his overall game and become more solid in the defensive zone to gain consistent playing time. Look for the coaching staff to improve Bergfors overall game and for him to be a solid contributor.

The remaining signings are depth signings, with these players more than likely starting the season in Milwaukee. Stortini has a chance to stick with the Predators at the start of the season as a fourth line wing depending on his play in camp and the development of younger players or if the Predators sign additional forwards.

The focus for the Predators now shifts to signing stud defenseman Shea Weber. Weber is an RFA, and the Predators wisely filed for arbitration to keep other teams from being able to make an offer for his services. I believe that the Predators and Weber never get to arbitration. By freeing up cap space with some of their off season moves, the Predators now have the capacity to sign Weber to a longer term contract. There is some thought that Weber will sign a very short term deal and will test the market within a few years.

I don't believe that happens.

Weber is happy here in Nashville, and his role as Captain solidifies his position with the team. As long as the Predators continue to position the team to be a serious playoff contender, I think he will be satisfied playing in this market. Don't forget the fact that his playing partner, Ryan Suter, helps to elevate Weber's game, and going to another team takes that dimension away.

My view: Weber signs a deal in the five year range for $6-7 million per year.

So where does this leave the Predators for the upcoming season?

There will be the possibility for the team to still make some good offensive additions. Several teams are up against the cap and will have to get under before the season starts. Additionally, there will be some players that walk away from arbitration awards and will become available. Arb hearings will begin in late July and continue into August, and I expect to see some players become available after this process is underway. Because of the cleared cap space, the Predators will be in a position to make an offer for a player that fits their needs.

This also does not mean that the Predators are out of the trade market. The obvious bargaining chip for the team is the young D corp, but a trade there certainly has to have long term benefits. Several teams are still in the market for a depth defenseman, and this situation favors the Predators.

In looking at the players have under contract, there is one other factor to consider: this is a young roster that has a lot of experience. Don't underestimate the effect of playing a full season in the NHL at a young age, as many of of forwards have done. The jump in experience usually translates into performance on the ice in the next season. For instance, Nick Spaling will turn 24 at the start of the upcoming season; Sergei Kostitsyn turned 24 near the end of last season; Colin Wilson will turn 22 early in this season; Niclas Bergfors turned 24 at the end of last season; and Patrick Hornqvist will turn 25 on January 1. These young players will mature not only physically, but on and off the ice as well. This maturity will hopefully translate into improved play in the upcoming season.

It's easy to get frustrated at the start of the free agency period and not see some big name signed to the roster. The truth is that the start of free agency is when the "stupid" money gets spent, money that many teams come to regret. And many times, these players added at that time do not generate the results that was expected at their signing. The fact in today's NHL is that teams that can draft well and develop their talent most often are successful in the long term.

Welcome to the "Predator Way".

That is not to say that the Preds want make some off season adds. I think they will.

When they do, you can be assured that it will be a player that can contribute at the right price. And the team will not pay "stupid" money to do this.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

There are so many things to talk about that are going to impact our country that it is difficult to chose , but Imma gonna start with this one. You remember way back at the outset of our national nightmare known as the presidency of Barack Obama, we were told that our nation desperately needed to enact a stimulus program to create jobs and get our economy moving. Well, $666 billion dollars (and counting) later, how has that stimulus thing worked out for us? According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors (which, by the way, are all hand picked by the President), the stimulus program has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs- either in the public or private sector. Quick math tells me that each one of these jobs that was created or saved cost the American taxpayer  $278,000. Let me say that again: each job cost the American taxpayer $278,000. Folks, that is an incredibly inefficient expenditure of our tax dollars. The private sector creates jobs at a fraction of that cost.  Furthermore, the Council of Economic Advisors reports that the economy would have naturally created these jobs over the same period of time without the tax burden that it has placed on you and me as productive citizens. The truth is that the stimulus was a sop to the Democratic constituencies that helped to sweep Obama into the White House. Here is my surprised face:

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.

The pot is starting to boil when it comes to talk about raising the debt limit for our country. The Obama administration wants the debt limit raised by $2 trillion dollars to, in their words, "keep the government functioning and avoid a shutdown". Here is what you should know: the federal government WILL NOT shut down. Will it continue to operate all departments and services if the debt ceiling is not raised? No. If the debt ceiling is not raised, here is what will happen: the government will still have revenue and will still have an abundance of cash on hand, but not enough to run every department. The federal government will, like you and I have to do in lean economic times, prioritize their spending. Sure, national parks may close; some government offices will close and some services will be suspended, and the leaders in Washington are going to have to decide where to spend the funds they have and the tax revenues that will continue to flow into the federal coffers. You can bet that this will be politicized; in fact, the cynic in me says that the current administration will continually threaten not to make the August social security payments to our seniors, even though those funds will be there. Pay attention to this battle in Washington, and realize that this is a prime opportunity for our country to enact some fiscal restraint and rein in the burgeoning and bloated bureaucracy in Washington.

My first job was at an origami company, but it folded.

The 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution says, in section four, "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for the payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned..." Some who want to increase the debt ceiling have posited that this means that the Executive Branch of the federal government can bypass the Legislative Branch and arbitrarily raise the debt ceiling. Watch this closely, because if this attempted it will be the basis for a constitutional showdown. The fact that this is even being discussed is audacious beyond belief. This is characteristic of the mentality of this administration and indeed all of Washington. The belief that our leaders can centralize power and that they know what is best for us is a conceit that must be monitored and curtailed.

I have the body of a god. Unfortunately, it's Buddha.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Predators Represented at 19,200 Feet

Our good friend Rebecca Ward, Director of the Predators Foundation, married Eric King in June. The lovely June bride and her husband embarked on their honeymoon, and a most unusual honeymoon it was. Rebecca and Eric spent part of their honeymoon with 22 Kenyan orphans that they have supported in Africa.

Rebecca and Eric didn't just spend time with them, they took them on quite an adventure. A 19,200 foot adventure, to be exact, to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

While they were there, Rebecca and Eric also represented for the Predators, as you can see by the photo they sent to me:

You will often see Rebecca at the silent auction table at Predator home games. If you have an opportunity, stop by and say hello and congratulate her. She is representative of many of the good people in the Predators organization that do so much for our community.

And tell her that she has most uniquely represented the Predators.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Predators Sign Bergfors and Some Perspective.

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed forward Niclas Bergfors to a one year contract. This announcement comes on the heels of the Predators trading Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Here is the press release from the Predators:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed forward Niclas Bergfors to a one-year contract worth $575,000.

Bergfors, 24 (3/7/87), split the 2010-11 season between Atlanta and Florida, posting 36 points (12g-24a) in 72 games. During his first full NHL campaign with New Jersey and Atlanta in 2009-10, the Södertälje, Sweden native posted 21 goals and 44 points in 81 games, landing him a spot on the NHL’s All-Rookie Team. In 162 career NHL games since 2008, Bergfors has 81 points (34g-47a).

Drafted 23rd overall (first round) by the Devils in the 2005 Entry Draft, Bergfors was the youngest player in the American Hockey League in 2005-06 with the Albany River Rats after a decorated junior career in his homeland. The 5-10, 194-pound winger was the 2005 Swedish Junior Player of the Year, following the likes of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Henrik Lunqvist, Peter Forsberg and Mats Sundin. He has also represented the Tre Kroner in five international tournaments, earning a bronze medal and being named to the tournament all-star team at the 2005 Under-18 World Championships.
 The Bergfors signing is similar to the signing last season of Sergei Kostitsyn: a young forward that has offensive upside, but needs some coaching to make him a solid, two way player. Bergfors has the capability of adding some offense to the Predators, and should be more productive than the recently departed J.P. Dumont. Bergfors is, I believe, going to look to prove that he can be that type of player, and Barry Trotz and his staff should mold him into a solid contributor.

The Predators have freed up significant salary space, and this should allow the team to have plenty of room to sign Shea Weber as well as pursue more scoring help up front. In a conversation with one of the coaches after development camp, I was told this is exactly what the team is attempting to do.

There has been some concern about the departure of Franson, Lombardi, Dumont, Marcel Goc, Steve Sullivan, and Joel Ward. Here is some perspective: last season, when the Predators started their run to the playoffs, Goc, Lombardi, and Sullivan were out of the line up. Dumont was most often a healthy scratch. Only Ward was playing significant minutes, and his offensive production in the regular season was down 33% from the prior season (15 goals in 2010; 10 goals in 2011). Franson is a young player that has some upside and was solid on the power play, but the fact remains that he averaged just over 15 minutes a game and was on the third D pairing. 

Yes, the Predators have lost some players, but it is important to keep in mind that the Predators were winning
WITHOUT these players. Could some of them have been contributors in this upcoming season? There is no doubt. Yet this team has proven that they can win without these players. 

And they will again this season.

Look for the Predators to continue to be active, with a priority of signing Weber but also with an eye toward adding offense.

That is a good perspective to keep in mind if you are a Predator fan.

Predators Deal Franson & Lombardi to Toronto

The Nashville Predators announced today that they had traded defenseman Cody Franson and center Matthew Lombardi to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Brett Lebda and forward Robert Slaney.

Here is the press release from the team:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has acquired defenseman Brett Lebda and forward Robert Slaney from the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Cody Franson and forward Matthew Lombardi. The deal also includes a fourth-round pick – Nashville will acquire Toronto’s 2013 fourth rounder if Lombardi plays 60 or more games regular-season games over the course of 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, while Toronto will acquire Nashville’s 2013 fourth rounder if Lombardi does not play 60 games during the next two campaigns.

“Unfortunately, Matthew Lombardi's concussion last season and recovery left us uncertain about his ability to come back for this season, and that uncertainty has made it difficult for us to move forward, plan and develop our lineup,” Poile said. “We never like to give up young homegrown talent like Cody Franson, but have to give up something in order to put ourselves in position to do other things to improve our team, which we are committed to doing between now and training camp.”

Lebda, 29 (1/15/82), appeared in 41 games for the Leafs in 2010-11, registering four points (1g-3a) and 14 penalty minutes. The Buffalo Grove, Ill., native has amassed 72 points (19g-53a) and 215 penalty minutes in 367 NHL regular-season contests with Detroit and Toronto since 2005-06, and 10 assists and 40 PIMs in 62 playoff games during that span. The 5-9, 194-pound blueliner won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008, and helped Detroit advance to the Finals the following season. Prior to turning pro in 2004-05, Lebda played four seasons at the University of Notre Dame, amassing 85 points (26g-59a) and 253 penalty minutes in 152 games.

Slaney, 22 (10/13/88), spent the majority of the 2010-11 campaign with the ECHL’s Reading Royals, notching 24 points (7g-17a) and 34 PIMs in 61 games. He also appeared in nine contests with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, posting one assist and two penalty minutes. The 6-2, 203-pound native of Upper Island Cove, Newfoundland played four seasons with Cape Breton (QMJHL) from 2005-09, registering 168 points (78g-90a) and 229 PIMs in 239 games.

Analysis: the move does clear the salary of Lombardi off the books for the Predators. Lombardi's future is uncertain due to a concussion that he sustained in the second game of the season and from which he was unable to return to action. The move of Franson, who averaged just over 15 minutes of ice time this past season, speaks to the confidence that the organization has in some of the younger defensemen that should be able to make the jump to the NHL this season. It certainly opens the door for Ryan Ellis to make a move to the big club this fall.

Hopefully, this move sets up the Predators for other off season moves with Lombardi's salary off the books. It is no secret that the Predators are looking for additional scoring help up front, and this move should position the Predators to make additional off acquisitions.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Predators Part Ways, Stand Pat in Free Agent Frenzy

The first day of the NHL free agency period has been described as a "frenzy". In looking at some of the deals that were consummated today, a more apt description might be "foolishness".

In the foolishness, uh, frenzy, of the first day of free agency, the Nashville Predators did......wait for it.....


And that is not a bad thing.

The Predators did lose some unrestricted free agents, players that had been an integral part of last season's team. Marcel Goc, Joel Ward, and Steve Sullivan were all signed by other teams on this first day of free agency.

Watching players go out the door and seeing no splashy signings occur is frustrating to the fans, but why don't we pause for a moment and assess what has happened today and how the Predators can still be successful in free agency.

There are several considerations to keep in mind:

There is a general feeling that many of these contracts signed today were divorced from the reality of the player's performance. Specifically, many general managers overpaid for players such as Ville Leino, Joel Ward, and Thomas Fleischmann, to name a few. This is not a criticism of those specific players, but these contracts are representative of GM's that had money to spend and are banking on players to continue to improve their performance and have rewarded a solid season or playoff campaign.

If you ask me to explain how experienced GM's get caught up in the frenzy of overpaying for a player, well, I am at a loss to do so. Perhaps some GM's feel the pressure to do something (Imma lookin at you, Scott Howson) to keep their job. They certainly were filling a roster need. When you overpay as many of the GM's did today, there is, however, a disconnect between performance and payment. And this can be a conceit of a GM and his team- believing that his coach or his system can squeeze even more out of a player than his former coach. Yes, we all know of players that have benefited from a change of scenery, but a change of scenery at an inflated salary makes no sense.

There is also the particular case of the Florida Panthers, who were so far below the salary floor that they had to spend an enormous amount  of cash to get to the floor. The Panthers skewed the market by virtue of having to pay for players to get closer to the floor. They were willing to take on contracts (Brian Campbell) and pay above market rates for players (Thomas Fleischmann), and their actions no doubt had an influence on the market for contracts on this first day.

Predators GM David Poile is chided and often criticized for "doing nothing" during free agency, especially early on in the process. I don't believe for a moment that Poile doesn't work the phones and attempted to get a deal done, but Poile is going to do a deal at the right price. Part of that is the self imposed budget of the team, but credit has to be given to Poile for being savvy enough to be a good judge of talent and what that talent is reasonably worth. His peers operate with different salary constraints and different team needs, which can (and did this free agent period- see: Florida) skew offers to the FA's.

Another consideration is organizational depth. As Predator fans, we are grateful for and we have cheered the development of our young players. This past season, we relied heavily on those players to step into key roles in the regular season and the playoffs. The advent of free agency doesn't mean that our young talent has disappeared or has had a setback in their development. One of the strengths of the Predator organization is the depth and improving talent in our system. Many teams have significant holes in their system or feel they need that one special player to get them to the Cup, and they attempt to plug those holes through free agency. That is part and parcel of the frenzy that is free agency, and perhaps indicative of a weakness in a team's farm system. All of us agree that the Predators could use more consistent scoring, but is it better to develop that scoring or attempt to buy it?

This brings us to where the Predators are right now. This team, if nothing else, is consistent in embracing their philosophy of the "Predator Way". That philosophy has been to draft well and develop players, and when the time is right, give them an opportunity to shine. As mentioned, we saw some younger players thrust into key roles this past season, and they performed admirably. It is obvious that they have to improve, that their game has to make a jump to the next level for this team to continue to be successful.

This also means that the Predators have to have existing players on whom they depend perform to expectations. It is imperative that the guys that are the core of this team have to produce; that is why they have the contracts they do. This is another obvious point, but it is one that the Predator nation needs to keep in mind. It is easy to be enamored with another team's forward and fall in love with their production. What we have to keep in mind is that we have players that have the ability to perform at the level of any of the free agents that were signed today to unreal contracts. This puts the onus to produce on the core of the Predators roster.

Were the Predators going to deviate from that philosophy today? Only if the right player to fill a need was available at the right price. Were those players available- at the right price?


That doesn't mean that the Predators will not still be active. However, it will be on their terms; a player that can fill a need and at the right price.

Here is a bit of coach speak: you dance with who brung ya.

And the Predators are going to be dancing with with their core players and developing young talent.