Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Beard is Worth A Million Alone

As the August 2nd arbitration case looms large, the people of Nashville are becoming as tense as goalie facing down a Weber Slapshot.  That tension broke on twitter yesterday when the news was leaked that Weber's people were asking for eight million dollars before the Stamkos deal was dropped.  Debates exploded and many camps broke out.  Different topics raged, do we need Weber, can the Preds keep all the big three intact, and the topic that I took to, does Weber deserve money like Stamkos or Richards. 

The answer, as sad as it may be for the Predators, is yes, he deserves every bit of superstar money.  Weber's accolades include: being on the top pair of team Canada's gold medal winning Olympic team, he was named to the Olympic all-star team for that performance, he has made the Nhl All-star team twice, the eighth overall pick in the fantasy draft, and was a finalist for the soon to be Lidstrom trophy that today we call the Norris.  Weber is tied with Mike Greene (an offensive specialist) for most goals by a defenseman since the start of the 06 season.  This past year Weber was top five in defensemen in the categories of goals and shots, as well as top ten in points.  The man can play in the offensive zone, there are no doubts about that.

As captain of the Predators, Shea Weber led the Predators to their first ever second round berth where they played the Vancouver Canucks.  I mention this because in that series, one of the most dangerous lines in all of hockey, Sedin-Sedin-and whoever they feel like including, saw its worst series of the playoffs.  To get to the Canucks, the Predators had to beat the Anaheim ducks.  Through out that series, Shea Weber and his defense partner Ryan Suter had to match up with possibly the best line in all of hockey, Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan.  As you may have concluded from the fact that the Predators won the series, and Weber's positive four rating.
Plain and simple, the Weber is a star defender and for good reason.  The pairing of Suter and Weber can run with any line in the Nhl.  Weber may not have won the Norris this year, but it will happen and it will happen multiple times.  I know that it is not a good thing for the Predators, but Shea Weber deserves super star money.  This team needs Shea Weber, he is the face of this team and will be for a long time, hopefully.  He may or may not be the better defense man on the line, it is really an apples and oranges question.  Shea Weber brings certain aspects to this team that no other player can.  There is only one other player with a slapshot like Weber's and he is not leaving Boston.  Weber is a part of this teams history, and will hold every record that the team can think of whether it is for a long or short time.  Give Weber whatever money he wants, as long as we lock him up for the rest of his playing career.   

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cheese Head to Music City Star

Today the preds signed 2009 draft pick Craig Smith.  Smith has played the past two years at the University of Wisconsin.  His stats look like this:

"Smith, 21 (9/5/89), turns pro after spending the past two seasons at the University of Wisconsin, amassing 76 points (27g-49a) and 159 penalty minutes in 82 games. The Madison, Wis., native ranked ninth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in goals (19), tied for 11th in conference scoring (19g-24a-43pts) in 2010-11, in addition to tying for fourth in game-winning goals (5), and sixth in power-play points (8g-15a-23pts). As a freshman in 2009-10, Smith helped the Badgers advance to the 2010 NCAA National Championship Game (on a team that also included current Predator Blake Geoffrion) and was named to the WCHA All-Rookie team after finishing ninth in NCAA freshman scoring (8g-25a-33pts). He also joins defenseman Ryan Suter as UW Badgers in the Predators organization."  Thanks to Preds press realease.

Smith will be a great addition to Milwaukee, and maybe even the big club.  During the skate of the Union event, Poile hinted that he and the kid were in understanding that he might have a shot at the Preds line up with his old line mate Blake Geoffrion.  This kid is suppose to be dynamic, he was a top three player on USA's world championship team.  The official signing of Smith will make camp very interesting. 

If in fact Smith does make the Preds it makes for an interesting situation.  With the current roster, the Preds will have thirteen forward, if Smith makes it, they will have fourteen forwards on roster.  Granted it would be nice to have some extra players for the inevitable injuries.  The big question becomes could the signing of Smith mean that Colin Wilson will be moved?  Only time will tell.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Wind Beneath Our Wings

Personally, I was hoping that Brad Richards would be wearing an A in Nashville next year, but that was much more fantasy then reality.  Now that he has signed in New York (actually like weeks ago)  the Preds have to put some serious thought into the question.  We all know that Shea Weber will be our captain next year.  If the C was to get taken away from Weber, the entire front office and coaching staff would have to go into the witness relocation program, especially, if Weber is not signed to a long term deal.  With Ryan Suter also on the brink of free agency he will continue to wear an A on his chest. 
There is a case for Francis Bouillon to wear the extra A.  He is the oldest player on the roster and a solid defenseman.  He is fundamentally sound, as well, he wore the A early in the year.  However, we are not sure
if Bouillon will play this year.  Not to mention the fact that all three of our captains would be defensemen.

David Legwand is a viable choice to be the next captain.  Legwand holds the great distinction of being the Preds first ever draft pick.  He has only been a Predator, and he has been a good one at that.  I'd say he is good for about fifteen goals a year, not to mention his ability play shut down defense and hit empty nets.  Legwand puts his heart out there on the ice and definitely shows signs of leadership.  We all remember the day that he continuously tried to get Sergei Kostitsyn a hat trick. 

Marty Erat is really the only other choice at this point.  Marty is good for about twenty goals a year, and will also be around for a while.  Erat also wore the A at points during the year.  There is no doubt that Marty will hustle and give his all for this team, I just don't see him as a captain. 

I think that the obvious choice here as to be Mike Fisher.  At thirty plus years of age, Fish is the third oldest player on the roster so far.  In fact, when we enter the season we will have five, and it will stay that way for the entirety of the season.  Fisher has been a twenty goal scorer most of his career.  He is also the only player on the roster to have played in the Stanley Cup finals.  Fisher will be under contract for the next two years and should see an improvement in his numbers after his shoulder surgery.

Now I am not in the locker room or at practices.  My view of how these players interact with other players is limited to the few games I get to attend, and the games shown on the picture box.  There is no doubt in my mind that this team has leaders, and good ones at that.  More then that, I know that the coaching staff knows who will wear the A for us.  And finally, I know that it will be the right choice, and that the team will know it, and we will be stronger for it... Unless it is Kevin Klein.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Story for a Softy

The other day Robby Stanley posted and article asking the questions "What does hockey mean to you?"  (Article here )  A question that will evoke many a varied response.  I encourage everyone to answer this question for themselves.  Here is my answer:

I was born in New Jersey, specifically a little town called Burlington which is in Southern New Jersey right outside of Philadelphia.  (It is also a town over from Bobby Ryan's hometown.)  In fact the flyers practiced in the town of Marlton where my house was, one of the flyers lived in my neighborhood.  My father follows one sports team, The New York Yankees, and relies on me to give him all the team updates.  Even though my father didn't like sports, I had the bug.  My neighbor was a die hard Philly sports fan, and had me at the practice arena early, I was autograph bait since he didn't have kids yet.  All of my mom's brothers had season tickets to the Devils and the Rangers, I played the role of chick bait for them.  What I'm trying to say here is I have been around hockey the majority of my life.

I always loved hockey, it had everything I wanted as a kid: fast speed, cold weather, and a bit of brutal violence.  By the time I could walk I had a three in one set with soccer, hockey and some other sport I paid no attention to.  In fact my first ever sports injury, as well as my first trip to the hospital came from playing hockey.  One day my best friend and I were playing hockey on my deck, I was coming down the railing with the puck and all of a sudden, I feel stick across my  face.  In a motion that most gymnast would be jealous of, I flipped over that banister.  My body pirouetted through the air, my landing was not so stunning.  My face planted itself in to the hard ground with a resounding thud.  My nose was broken, and to this day remains more crooked then a cop in a Mafia movie. 

Then the dreaded move came, and my life in New Jersey was up rooted.  We moved to Louisville, Kentucky where they thing hockey is some northern way of saying "hock a lugie."  I did my best to keep my love for the game alive.  I would watch games on tv, and practice stick work with the ash tray we kept in the house for when my aunt came over.  Every once and a while, usually during the winter olympics, I could rally my friends to play some street hockey, but it looked like hockey was no longer going to be part of my life.  Then by the grace of God, a game called Nhl Hitz came into existence.  I bought it on release day and had my friends hooked with in an thirty seconds of the first game.  The rest of that summer and through the next couple of years, hockey was our addiction.  We went so far as to put down the video game to play actually hockey. 

Unfortunately time took its toll and high school started to prevent us from having free time, so again hockey started to fall out of my life.  Life continued on, I found a new form of hockey, called lacrosse.  High School ended and I went to school at Murray State, which if you do not know is in the middle of a little hell called Western Kentucky.  Yet somehow, the people that I became friends with are die hard hockey fans.  My sport was back.  In my Junior year of college I went to my first Predators game and found a team that played a gritty defensive game that  I loved. 

So to answer the question, hockey is part of who I am.  It is part of my essence, my being.  When I am at Bridgestone Arena or any hockey rink, I feel right, whole, happy.  A psychologist would probably tell me that it is unhealthy to put so much hope and desire into a sports team, but what is life without disappointment.  Hockey is everything that keep life from the mundane, it's speed and suspense, it's violent and vigorous, and it's poetic and passionate.  To say that sports gives us nothing is ridiculous, through my love for Predator's hockey I have met some great people including Jeremy Gover of Cellblock 303, Kristopher Martel of the Predatorial as well as Andrea R. and Lizette of Bowling Green.  Through playing the sport I have learned determination and patience.  Through my blog writing and social interaction around the sport, I have learned how to do research far better then any school has taught me.  Don't get me wrong, if hockey were to strike, my life would not be empty, far from it.  But hockey runs deep in me and always will. 

P.S. this article took me a week to write, it was a tough one.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Heat is Nice but bring on the Ice

As the day progresses and I sit here waiting for the the world cup game, my mind wonders to its normal place, the Predators.  As fans we have been worried about what this Preds team will look like, so I started to think about lines, and I am genuinely confused.  My first thoughts were thus:
Sk74 Fisher Bergfors
Erat Leggy Hornquist
Halischuk O'reilly wilson
Tootoo Smithson Spaling
I am actually a big fan of these lines.  Bergfors is a big question mark, but if he plays anywhere to his potential we have a potentially devastating top line.  Well, offensively, the defense on that line maybe desired, and maybe the reason that we do not see it.  Our second line also has the potential to put up good scoring, maybe.  The fourth line could we could call the health service line, because they can shut anyone down.  Line number three is interesting, it could be extremely productive in the offensive end, but that is if Wilson is allowed to play.  I say all of this and I have left out Blake Geoffrion, mostly because the web site doesn't have  him on the big league roster.  Maybe Blake replaces Wilson or Hali. Another thing to remember is that David Poile was trying to convince Craig Smith to leave the University of Wisconsin.  Well Poile must be a damn good sales man, because Smith went pro earlier this week.  So we have to add him in to the mix somewhere as well.  The final thing to realize, Barry Trotz is our coach so, it really is unpredictable what our lines will look like exactly.  The only thing that we can be sure of, this year will be interesting and hopefully a lot of fun to watch.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Note to Fans

Blind faith is a concept that I have yet to conquer with in my life.  My mind is overly logical and looks for reason in everything, including itself, often the biggest challenge.  Yet, here we are in the middle of the summer and the Predators do not have a full roster yet.  In what can only be called, "the summer of controversy," we as a fan base have been left with many things, from a new jersey to lots of questions, the one thing we have not been left with, a top six scorer.  All this has worried the masses, but as I sat there at the Skate of the Union I realized one thing.  That I was sitting in the presence of people who knew what they were doing.  As many questions as I wanted to ask to the panel, I knew that they would have answers.  Even if they weren't allowed to tell me, I knew that they had answers that were going to lead this team where it needs to be.  As fans, it is our job to worry about what is going on with our club, to second guess what made Marty spin like a top in the open ice, and to wonder why David Poile has not signed Zach Parise to a million year deal where we not only get to have him be a Predator, but all of his off spring as well.  More importantly, we must remember that we are fans of this team.  And that yes, we should question what is going on with our team, but that we do not know half of what is going on.  The rumors that we may hear, are just that, rumors.  We must always remember that David Poile's IQ is probably much higher then all of ours.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Skate of the Union

For the first time I got to experience the Predators Skate of the Union event.  I came home with pucks signed by Blake Geoffrion and Ryan Suter.  I grabbed a Marcel Goc stick as well as one of his name plates, my new prize possessions. The event was a fantastic success, I met many a great Pred fan.  I took a shot on the ice and found out where Blake plays beer league hockey in the summer.
New things that we learned yesterday:
Shea Weber negotiations have been start and stop.
There will be renovations to the stadium, which they hope to be a continuous process for the rest of the time that we are in the bridge.
That Mayor Dean told commisioner Betteman that we will be hosting the 2014 all-star game.
That Frankie B. will be ready for camp.
Poile has man crushes on Ekholm, Ellis, Josi, and Craig Smith who turned pro just a few minutes ago.  To top that off we may be seeing them in the near near future. 
Sully and Dumont will hopefully coming back after retirement. 
Brent Wilson will probably be a partial owner as soon as September.
And the most surprising thing of all, Nick Spaling will one day be a top 6 forward.
The group continually talked about how excited they were about this team.  They said that our window of opportunity is now open, so lets see it boys.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ice of Dreams

Last night, there was crying in baseball.  If you sat through the entirety of the home run derby last night, or more likely saw the replay on Sportscenter this morning, then you saw that Robinson Cano won the most individualized event in the most individualized team sport.  In a story that was written in the 1970's, not only did Cano take the title, but his Father was the one who was pitching to him.  As soon as Cano hit the 12th home run of the final round (a record), he and his father ran to each other and shared a great embrace. Father Cano was actually a ball player as well.  Naturally I got to think about the Predators father son combos.  Obviously every Canadian players father played as well, but Luckily for us, even our American players have hockey playing fathers.  The question is, when will we have our fathers-sons moment.  Since we have no event like the slap-shot derby (NHL look into that... not), we will just have to suffice with a cup, so come Preds make your Dad's and fans the happiest men in the world.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Simple Thoughts

Today as I sat in an array of waiting rooms I found myself perusing @predfans and stumbled on a debate over which of our top two defensemen was better.  The popular opinion today was that Ryan Suter is better than Shea Weber.  Really, it is not debatable, they are a pair and work as a pair.  Together they are great, hopefully we will never have to.  Weber is a much more physical presence on the ice, and has a slap shot that can only be matched by one.  However, Suter is unbelievable at covering for Weber when he pinches.  They are two different players who are the perfect fit to play with each other.

As the debate raged on, an article was posted for all the group to read.  Naturally, to keep my mind off the looming dentist appointment I clicked on the article, and to my surmise, I found myself cruising the "Bleacher Reports."  (article at )  The article ranks all of the top defense pairings in the league.  The bleacher guys gave us some respect and ranked the Weber-Suter pairing as the number two pairing in the league.  The number one pairing... Lidstrom-Rafalski.  Now I love history just as much as the next guy, and both of those guys will go down in record books, but Lidstrom and Rafalski are at the twilight of their glorious careers.  Yet again, I am raising a moot point, since Rafalski retired earlier this summer making the number one pair non-existent.

Not that it really matters, but that means that when the season starts, we will have the number one defensive pairing in the league, according to "the bleacher reports."  The question is will they actually be the leagues top pairing.  The answer is as yes.  No team has made dramatic improvement in the defensive zone.  Doughty and Johnson could make a run, as well as Seabrook and Keith.  However, with Suter in a ufa contract year, and Weber possibly in a contract year as well, I'm betting on a historic year out of the pairing.   

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Something Missing

In the one hundred and twenty-second minute of play Abby Wambach scored the game tying goal for the United States Women's Soccer Team.  A signature moment in the history of an already storied program.  As Rampinoe kicked the ball, you could tell that the ball was going to end up in the back of the net.  None the less, when the ball hit the back of the net, I filled with true elation.  I jumped up, screamed and hugged my sister as if I had been following this team for years.  
I have been a die hard Yankees fan for years, and in being so have experienced things that no other fan base can say.  But I have never gotten to truly experience the joy of winning because it happens so much.  The Eagles almost gave me this experience a couple of years back, but came up just short to the Patriots.  Every year I enter each different sports season with new hopes and dreams of obtaining this feeling, but I am always let down.  I achieved my first small semblance of this this feeling this year when the Nashville Predators won their first playoff series in franchise history.  
After this amazing moment for the women's soccer team with hockey season only three months away, I started to wonder, will the Predators give me that feeling this year?  Have the Predators had any moments in their short history that are truly magical, not just to the team, but to the league or NHL fans in general.  To us fans, there have been many, the first tv time out standing ovation, game six vs the ducks, etc.  Yet after deep pondering, I don't know if we have yet.  There are moments in that this team has given us that we as a fan base will never forget.  There are moments that these guys have given us that have made us jump for joy.  Moments that have made us cry.  
After taking a good look at this years roster, unfilled spots and all, I see a team that may not be a Stanley cup winner.  They may not even be a playoff team, but I know in my heart, that this team will give us a moment that all the league will remember.  A moment that hockey fans will brag to their kids about watching.   

Friday, July 8, 2011

From Belarus With Love

Today the news broke that Sergei Kostitsyn has resigned with the Nashville Predators avoiding not one but two arbitration meetings.  The deal is one year paying out 2.5 million dollars.  Maybe this is an over payment but considering we have our leading scorer back, it's worth it.  Last year Sergei had twenty-three goals and twenty-seven assists totaling fifty points.  Sergei is one of only three players to total twenty-three goals and have a positive +/-.  The other two players in this category were Mike Richards and Pavel Datsyuk.  Next year Datsyuk will make 6.7 million and Mike Richards will make 5.75 million.  Now in no way should Sergei Kostitsyn be compared to these two players... yet.  The best part of this deal is that Sergei will still be a RFA at the end of it.  The money will be easy to move if we so choose, if not, hopefully we actually get qualifying offers in next year.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Preds: RFA's Come Home

Around 3 p.m. central time Joshua Cooper the beat writer for the Nashville Predators broke the story that four of Nashville's restricted free agents had been resigned.  Matt Halischuk, Cal O'Reilly, Nick Spaling and Chris Mueller.  Halischuk's deal is two years 1.425 million.  Halischuk had four goals and eight assists over ywenty-seven games.  Halischuk also played in all twelve of the Predators playoff games registering two goals, including the game winner in Nashville's double overtime thriller against the Canucks.  Cal O'Reilly's deal is one year and 1.05 million dollars.  In half a season, thirty-eight games to be precise, Cal had six goals and eight assists totaling eighteen points.  As simple math will tell us, he was on pace for around thirty-six points, which would have put him at seventh on the team.  Cal is showing growth in the offensive department, he gained two points in four less games.  Nick Spaling's new deal earned him two years and 2.1 million.  Spaling scored his first career goal this season then kept going.  Spaling registered eight goals and six assists a huge surplus for a defensive specialist.  In fact the Preds won all eleven games that he registered a point in.  Finally Chris Mueller signed a one year deal worth 550 thousand dollars.  The deal is a two way deal with Milwaukee.  Mueller only registered three assists this year, but did not see much ice time.  The kid showed good hustle and great play in the corners.
All four of these players are great signings for the Predators.  They all play Predator hockey, a.k.a. they know that there are two zones that players must enter.  All this comes the day before the Predators date with the arbitrators over the whole qualifying offer fiasco.  All of these players were a steal and fit the system well.  In one sweep Poile puts the team right back to where we were. 

So Long Sully

Montana on the chiefs.  Farve with the Jets.  Gretzky without Messier by his side.  Shortly before the July 1st free agent deadline, general manager David Poile let the predator nation know that he would not be resigning the beloved Steve Sullivan.  Sully came to the Predators from the blackhawks in 2003.  He missed all of 2004 with an injury and in his first game back in the 2005 season, he registered a hatty that sent the crowd into a frenzy.  Sully although short in stature was our own Rudy Ruettiger.  5 foot 8 inches tall sully was never short on talent, and he had more heart and hustle then captain Arnott ever did, but that's not really saying much.  He had one hundred and three goals and one hundred and seventy-five assists totaling two hundred and seventy-eight points.  Thirteen of these points came in the playoffs. 

More important then stats, Steve Sullivan was an inspiration to what athletes should be.  Active in the Nashville community and always willing to train new skaters, Steve Sullivan was the Don Quixote of hockey.  Steve Sullivan was a great step towards winning up a cup, it is a shame that we could not win one with him.  Although time will see his numbers as a Predator buried under young talent and hopefully the next Wayne Gretzky, he should always be remembered as the first great Predator, raise that 26 high.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Preds: Simplism

Being late to the scene I am going to conquer some of the issues of the past month.  Today's issue, the new logo.

Simplified yet still the same.  Uniquely Nashville as well as not so uniquely musical.  The new logos are a dramatic change from what they once were, taking a once colorful scheme and dulling it to look as
if the Medici's had run out of money before Michelangelo could finish his Chapel.  Taking them one by one, the Pred head has remained the same in shape but lost more color then an Irishmen going bald.  The Pred head isn't disgusting though, in fact it's quite easy on the eyes.  The guitar pick is meant to scream music city, and it does.  The only problem with this logo is the three star logo centered in the pick.  Of course the three stars represent the state of Tennessee's flag.  The problem with branding the Predators with the Tennessee flag is the location of the Predators.  The apart from the Carolina Hurricanes, there is not another NHL team in any of the surrounding states.  By branding the team with the Tennessee flag we brand the team as specifically Tennessean, not the image the team should be looking for while trying to obtain fans from other states such as Georgia, which has lots of free hockey fans right now.  As far as the word mark goes, nothing terrible here.  Not a huge change, simply the font had to match the new NP logo.  The new NP logo is big and bold, unfortunately it does not look anything like the old NP logo that was on the Third Shorts.
Overall the new logo is not terrible, it is not the way that I would have gone with it, but it will not stop me from wearing the new attire.