Sunday, June 29, 2014

Predators Draft Analysis: Adding Some Potential Pop to the Offense

The recently completed NHL draft saw the Nashville Predators pick up some players that have the potential for high end offensive in the NHL. This is a bit of a departure from the tendency to draft grinders and gritty players in previous drafts.

Perhaps General manager David Poile is serious about getting more offense out of this team.

The Predators selected Kevin Fiala with the 11th pick in the first round. Fiala can play either left or right wing and possesses immense offensive upside. Fiala has been described as a player that can develop into a Patrick Kane type player, and that if he were a bit bigger would have been a top three pick in this draft. Here is what the experts at Elite Prospects say about Fiala:

Kevin Fiala is an offensive forward with game-breaking potential. He is a respectable and shifty skater with quick legs and explosive acceleration. Fiala owns a slick skill-set with soft hands, good stickhandling and brilliant puck-control. Not known for his defensive play, as he still needs to learn what it means to stick to a game-plan or doing exactly what the coach has told him. Fiala is not very big or strong yet, but his quickness and agility lets him avoid getting hit or held back along the boards. Has a wealthy arsenal of shooting tools which, combined with his creativity and finishing abilities, makes him the player you turn to if you need a goal.

With their second round pick, the Predators selected Vladislav Kamenev, a 6' 2", 203 pound forward. The book on Kamenev from Elite Prospects says:

Kamenev is a talented forward with good sized who uses his physical gifts to protect the puck and win board battles. He sees the ice well, has good hands and a strong shot. Has to keep his emotions in check as he can get overzealous taking stupid penalties at times.

And the assessment from Hockey's Future concurs:

Kamenev is a good-skating center with an excellent set of hands, and is a very interesting prospect thanks to his size, use of the body, and puck skills. The native of Orsk, Russia can be very effective along the boards as he can use his size to his advantage and can also be very useful in front of the crease. He has a good shot, but is not a goal-scorer, as he, as many other Russians, plays more of a pass-first type of game. He also seems to have a good work ethic and hasn’t had many problems with penalties in his career.

Props to the Predators for not shying away from the young Russian after their negative experience with Alexander Radulov. Kamenev is 17 and played for KHL champion Magnitogorsk, coached by former NHL Head Coach Mike Keenan.

In the third round, the Predators selected Jack Dougherty, a defenseman from the U.S. Development League. Here is the view from Elite Prospects:

Dougherty is an intelligent defenseman who tries to blend strong positioning while trying to inflict a physical dimension on his opponent. He isn't the fleetest of foot, but does get where he needs to go. He also makes a strong first pass and has solid offensive instincts.

And from Hockey's Future:

Dougherty has made great strides the past couple of seasons — steadily progressing from a defensive defenseman to a confident puck handler and someone with a great ability to read the play. Has the size and skating ability that attracts scouts and has not let his offensive play diminish his defensive game.

Dougherty is slated to attend the University of Wisconsin in September 2014 and looks to be the next in a long line of impact defenders for the Badgers. With a strong all-around game, size and the skating ability to compete at a high level, Dougherty has the raw talent to be a successful two-way defenseman and Badgers coach Mike Eaves and his staff have had a lot of success getting those types of players to the next level.

Dougherty is 18 years old and is 6' 2" and 185 pounds. It is expected that he will continue to fill out his frame in the college ranks.

Third round pick Justin Kirkland has been mentioned as a sleeper and a steal in the draft. The 6' 3", 175 pound left wing has been described as possessing "limitless" potential. The 17 year old plays for the Kelowna Rockets, and here is the scoop on this prospect:

The Camrose, Alberta native recorded 48 points in 68 games with Kelowna, one of the best teams in the Western Hockey League this season. Scouts have described Kirkland as a raw talent with limitless potential, a true value pick at 62. Before being drafted by Kelowna, Kirkland skated for the Notre Dame Midget Program in Saskatchewan, joining the likes of Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards who also played for the elite program. Kirkland has a unique mix of size and skill, and has been compared to the likes of Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole and former Kelowna Rocket /current Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn.

One can only hope he pans out like Cole or Benn.

The Predators went back to the forward ranks in the fourth round, selecting Viktor Arvidsson. Elite Prospects has this to say about the 21 year old winger:

A smallish winger with good speed and impressive technical skills. Really noticeable on the ice with his creativity. Has a fine shot and potential to become a high scoring player. Works pretty hard too and does not ignore his defensive responsibilities. Scores big/important goals.

And Hockey's Future says:

Despite starting on the lower lines when the tournament commenced, Arvidsson worked his way up the depth chart, showing tremendous energy and showing off terrific skills and creativity. Eventually, he worked his way up to the top-six, played frequently on the power-play and even saw some time on the penalty kill. The last item sticks out as somewhat uncommon for a player of his size and skill level, but he’s been working on his defensive game intently, and it shows.

“Viktor has worked very hard to develop his defensive game,” said his junior coach in SkellefteĆ„, Hans Wallson. “The progress has been good and he feels confident in his game in all zones, which has meant that he now plays regularly in the Elitserien.”

Arvidsson is a small forward, only 5' 9" and 176 pounds. While that doesn't mean he can't be an impact player in the NHL, he will have to continue to develop his game to stick on the roster. But we all know that the Predators need creative play makers, so Arvidsson is an intriguing pick.

The Predators selected two defensemen with their final picks in the draft. In the fifth round, Joonas Lyytinen, a 19 year old, 6', 150 pound blueliner who plays for KalPa in Finland was selected. There is no analysis on Lyytinen, and I am not a scout, but it would seem to me this young man needs to eat- lots.

The Predators final selection was Aaron Irving, a 6' 1", 185 pound 18 year old. Irving currently plays for the Edmonton Oil Kings, and this is the view from Hockey's Future:

Irving possesses “stay-at-home” attributes. Not shy of physical play. Looked upon to settle things down in defensive zone. Moves puck well up ice. Trusted by coaching staff during key minutes late in games.

It is a solid draft that adds some players to the pipeline that have some seriously good offensive upside. And it is refreshing to see that the team has begun to add those types of players, which we have sorely lacked.

After all, you have to score goals to win games.

And these forwards look to have that potential.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Predators Trade Hornqvist, Spaling to Penguins for James Neal

The Nashville Predators are a team that is need of consistent offense. They took a step to remedying that problem by acquiring James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.

In Neal, the Predators pick up a player that has produced a point per game in two of his last three seasons, and has scored 20 goals or more in each of his NHL seasons. Last season, Neal had 27 goals and 34 assists in 59 games.

Neal has played 413 NHL games, tallying 315 points (161G-154A) and picking up 349 penalty minutes. Neal brings some snarl to the Predators forwards, but has stepped over the line on occasion, picking up suspensions for questionable hits. The Predators can use his grit and end energy, but he has to play in control to be effective.

There is no doubt that Neal has benefitted from playing on a talented Pens team, and it remains to be seen if he can be as productive with the Predators.

The Predators gave up Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to pick up Neal. Hornqvist had 53 points (22G-31A) in 76 games last season for the Predators. Hornqvist has been a heart and soul player for the Predators and scored many (most) of his goals in the hard area in front of the net. Spaling was a versatile depth player for the Predators that could play center or wing and had 32 points (13G-19A) in 71 games.

Neal has three years remaining on his contract that pays him $5 million per year. Hornqvist has 4 years left on his contract that pays him 4.25 million per year. Spaling is a restricted free agent and was paid $1.5 million last season.

The acquisition of Neal represents a bold move for Poile. In trading Hornqvist and Spaling, Poile has moved players he drafted for a top line scorer. Hornqvist and Spaling were gritty, character guys that played the "Predator Way". As hard as they played, they did not have the potential to be elite scorers, much less in the top half of the League in scoring. Neal has that ability and has shown flashes of being exceptional.

Kudos to General Manager David Poile for making a move to add immediate scoring help for the Predators. The anemic offense that has been put on the ice the past few seasons has cost the Predators a playoff berth and has put too much pressure on the defense and goaltending. Neal is a proven goal scorer and if he continues to produce can tremendously benefit this team immediately.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Economics is often referred to as the "dismal science" and is viewed as a murky and inexact study. It's true that economics can be arcane, complicated, and obtuse. But it doesn't have to be.

Today, we will engage in a simple economics lesson.

One that highlights the plight we now find ourselves in as a nation.

What do these cities have in common: Detroit; Akron, Flint, Gary, and Reading, to name a few?

At one time, these cities were bustling manufacturing hubs that offered numerous well paying jobs to workers that used their income to become comfortably ensconced in the middle class.

Today, these cities are decaying and mostly in deep financial trouble.


The manufacturing jobs that under girded the economies of these cities has largely disappeared.

And with those jobs gone, so has the economic health and vitality of these cities.

After World War II, the United States had the most vibrant and robust manufacturing economy in the world. Our country emerged from the war with a skilled workforce and the facilities to employ those workers. Our products were the best, made by the best workers in the world.

Over time, however, our labor force had to compete with the global labor pool. That pool of workers included men and women from countries that could get by with paying what amounted to slave wages to produce the products that we as consumers wanted at a cheaper price than U.S. workers.

And we as consumers voted with our wallets, choosing to purchase our televisions, electronics, and cars from factories overseas, made by workers that were paid far less than their American counterparts.

The result has been devastating to our economy.

Since 2001, the U.S. has lost 56,000 manufacturing facilities and the accompanying jobs. In 1980, over 20% of all jobs were in the manufacturing sector. today, that number is 9%. One of every six men of working age does not have a job. The percentage of working age Americans that are not participating in the work force is 37.2%, a 36 year high.

The result of this is that there are now no shoe manufacturers or television manufacturers, to name a few industries, in the United States.

Now we know that every economy experiences ebbs and flows in jobs. And I certainly do not begrudge a consumer for seeking out the best price for a product they want to buy. We all do that.

But when a sector of the economy contracts, the hope and expectation is that other sectors will create jobs that will absorb those workers that were displaced.

That is not happening now.

Our economy is struggling to create jobs, and the jobs we are creating are of a lesser quality than the manufacturing jobs we have lost. The result is that 50% of all workers earn $27,520 or less from their jobs according to the latest census statistics.

Now, here is the economics lesson.

We cannot consume our way to prosperity.

For an economy to be healthy, it must produce quality products that are competitive.

How do we get there?

This is a complicated answer, but there are several things our country can do.

First, we have to change the current regulatory environment. Currently, the burden and cost of regulations on all businesses is onerous. This has to change and we need to make it more conducive for existing business to operate and new businesses to start up. The regulatory environment in this country does not make it easy to do business.

Next, we have to stop punishing producers with higher taxes. The United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. This is not an environment that fosters growth in manufacturing or any sector.

Finally, we have to change the educational system in this country. We are not producing high school- and many college- graduates that are equipped to function in a competitive global environment. De-emphasizing math and science skills is not a formula for turning out graduates that are employable in this global environment.

This problem has been building for years. It will take years to reverse these negative trends.

If we fail to do so, our economy will continue its steady decline.

And that is not good for you and me.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Predators Host Second Annual Craft Beer Festival

With summer here and hotter temperatures, who doesn't enjoy a cold beer? And who doesn't enjoy hanging with fans of the Predators?

You can do both at the Predators second annual craft beer festival presented by Tavern 96.

Join Predators fans and beer aficionados at the Bridgestone Arena on June 28th for this fun event that benefits the Predators Foundation.

Here is the press release from the Predators:

Get out of the summer heat and join the Nashville Predators on Saturday, June 28, from 1-6 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena for craft brews, food, games and entertainment at the second annual Nashville Predators Craft Beer Festival, presented by Tavern ‘96. Join more than 60 breweries as they serve up some of their finest libations, and enjoy special appearances from Nashville Predators personalities.
Tickets are just $50 for general admission and include entry into the beer festival, a souvenir glass, unlimited tastings and a voucher for an Upper Bowl ticket to a Monday-Thursday Predators preseason or regular season home game in September or October (excludes Opening Night).
Purchase a VIP ticket for $100 and receive all the perks of general admission, plus a VIP check-in area, a VIP tasting area – which includes food and special craft brewed beer – and free parking in the Grand Avenue Garage (located on the corner of Sixth and Demonbreun), and a voucher for a Lower Level ticket to a Monday-Thursday Predators preseason or regular season home game in September or October (excludes Opening Night).
Designated Driver tickets are also available at two different price ranges and include entry into the festival, complimentary soda and water and a voucher for a Lower Bowl ($50) or Upper Bowl ($30) ticket for a Monday-Thursday Predators home game in September or October (excludes Opening Night).
Proceeds benefit the Nashville Predators Foundation. Attendees must be 21 years of age or older to attend. Call (615) 770-2328 or visit for more information and to purchase tickets.

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Only weeks after leaving office, Barrack Obama discovers a leak under his sink. Needing to get it fixed, he calls Joe the plumber.

Joe drives to Obama's house, which is in an exclusive gated community where all the residents have an income of at least $250,000 annually.

Joe arrives at Obama's house, grabs his tools, and is lead to the leaky sink in the guest bathroom. Joe quickly assesses the problem and says it will be an easy fix that will be done in less than 10 minutes.

Obama asks Joe how much it will cost, and after checking his rate chart, says it will be $9,500.

"$9,500," says a shocked Obama. "But you said it will be an easy fix!"

Joe replied, "Yes, it is an easy fix, but what I do is charge those that make $250,000 or more a higher amount so I can fix for free the plumbing of those that make less. This has always been my philosophy. In fact, I lobbied Democrats in Congress to make this a law so all plumbers have to do this. It is known as the Affordable Plumbing Act."

In spite of it being the law, Obama says there is no way he is paying that much to have a simple leak fixed.

Joe says that's fine and leaves the premises. For the next hour, Obama flips through the phone book trying to find a plumber to do the repair, but finds that most plumbers are no longer in business.

Unwilling to pay Joe's price, Obama does nothing, and over the next several days, the leak gets worse.

The leak gets so bad, Obama resorts to placing a bucket under the sink. This doesn't make Michelle very happy as they have guests coming over the next day. Michelle tells Obama that this leak had better get fixed before the guests arrive.

In desperation, Obama calls Joe and tells him to come back to the house.

Joe comes back, looks at the leak, consults his rate chart, and says the repair will now cost $21,000.

Obama explodes. "Just a few days ago, you told me it would cost $9,500!"

Joe explained, "Well, because of the Affordable Plumbing Act, more people are putting off repairs and not paying into the exchanges. So the price I have to charge people who can pay keeps rising. And get this, the demand for free plumbing services has grown rapidly. There is now a long waiting list of people who want free plumbing, and because it is getting harder to cover our costs, many plumbers have gone out of business. And to make matters worse, since people know they can't make money in the plumbing business, nobody is replacing those who left."

Obama said, "But Joe, without good plumbers we will all be wet and miserable and could die!"

Joe replied, "At least we will all be equally wet and miserable and perhaps dead."

"And those that can't pay will get it for free."

Any resemblance to our healthcare system is purely coincidental.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Friday, June 6, 2014

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

After World War II, the United States developed a solid and growing middle class. People that were willing to work hard and were financially responsible were able to achieve the dream of home ownership and providing well for their family. The abundance of jobs and the ability to earn a good income through hard work attracted people from all over the world to seek and obtain the "American Dream".

Now, that American Dream is turning into a nightmare.

According to the Social Security Administration, the latest wage statistics show that more than half of American workers make less than $27,500 per year. After taxes, that works out to be less than $2,000 per month.

Hardly enough to pay a mortgage, car payments, everyday living expenses, and save for retirement.

The American Dream is becoming increasingly out of reach for many Americans, and the middle class is dying.

Jobs that pay well and allow families to secure a middle class lifestyle are rapidly shrinking. Many have been exported overseas. Technological advancements have allowed employers to do more with fewer workers. And the jobs that our economy is creating now are lower wage jobs.

We hear that the economy is adding or creating new jobs. Today's employment report showed the economy created 217,000 new jobs last month. Further examination reveals that that over half, 116,000, of the jobs were in lower paying education, leisure and hospitality services, and temporary jobs.

These jobs do not pay enough to support a family on their own. Now, I am not belittling these jobs or the people that hold them. I am stating an economic fact: these jobs are lower wage jobs that do not provide enough income to support a family. They do not pay enough to place a family in the middle class.

Consider these facts:

  • According to a CNN poll, 59% of Americans say that achieving the American Dream is no longer possible.
  • According the U.S. Census Bureau, 36% of Americans under the age of 35 own a house. That is the lowest level that has ever been measured.
  • Also according to the Census Bureau, one out of six men in their prime working years (25 to 54) do not have a job.
  • The Census Bureau reports that the number of working age Americans that do not have a job has risen by 27 million since 2000.
  • 20% of all families in the United States do not have a single family member that is employed.
  • 25% of American families do not have any retirement savings.
  •  One in five children in the United States lives in poverty.
Why is it important that we as a country have a solid middle class?

Having a solid middle class allows for better economic mobility. It gives those that are in a lower socioeconomic class more opportunity to advance. More opportunities to economically move up are healthy for society, not only economically but from an aspirational standpoint. A solid and growing middle class provides opportunity for individuals and families to better themselves financially and a better way of life. Most people respond positively to that opportunity and will chose to master new skills or improve their education if they can see a realizable benefit.

A substantial portion of the tax burden in this country fall on the middle class. With a shrinking middle class, the propensity of government to raise taxes on those that are still in that group is high. We know that government is not going to curtail spending, so the probability of higher taxes on those in the middle class is extremely likely.

It is no secret that our economy is built on consumer spending. Approximately 67% of GDP is driven by what we do as consumers. With a shrinking middle class, the economy is going to continue to struggle to grow.

Further pressuring the middle class is the explosive growth of social programs and those programs, which will require a higher level of taxation on the middle class.

Our country needs a healthy and growing middle class.

It is time to rethink education, taxes, and the business environment in this country. The old paradigms no longer work. We need bold and innovative thought about how to add quality jobs and educate people to compete in the competitive global environment. The burden of government and the taxes to support a bloated bureaucracy has to be lessened.

If we don't, the middle class is going to continue to die out.

To the detriment of our country.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Conference Final Review and Stanley Cup Prediction

The teams have been set for the Stanley Cup finals as the never say die Los Angeles Kings take on the New York Rangers.

Let's take a look at how we got there.

In the Eastern Conference, I predicted the Rangers would defeat the Montreal Canadiens is 6 games, which they did. The Habs chances in this series were dealt a serious blow with the loss of Carey Price to a knee injury in the first game. Showing absolutely no confidence in back up Peeter Budaj, the Canadiens called up their AHL goalie, Dustin Tokarski to tend the pipes, and I thought he played well. The play of Tokarski was not the reason the Canadiens lost this series. In fact, his .946 save percentage was stellar.

Instead, the offense of the Canadiens struggled against the Rangers. Notably, Thomas Vanish Vanek, who was acquired at the trade deadline and expected to provide an offensive boost, disappeared. but it was not Vanek alone, but the entire offense of the Habs that had trouble finding the net. The lack of offense meant that the Canadiens were going to have to be exceptional on defense and in the net, and they were not. The lack of production from Brian Gionta, Brendan Gallagher, Lars Eller, Max Pacioretty, and most of the forwards doomed the Habs.

Part of the scoring problems for the Canadiens was the outstanding play of Henrik Lundqvist in net for the Rangers. Lundqvist was outstanding, making numerous big saves and turning away the challenges that Montreal tried to mount offensively.

The Rangers got balanced offensive scoring, and importantly for them, Rick Nash started to find his offensive game. Additionally, the Rangers rode the emotional lift that Marty St. Louis has given the team, playing through the playoffs after the untimely death of his mother, France. The Rangers have rallied around St. Louis and have channeled this emotion into a solid team game.

In the West, The Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks played a classic series, going to overtime in game 7 to determine a winner. I predicted that the hawks high powered offense would overwhelm the Kings in 6 games. Instead, the Hawks had to battle back from a 3-1 deficit before they fell in overtime of game 7.

The Kings offense was surprisingly potent, tallying 27 goals against the Hawks. The balanced offensive attack presented problems for the Blackhawks and especially Corey Crawford. Jonathan Quick faced the same problem against the Hawks, especially after head Coach Joel Quenville put the line of Andrew Shaw, Patrick Kane, and Brendan Saad together. Their speed posed problems for the Kings in the latter part of this series.

The Kings are nothing if not resilient, having won all three of their playoff series in 7 games to reach the finals. The Kings resiliency was on display in the deciding game 7 as they fell behind 2-0 and never lead in the game until the game winning goal by Alec Martinez. The Kings played with a level of confidence that is amazing, born of their play throughout the playoffs. Even down early, the Kings never wavered in their attack and continually battled backed in the face of daunting circumstances.

The Blackhawks only had two home losses in the playoffs, both to the Kings. The Hawks are a formidable team, and bounce here or there could have swung the series in their favor. However, the Kings were relentless and refused to yield to the Hawks.

The Stanley Cup finals shapes up to be a great matchup. for the Rangers to win, Lundqvist will have to continue his outstanding play. The Rangers will have to use their speed to create matchup problems for the Kings. If the series gets into a grind it out affair, the advantage goes to the Kings.

Jonathan Quick has shown flashes of brilliance, but he has also been pedestrian at times. If quick is pedestrian, the Rangers will win the series. The Kings are going to have to continue to receive balanced scoring from their forward group. How balanced have they been? Four of the top five point producers in the playoffs are from L.A.

The Rangers will look to continue to ride the emotions that have taken them to the finals. The Kings will look to continue their storied run to the Cup. It will be a battle of wills between two skilled teams that will go the distance.

My prediction:

Kings in 7