Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hal Gill

Great news for the Preds, Hal Gill signed a two year deal. He is a veteran a cup winner, and presence on the blue line. A great signing for Nashville filling up a d-core with a lot of questions. Gil will not be a top pair guy, but he will be instrumental in the coaching of Nashville's prospects in the next couple of years.
Congratulations Hal Gill and congratulations Predators.

Press Release from the Predators is below:

“Nashville, Tenn. (June 29, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed defenseman Hal Gill to a two-year, $4 million contract.

Gill, 37 (4/6/75), was acquired by the Predators from Montreal on Feb. 17, 2012, and suited up for 23 regular-season games (0g-5a) and five playoff games (0g-0a) for the club. One of the League’s biggest players at 6-7, 240 pounds, Gill has played 1,070 regular-season games (36g-148a-184pts, 948 PIMs) and 110 playoff contests (0g-6a-6pts, 68 PIMs) since 1997-98 – more than any player currently on the Predators roster. He appeared in back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009 with Pittsburgh, winning the Cup in 2009, and his 74 postseason games the past five seasons are the third most in the League.

The Concord, Mass., native was drafted 207th overall (eighth round) by Boston in the 1993 Entry Draft, and played eight seasons with the Bruins (1997-2006) before a pair of two-season stints in Toronto and (2006-08) Pittsburgh (2007-09). Gill played 196 games with the Canadiens from 2009-12 before being acquired by Nashville.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A short letter to Ryan Suter

Plain and simple this summer has lots of questions for the Predators, and they all start with Ryan Suter, so here I offer a letter to Ryan Suter saying what everyone else has. Leaving would be a terrible decision for him and his hockey career.

Why would Suter leave the Preds, look around the league will he find another playing partner like Shea Weber? Weber is the best available partner on the market, the only person you could really consider better is Zdeno Chara and the Bruins do not have the cap room to sign Suter, especially with Tim Thomas doing the Brett Farve thing. Weber got second in the Norris two years in a row now, and is at the start of what seems to be a hall of fame type career. This point may also work against the Preds. Suter may want to be a number one somewhere, however, Suter wants to win and I bet that is more important to him than being a number one. Coupled with a great partner, Suter pays in front of one of the league's best goalies. Nothing makes a defenseman look better than good goalie. If Suter is looking for money, Nashville can match any offer that he is given, not to mention that Nashville is one of the cheapest cities to live in. Suter also talks of his love for farming, what better place to start a farm than Nashville?

Nashville draws many comparisons the the team that won Boston the cup, and rightfully so. Both teams had great defenses backed by a Vezina candidate in net. Neither team had a ton of offense nor did they have a super star forward that could change a game. The big difference was that Boston got scoring from all three of its defense pairs, where Nashville's normally only comes from the top pair. With Josi, Ellis, Blum and Ekholm all coming up Nashville finally has a chance to change that.

My Date with Hstory

My life has been privileged, there is no doubt about that. I have been to Europe twice, seen every state east of the Mississippi River, and been to more concerts and sporting events then I can count. On April 20th I had the luck of adding one more piece of history to the list.  It was that warm night in Nashville that Nicklas Lidstrom suited up for the last time.

Here are a couple of things to contemplate, Lidstrom played his last game at the ripe old age of forty-one, and still looked better than the twenty year olds playing beside him. Lidstrom played a total of twenty season in the NHL, making the all-star game twelve times. He won seven Norris trophy's (best defensive player), four Stanley Cups, and a Conn Smythe (playoff mvp). Lidstrom was so good that many of his teammates called him "Mr. Perfect," and for the past six years he has been the captain of the Red Wings.

From the fan side, I had a love hate relationship with Lidstrom. With elegance and grace, Lidstrom tore teams apart. Precise stick work and unending hockey knowledge allowed Lidstrom to make fools of even the greatest forwards. More importantly, the man never seemed to whine, he would state his case to ref, but never whine. Unlike some, the man played the game with complete class, you will be hard pressed to find  him taking a cheap shot. He was a teacher, a sportsman, and one of the best players of all time.

It wasn't only his on ice play that made him a champion.  Off the ice, Lidstrom was a kind and generous man. During the playoff series I made my way down to Nashville early to autograph hunt. Sure enough I got to the Red Wing's hotel right as they were leaving for the stadium. Lidstrom came out and I got the chance to talk with him for a minute. He was a generous man, answered the questions that I posed to him and even signed the puck I had bought for my uncle. Lidstrom was a class act and will be sorely missed. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer in Nashville

Summer is supposed to be the time that we go on vacation, drink beer by the pool, and relax. Yet last summer was spent throwing around innocent fax machines as I waited to hear about arbitration meetings, and our team captains contract. Everything worked out fine, Weber signed a year deal and the league deemed our qualifying offers valid. So I headed into the season with hopes high that the Predators were going to make some noise in the league, and as they did, all the contract situations would solve themselves.

Alas here we are, starting another offseason disappointed and with no sure future in sight. The only thing that we can be sure of, Anders Lindback has gone to Tampa. The Preds have all types of questions: Where will Suter go, will Weber follow him or stay, who is going to the back up goalie, will the preds sign or trade for a dynamic forward, which of last years rookies are going to elevate their play, and why is Magnus Hellberg  six feet five inches instead of six feet six inches like Lindback?

This article is not about solving any of those questions, no that will come later in the summer, this article, similar to one I wrote last summer, is to say, In Poile We Trust. There is a lot of skepticism out there about Trotz, Poile and if they can win a championship. Keep the faith, a couple of bounces go the other way and the Preds could have beaten Pheonix.

Suter may walk, but trading him at the deadline would have taken away any shot we had at the cup. And we may not get Parise, Ryan, or Nash. But it was Poile, Trotz, and Fenton who put together a deep farm system that will allow us to stay in contention till we can get the right pieces. Defensive models similar to our own have won the cup before, look at the Bruins just last year, they're roster was in no way better than ours. Poile, like all great leaders, has a vision for this team and now he has the money and owner backing to make more daring moves. I have high hopes for this team and this offseason, I see good things coming to Nashville. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Results Are In

The Preds walked into the desert with a water bottle full of hope, that water proved to not be enough to get out of the desert healthy. The Predators had five different nominations at tonight's award ceremony, and will only walk away with one trophy. The ceremony was about ten minutes in when the Predators lost their first award. Erik Karlsson was the first trophy winner taking the home the Norris Trophy.

Weber lost the Norris vote by twelve points, and the Nashville community was out raged. It took twitter about fourteen seconds to explode with stats about how bad Karlsson is at defense. The Norris is suppose to go to the best all around defense player. Karlsson was the best offensive defenseman, but there is a legitimate case that he should be a forward and not a blue liner.  

Henrik Lundqvist beat out Pekka Rinne for the Vezina trophy. This year was not Rinne's year for the Vezina,  both Quick and Lundqvist had far superior numbers. To add insult to injury, Rinne lost to Giroux in the NHL '13 cover vote. Although both players are MVP caliber, Giroux plays in a much bigger market, and it would have taken a miracle for Rinne to pull this one out. 

Poile has been nominated for GM of the year in each year of its existence. After losing all of those times prior, Poile got beat out again. Again the twitterverse was outraged, but it's hard to pick against Armstrong, he removed his coach to insert the future Jack Adams winner, Ken Hitchcock. At some point this award will probably be named after David Poile, but for now he will have to settle for third place. 

The good news of the night, Mike Fisher took home the NHL Foundation award. The Predator forward is a warrior of the church not to mention his book was published during the season. Fisher has an active social life and can be seen throughout Nashville and Ottawa. 

Evgeni Malkin took home both the Hart and Ted Lindsay trophies, he is well deserving of both of these accommodations. Gabriel Landeskog took the rookie of the year voting. The kid (and yer I can call him kid since he is younger than myself) deserved the trophy, he was third in the league in hits and led rookies in scoring.  

Doan took home the Messier award, no shock with his team on the verge of a move. Max Pacioretty won the Bill Masterson award, again, no surprise, he did recover from a broken back to score sixty points. The other shock came to a different central division team. The Blues were sure to add the David Backes to their list of winners this year. Alas it was Patrice Bergeron who took the Selke award home.

Hopefully next year will bring the Predators better luck.

Awards Predictions

Alright, the stage is set, Nickelback is practicing their terrible music and the stars are gathering in Sin City.  Wednesday night Las Vegas will play host to NHL award show, a night of Canada's a-list celebrities presenting awards to their heroes.  For tonight's article I bring to you my predictions of who will walk away with some hardware.

First the three trophies that are decided by on ice play not a voting committee.  The Maurice
Rocket Richards trophy, an award neither Brad Richards nor Mike Richards have won, is the trophy given to the player that scores the most goals during the season.  This years winner, with a total of sixty goals is Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos.  The Art Ross trophy, is given to the player that scores the most points during the season, often times the guy who scored the most goals. This year the trophy will be presented to Penguins Center Evgeni Malkin.  Malkin racked up 109 points, coincidentally, he also won the trophy in '09.  Malkin joins Lemieux and Jagr as the only Penguins to win the Art Ross multiple times.  The William M. Jennings trophy is given to the goaltender(s) of the team that allowed the fewest goals. The goalie must play a minimum of twenty-five games to be eligible  for the award.  The winners this year are Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak of the St. Louis Blues. The tandem gave up a total of 165 goals through the first eighty-two games.

General manager of the year is the newest award and the first we will talk about.  This years finalist include: Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues, David Poile of the Nashville Predators, and Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers.  Both Armstrong and Tallon took teams that missed the playoffs and turned them into contenders this year.  After a rough start, Armstrong's team led the league for the majority of the season. Armstrong's biggest move had to be relieving Davis Payne of the head coaching job to bring in Ken Hitchcock.  Tallon completely re-worked Florida's roster this summer. He started by signing half of the guys that played for him in Chicago, then went on to add quality players like Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann. Poile made some gutsy moves over the last offseason, getting rid of veterans like Steve Sullivan and J.P Dumont. Coming into the season Poile had the youngest roster, yet through deadline deals and the acquisition of prodigal son Alex Radulov, the Predators were favorites for the cup.
My Winner: Doug Armstrong, from out of the playoffs to contending for the president's trophy is just to much to ignore.

The NHL Foundation Award is awarded to the player that applies the core values of hockey- commitment, perseverance, and teamwork- to enrich the lives of people in his community. The three candidates this year are: Mike Fisher of the Nashville Predators, John-Michael Liles of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders.  It's hard to talk about a players contribution to a community when you do not live in the community, so excuse this prediction for it is completely biased.
My Winner: Mike Fisher, well he is married to Carrie Underwood, meaning he has double to money to work.  Plus it is hard to pick against a guy who had a faith based book published this year.

The Bridgestone Messier Leadership award is presented to player who has the most sponsorships, well actually it is the player who exemplifies great leadership to his team on and off the ice during the regular season.  The candidates this year are: Dustin Brown of the L.A. Kings, Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers, and Shane Doan of the Pheonix Coyotes.  Although this is a regular season award the past winners have usually been the captain of the cup winning team.  All three candidates are the captains of their team.  Brown took a star filled team that could not click and helped them find a way into the playoffs. The argument against Brown, the team looked to have turned around when Jeff Carter arrived, not because he called a team meeting.  Ryan Callahan helped the Rangers to win the division and compete for the presidents trophy.  Was this Callahan's leadership or the offseason pick up of Brad Richards, we may never know. Shane Doan led the Coyotes all the way to the conference finals while wondering where the team would play next year.
My Winner: Shane Doan, it is too good of a story, and the NHL loves a good story.

The Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy is given by the Hockey writers to the player that they feel shows the most perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. This years finalist are: Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators, Joffreu Lupul of he Toronto Maple Leafs, and Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens.  All three players had about sixty points, but it is clear who wins this one.
My Winner: Max Pacioretty, the guy suffered a broken back last year, and never tried to get revenge on Chara for it.

The Jack Adams award is given to the league's top coach. Candidates include: Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues, Paul Maclean of the Ottawa Senators, and John Tortorella of the New York Rangers. All three men led their teams to improved records and the playoffs. Paul Maclean has Norris candidate and Tortorella's team added Brad Richards to a team that was already in the playoffs.
My Winner: Ken Hitchcock, picked up a team in a tail spin and turned them into president's trophy contender.

The Frank J. Selke award is awarded to the forward that most excels in defense.  This years candidates are: David Backes of the St. Louis Blues, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins, and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Redwings. David Backes led finalist with seventy-two blocked shots and 226 hits.  Bergeron won fifty-nine percent of the faceoffs he took and had a plus-36 rating. Datsyuk is the perennial candidate who pulled in ninety-seven take aways while only getting fourteen penalty minutes this season.
My Winner: Pavel Datsyuk. of the three finalist, if he isn't first he is second in all categories, not to mention the league love the Red Wings.

The Lady Byng Memorial trophy is given to the leagues best sportsman. The finalist this year include: Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers, Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers, and Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders.  This award is also selected by the writers association.
My Winner: Matt Moulson, you can't be a finalist in both this and the foundation award with out winning one.

The Calder Memorial trophy is the NHL's rookie of the year award.  This years had a great class: Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils, Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers.  All three players had fifty-one or fifty-two points, however Nugent-Hopkins did it in just sixty-two games, while Henrique took seventy-two and Landeskog had a full eighty-two.  Landeskog and Henrique have also been praised for their outstanding defensive play. This is easily one of the toughest categories to pick.
My Winner: Adam Henrique, he is the only finalist to make the playoffs, and he is seems the most well rounded.

The James Norris Memorial trophy goes to the leagues best defender. This years candidates are: Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins, Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators, and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators. Weber and Chara, who were finalist for the award last year, put up similar numbers to each other.  Each had just over fifty points, Weber having more goals, Chara having more assists. Karlsson had a monstrous year registering seventy eight points, a total most forwards can't get.  Point totals usually lead voters, but in Karlsson's case, it won't help.  Karlsson took more starts in the offensive zone than the defensive and didn't play on the penalty kill this year.
My Winner: Shea Weber, because he is a defenseman who plays defense.

The Vezina Trophy is given to the years top goalie.  The three finalist are: Henrik Lundqvist of the New York   Rangers, Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, and Jonathon Quick of the LA Kings. It is important to remember that post season does not count in the voting for these awards.  Having said that, Quick led the league in goals against average with an astounding 1.95 goals for every three periods. Lundqvist had the best save percentage at .930.  Pekka Rinne won a total of forty-three games this year, more than any other goalie. Lundqvist and Quick have nearly identical numbers, and both helped their teams to the playoffs.  For that reason, the two will probably split the first place votes, which may allow Pekka Rinne to steal this award.
My Winner: Henrik Lundqvist, New York has more media than anyone else.
The Ted Lindsay Award is the MVP if the players could vote on it. The Hart Memorial trophy is the MVP award for the league. The candidates for both awards this year are: Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lundqvist had a career year and made the Rangers contenders for the president's trophy. Malkin led the league in points, a feet made more impressive by the fact that Sidney Crosby did not play the first sixty games. Stamkos led the league in goals and is the only reason the Lightning even sniffed the playoffs.
My Winner for the Lindsay: Steven Stamkos, the kid can flat out play, and other players know that.
My Winner for the Hart: Evgeni Malkin, because he led the Penguins during their dark times.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Alright folks, I am back and hopefully this time for good.  I will be covering more than just the Preds during the off season, but will go back to just the Preds during the season.

The Sky may be falling on the Devils

So there is no uncertainty, any season that does not produce a championship is a disappointment.  As Herm Edwards once exclaimed,"You play to win the game".  Having said that, the Devils had a great run through the playoffs and put in a valiant effort against a team far superior to themselves. The problem-this year was Stanley Cup champions or bust for the Devils. 

As of July 1st the Devils will have twelve free agents to re-sign, eleven of which are unrestricted. Not to mention that Boulton, Sykora, Zidlicky, Salvador, and Brodeur are all over the age of thirty-five. Remember to add in the possible cap reductions and-heaven forbid-a lockout, and the only logical assumption is that someone is going to have to sell their soul to keep the old band together. 
The first thing we will notice on locker clean out day is the senile old man in the corner, yelling about how he wants to go out on another walk. The nurses are telling him to hold on, while his friends and family whisper in his ear how good he has looked lately.  In his post game interview after Game 6, Brodeur answered the retirement question with this statement, “I don’t think so, this season answered a lot of questions about where my game’s at, and I’m really happy to hopefully continue.” (Quote from

The good news: the Devils don't have a Brett Farve situation; the bad news: they have a forty year old man who thinks he can play goalie for them.  Looking at the playoff numbers, it would be a better decision than the Casey Anthony trial. On the other hand, Brodeur's regular season resembled those of his first couple of years in the league.  Games played were down to fifty-nine, save percentage is hovering around .908, and GAA is up to 2.41. For his career, Brodeur played about sixty-six games a year, posting a save percentage of .913 and a GAA of 2.23.

It may not be time for Brodeur to retire, but if the Devils can find a suitable replacement, it will be time to hand over the reigns. Jonas Hedberg, Brodeur's back up this year, will be an unrestricted free agent. He is not the long term answer, but he and Brodeur could run a competitive 1A/1B system until an heir to the throne can be found. Michael Leighton and Dan Ellis are both available if talks break down with either Brodeur or Hedberg.  Both are over thirty and have worked in goalie by committee situations before. Luongo replaced Brodeur for team Canada, will he replace him in New Jersey too? The move might help Luongo, for example he would only have to hear Chelsea Dagger once a year.  But really Luongo is past his prime and not the answer for New Jersey. St. Louis may need to move Brian Elliot, but their asking price will probably be high and that is not something New Jersey is prepared for.  The name that New Jersey should concern themselves with? Anders Lindback of Nashville. The kid is six feet six inches and was trained by Mitch Korn, a man who could teach cats about reflexes.

There are two blue whales swimming around this summer's free agent pool.  One of them is Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter.  Suter would be New Jersey's golden ticket.  He would automatically improve the defense and at that point Brodeur could stay another year. Zach Parise and Suter have also become buddies through international play, and it is rumored that the two superstars may be consulting each other on their decisions. Which leads us to the other big name in free agency: the Devil's Captain Zach Parise.  Parise is the key to all of this, if he walks the Devils are in major trouble.  Parise, a perennial all star, is due for a big paycheck, especially with the money the Devils are paying Ilya Kovalchuk.   

It would be hard for me to walk away from a team that just lost in the Cup finals, but Parise is going to see some serious offers on the market.  The Devils do have the cap room to match any offer made, which by current free agent trends means Parise's next cap hit will probably be around seven million.  If the Devils can re-sign him, that will wrap up twenty million of New Jersey's cap in Parise, Kovalchuk and Patrick Elias. If they add Suter, that number jumps up to twenty-seven million among four players and the team still won't have a goalie.   

Parise and Brodeur are the keystones to New Jersey's offseason plans.  Once the future of their stars is known the Devils can move on to the other free agents.  In my book, Mark Fayne (the only RFA), Petr Sykora, and Alexei Ponikarovsky are all no brainers.  The Devils could probably get each of them for a million to 1.5 million. Salvador is aging, but can still serve a role for this team.  Stephen Gionta would be nice to have back and would probably come cheap, but if he is not, it is time to let him go.

Looking around the division, neither Philly or New York has a lot of work this summer.  Philly only has four unrestricted free agents, the biggest names being Jamomir Jagr and Matt Carle.  The Rangers will have seven, but none of them play above the third line.  The good news, Zach Parise has said that he will not sign with the Rangers, but the Rangers do have the money to go get someone including Ryan Suter.

The Devils have more questions than a scantron. Free Agency could tear this team to pieces, while their competition is only making improvements. By the end of the summer the Devils will either be ready for another cup run or in rebuilding.