Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Predators Pre-Season Preview: The Bloggers Talk Shea Weber

All of Predator nation is familiar with the contract arbitration proceedings that occurred with Captain Shea Weber this summer. Weber was awarded a one year deal after the arbitration hearing. The question that our panel will address is "Will Weber's arbitration affect the team in this upcoming season? Will team cohesiveness be affected and will Weber's ability to lead be compromised?"

Buddy Oakes

Team cohesiveness will be the number one challenge of the coaching staff this season as it is every year. The “Predator Way” requires that everyone be “All In” all season, with no nights off. I think if any staff can pull a team back together it will be Barry Trotz and his coaches.

Weber fully understands the situation in Nashville and is not going to “waste” a year or two without giving 100% while he is playing with the “big three”. He wants to win and he is in the prime of his career. He wants a Cup ring and as captain to hoist it first. Given a choice, he  would rather have the ring with the Predator on it as that is the only organization he has ever known and he would go down in hockey history as the team leader. He has two years to be convinced that will happen in Nashville so I don’t foresee it being an issue.As tragic as the death of Wade Belak has been, it appears to have put an end, at least temporarily, to all the discussion about next year’s pending free agency. I have a gut feeling that Belak’s passing may bring the team closer together as they have suffered the loss of a friend as a group and that help keep them focused on matters on the ice as opposed to in the press.

Dirk Hoag

You won't see anyone on the team admit that, but it simply has to. If the Preds struggle and fall outside of playoff position, you'll hear constant questions about whether he really wants to stick around or not.
Just as we envisioned a strong foundation by having Shea locked up as captain in a long-term deal, the flip side of that coin is that despite all the talk, when it came to the critical decision point, he and the team couldn't even agree on a one-year contract and had to go before the arbitrator. How can all those months of "I want to play in Nashville", and "we'll get a deal done" commentary not undermine his credibility, when matched up with the events which took place?
 
AJ

That's a toughie. It's difficult to assess what the common mentality of the Predators' team might be in regard to Shea Weber's stance in the negotiation of his deal. No one can deny the fact that Weber has handicapped the team's ability to re-sign the core players that everyone assumed he'd do everything he could to help retain. Has he sent a clear signal to his teammates that he's not as enamored with Music City as he so vocally claimed? That's certainly an easy interpretation to come away with. That could certainly affect the perception of his leadership commitment to this team.

On the other hand, are we as observers overreacting? Are the players substantially better tuned into the business aspect of life in the NHL than we give them credit for or allow them to be?

I think it boils down to what percentage of Weber's teammates see the move as selfishness and how many regard it as an admirable business decision. Personally I would think that the answer lies somewhere in the
middle.

It will also be extremely important to see how Weber follows up his hardline at the negotiating table with his performance on the ice. Nothing less than his best output in nearly all areas of his game will
absolve him from criticism in all corners. It'll be a tough road to hoe for The Captain this season. He's left himself little-to-no wiggle room in that regard. No more flying under the radar for Webs; not even a little bit.

Patten Fuqua

Shea Weber has never seemed the kind of player to be a "locker room cancer" and I don't see him becoming one this season. While no one expected his case to reach arbitration and while there might be some hard feelings out there, I have a hard time believing that Shea Weber will not be playing to win and will not be trying to lead by example to motivate his teammates to win. Titan Sports Management is not in that locker room - Shea Weber is.

Amanda Dipaolo

I want to say no to both prongs of this question, but only time will tell. I would assume the players are mature enough to understand that there is a business part to the game and that a player of Weber's calibre may show the harsher aspects of the business in order to get the right deal for the player.  If the players understand this to the fullest then the cohesiveness of the team should not be affected by the hearing.

Jeremy Gover

I don't know if the cohesiveness will be affected but, if the Preds do their typical "early season struggle," look for the Shea Weber contract issue to become a real distraction in the locker room. Media in every NHL city will be asking about it before and after every game if they're given an excuse to. A sluggish Predators team would be the perfect excuse.

Ryan Porth

That's one big question heading into this season.  Trotz and company cannot let Weber's situation become a distraction.  This is a young team that hasn't really gone through this before.  It could be natural for those youngsters to have doubts about Weber's commitment to the team after this summer's stalemate.  For Weber's leadership ability not to be impaired, he may want to rally the troops, per se, and let his teammates know just how committed he is and to not worry about his the off-ice situation until a later time.

Kris Martel

That's really a tough question to answer. One would think that all of this heavily publicized arbitration deal could be a huge deterrent to the organization, however what went on was strictly business between
Weber and the Predators, that much has been vocalized by both sides of the arbitration.

I don't think Nashville will lose any of its cohesion, they're a team that has always been defined by what they do on the ice rather than what happens off the ice (just like all the relocation talk/team sale/fire sale that went on a few years ago). Shea's leadership ability isn't compromised either in my opinion. The players still trust him and they all know that this arbitration is just one side of this business, sometimes it happens.

Jim Diamond

Directly - no. Indirectly - yes. It is already a tight team and I do not expect this to change based upon the arbitration. The players all respect Weber and him going to arbitration this summer will not affect how he and the team interact with one another. Indirectly, Weber and the rest of the team will again have to field questions all season about his progress on a long-term deal as well as the contracts of Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne. I think that the players will quickly grow weary of the contract questions each time they go to a different city to play a game. I do not expect Weber's leadership ability to be impaired at all. He plays the game the right way and his teammates recognize and respect that in him. Weber wants to win a Stanley Cup and will do everything in his power to do so. The other players want the same thing and know that Weber is the best player suited to try and lead them to that goal.

There you have it, friends. All agree that Weber has invited more scrutiny after the arbitration proceedings, but it is the feeling that Weber's mates will realize this is the business side of hockey. I do agree with the sentiment that if this team struggles, Weber will be opened up to scrutiny as a leader.

In our final post from the round table, we will look at the projected Central Division standings and a one word description of the Predators team.

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