Thursday, June 30, 2011

Free agency begins; Preds face questions ahead

Let the frenzy begin! The free agency period begins on Friday at 11:00 a.m., and the race for unrestricted free agents get underway. The headline player for unrestricted free agents this year is Brad Richards, but there are several players that have offensive talent.

The Nashville Predators have had an eventful week to say the least. RFA's Sergei Kostitsyn, Cal O'Reilly, Nick Spaling, and Matt Halischuk may be granted unrestricted free agency status if the NHLPA has their way. Nashville claims to have done everything properly, but the NHLPA has filed a grievance and an arbitrary hearing will take place shortly.

As far as the free agency goes, there is one clear need for the Nashville Predators: goal-scoring. That's been the theme with this team for the last few years. Defensively, the Predators are an above average hockey team. They have arguably the best defensive pairing in the NHL, and have one of the best goalies in the league as well. All that's missing is the offensive punch to go along with their excellent defensive play.

Will Nashville acquire a major scoring threat this year? My answer, until proven otherwise, is no. This question is asked every year, and every year it seems that it goes by unsolved. It's a glaring need this year, as the Preds are extremely strong in all other aspects of the game. Top six forwards like Scottie Upshall and Tomas Fleischmann are what the Preds need to go for.

It doesn't necessarily have to be Upshall or Fleischmann, but there is a need for a player like that. Nashville certainly has many things to worry about during the off-season, but they also have to spend money to get to the cap floor of the league.

It's going to be a busy day around the NHL to say the least. Hockey Night in Nashville will have updates on the blog, and via Twitter, all day. Follow us at @hockeynightNSH and check in throughout the day to see what players go where.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Preds on-ice development camp day 1; Kariya retires

The 2011 on-ice development camp of Nashville Predators prospects began on Wednesday. Newly acquired draft picks, like first-rounder Magnus Hellberg, were in attendance.

For the first hour or so, the camp really consisted of basic hockey drills. Skating was the main emphasis with the blue team on Rink A at Centennial Sportsplex. Austin Watson, Nashville's 2010 first round draft pick, looked good. He's a huge kid, listed at 6'4" and 193 lbs.

There was no doubt who the most NHL ready player was on day one. Ryan Ellis has a fantastic skill set as a defenseman. He can move the puck with ease, and has passing skills that remind me of a young Ryan Suter. His shot is heavy, and he's very agile on the ice. The only question that really is ever raised about Ellis is his size, but I don't think that's going to hinder his progress in the NHL. It hasn't done it yet.

Overall, it was a pretty successful first day for the prospects. Martin Gelinas seems to be doing a great job with the players on the ice. The rest of the camp runs through Sunday.

In other news, former Preds' superstar Paul Kariya announced his retirement on Wednesday. Kariya holds the franchise record for points in a season(85) and assists in a season(54). It's a sad day to see him retire, but it was inevitable. Kariya had problems with concussions, which caused him to sit out for the entire 2010-2011 season.

Thoughts on the RFA crisis

Early Wednesday morning, a report came out the Nashville might be in trouble with regards to the qualifying offers for their restricted free agents. According to the report, Nashville did not get the offers to the restricted free agents in time. The RFA's include Sergei Kostitsyn, Cal O'Reilly, Nick Spaling, and Matt Halischuk.

Since the report came out, there has been other news that the Preds did, in fact, complete their qualifying offers in time. There will be more to come on this story, but it would be a huge deal if the RFA's were to become UFA's because of something as routine as this process.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

On-ice workouts for development camp begin Wednesday

On-ice workouts for the 2011 Nashville Predators development camp begin on Wednesday from 10:00am-12:00pm at Centennial Sportsplex, and will be open to the public.

Many of Nashville's top prospects will be at Development Camp. The camp lasts until Sunday, July 3 and will have a total of four on-ice workouts that will be open to the public.

There will be players in attendance, like Ryan Ellis, that have a legitimate shot at seeing some playing time in Nashville next season. Come on out and see what the future of the Preds looks like.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Preds won't re-sign Sullivan

The Nashville Predators have decided not to re-sign Steve Sullivan for the 2011-2012 season. Sullivan has spent the past seven years in Nashville.

Sullivan had his highs and lows with the Preds. He missed two years with an excrutiating back injury but is one of the best players in the history of the franchise. Best of luck to Sully in the future.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Preds draft recap

The Nashville Predators didn't have a 1st round draft pick this year, but they did have two picks in the 2nd round. For their first pick, the Nashville Predators chose a 6'5" goaltender from Sweden named Magnus Hellberg. Hellberg is a highly rated goaltender but I'm not so sure why he was taken by Nashville with their first selection. Eventually, somebody is going to have to score a goal.

With the 52nd pick overall, the Predators selected Miikka Salomaki from the Finnish league. He's been described as gritty forward, but does not put the puck in the back of the net with a great amount of regularity.

Nashville drafted Josh Shalla in the 4th round, and 94th overall. Shalla has some offensive talent and is listed at 6'1" tall and weighs 194 pounds. I like this pick a lot.

At 112th overall, the Predators selected Garret Noonan out of Boston University. Noonan is a 6'0" defenseman and had good reviews going into the draft. The Preds are loaded on the blueline, but Noonan will be a good addition for the Preds organization eventually.

The Preds also drafted a defenseman at 142nd overall. Simon Karlsson from the Swedish Jr. league. At 170th overall, in the 6th round, the Predators took Chasen Balisy from Western Michigan. Balisy is a centerman.

With their final selection of the 2011 draft, the Predators took Brent Andrews with the 202nd overall pick in the 2nd round. Andrews is a left-winger from Halifax of the QMJHL.

Development camp starts next Tuesday for the Preds, and runs through July 1st.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New jerseys for Preds possibly leaked; Schedule released

The Nashville Predators will be doing away with the home and away jerseys that have been worn the past few years, and will be wearing a new home and away jersey. It's been thought for months that Nashville was headed towards a gold home jersey. New photos were leaked on Thursday that show what likely could be the new jerseys for the Predators.

There have been mixed reviews throughout PredNation regarding the jerseys. Most people that have a problem with the jerseys are unhappy with the gold one. Personally, I think they look fantastic, and are certainly better than the plain 3rd jersey that looked like the Toronto Maple Leafs with an unrecognizable checkerboard in the bottom. Speaking of the 3rd jersey, it will not be used next season. It will likely be used again sometime in the future, but next season will consist of just a home and away jersey. I'm a huge fan of these jerseys if they are, in fact, the jerseys that will be used. Props to Marc Torrence of On The Forecheck for breaking the story.

In other major news, the NHL schedule came out today. The schedule for the Nashville Predators can be found here.

On November 12th, the Predators will play their 1,000th game in franchise history against the Montreal Canadiens at Bridgestone Arena.

The three Wildcard opponents in the Eastern Conference this year are Carolina, Philadelphia, and Washington. Nashville will play one game at home and one game on the road against each of these teams.

Vancouver doesn't make the trip to Nashville until February 7th of 2012. Winnipeg will play in Nashville on March 24th at a special 6:00 p.m. start time.

The Preds get the Western Canada trips over with in a hurry, so they won't have to worry about that down the stretch. I think it's a great looking schedule for the Preds.

Random Notes
Columbus acquired Jeff Carter from Philadelphia on Thursday in exchange for a first round pick on Friday and Jakub Voracek.

Los Angeles acquired Mike Richards from Philadelphia in exchange for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.

The NHL Draft begins on Friday.

NHL Draft Preview: Preds Edition

The 2011 NHL Draft begins on Friday in St. Paul, Minnesota. It's where the dreams of hundreds of young men are realized, and the path toward their respective NHL journeys begin.

Nashville does not currently have a pick in the 1st round of this year's draft. That 21st overall pick now belongs to the Ottawa Senators in consequence to the Preds' acquisition of Mike Fisher in February.

In the 2nd round, the Predators have the 38th overall pick, and the 52nd overall pick. The 38th overall selection in the 2nd round came from the New Jersey Devils when the Preds traded Jason Arnott to New Jersey last summer in a deal that brought Matt Halischuk to Nashville.

David Poile and his staff have been notably focused on the defensive aspect of the game in year's past. I expect this year's draft to be focused on the two-way type of players that Barry Trotz likes to have in his system. Sure, Nashville is looking for defensively sound players, but Poile will be looking to find people who can score goals.

According to Adam Kimelman, in his interview with nashvillepredators.com, players like Shane Prince and Matt Puempel could be on the Predators radar.

Prince played for Ottawa 67's of the OHL and put up 25 goals and 63 assists in just 59 games last season. He's listed at 5 ft 11 and weighs in at 185 pounds. He's not a huge guy, but he's certainly not going to be pushed around. The most impressive stat, in my mind, is that Prince was a plus-43. He's a fast skater and has good hockey sense. Poile and his staff will be taking a long look at Prince if he's still available at the 38th slot.

Puempel played for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL, which is the same team that Nashville's 1st round pick of 2010 Austin Watson played for. It's likely that Nashville knows a great deal about Puempel because of the time spent watching Watson. Puempel is listed at 6 ft 0 tall and weighs in at 190 pounds.

Nashville also has picks at 52, 82, 94(from Florida), 112, 142, 172, and 202. Trades and shifts in the order can happen, and probably will happen, throughout the course of the draft. It's a safe bet that the Preds are going to be looking for offensive talent simply because that's really the only thing they need. Defensively, Nashville is one of the best teams in the NHL. Now, they have to find the scoring touch to go with it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Preds go winless in Vegas

The Nashville Predators were nominated for four awards in the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, which was good for second most in the NHL. They walked away from the awards without winning any of them.

Nicklas Lidstrom took home the Norris Trophy, which is given to the best all-around defenseman in the NHL. Nashville's Shea Weber finished second in the voting. Personally, I think this was bogus. Lidstrom was a minus-2 on the season, meaning that the opposition scored more while he was out on the ice than the Red Wings did. That's not exactly great defense in my mind. I think this award was given to Lidstrom simply because of the speculation that he might retire.

To nobody's surprise, Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins took home the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year. While it's impressive that he got the Penguins to the playoffs without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, that seems to be the only reason he won the award. Barry Trotz's time will come.

In one of the biggest surprises of the night, Vancouver's Mike Gillis won General Mangager of the year over David Poile and Steve Yzerman. By most opinions going into the awards, Gillis was expected to come in 3rd place.

Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender, and there isn't an argument that can be made against him. He set the all-time NHL record for save percentage in a single season.

Pekka Rinne finished in 4th place for the Hart Trophy, which is given to the MVP of the NHL. Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks won the award.

Now the hockey world will turn their attention to the NHL Draft, which begins on Friday. Stay tuned to Hockey Night in Nashville for coverage of the NHL Draft throughout the weekend.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Central Division Notes

Here's a look at what is currently going on in the Central Division:

Chicago- The Blackhawks have released their seven game preseason schedule for the 2011-2012 season. The highlight comes in the first game when they will take on the Edmonton Oilers in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Columbus- The Blue Jackets announced that Todd Richards is now the assistant coach in Columbus. Richards was the head coach of the Minnesota Wild from 2009 until this past season in 2011.

Detroit
- Nicklas Lidstrom will be returning for his 20th season in the NHL. He signed a one-year contract on Monday, and is obviously still quite capable of playing splendid hockey. He is, once again, up for the Norris Trophy.

Nashville- The Preds are hosting a party for the NHL Awards at Brewhouse South in Franklin, TN. It begins at 4:30 P.M. on Wednesday.

St. Louis- On June 15th, the Blues re-signed forward Vladimir Sobotka to a three year contract extension. Sobotka is only 23 years of age, and is coming off of his best season of his young career

Monday, June 20, 2011

Will Colin Wilson mature going into next year?



Colin Wilson played all 82 games for the Nashville Predators in the 2010-2011 regular season. He played in just three postseason games in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Wilson sat out the entire first round series against the Anaheim Ducks and only played in the final three games in the Vancouver series. Coach Barry Trotz was trying to send a message to Wilson that laziness will not be tolerated.

Most people don't realize that Wilson was actually the youngest player on the roster for the Predators this past year. He has a tremendous amount of upside to his game if he reaches his full potential. Wilson just has to realize that it takes hard work and effort to score in the NHL, and you have to play two-way hockey if you want to play for Trotz.

I've often said that Wilson has the best hands on the team. All it takes is a glance at the warm ups before the game to notice that. However, there's more to hockey in the NHL world than having great hands. Positioning is key. A player has to put himself in a position to score, whether it's by driving to the net or being in a position to get a high percentage shot off.

If Wilson takes another step in his maturation process next year, he'll be a much more effective player in the 2011-2012 season. He has to work on his defensive abilities. Wilson also has to work on going to the hard areas and working hard for the points you get. I think he'll find that he'll be on the score sheet more often by going to the hard areas than he was by trying to finesse his way into a goal.

Having said that, it's been proven that Wilson has the talent to score pretty goals. He's scored multiple goals while falling down, or falling away from the puck. If he's able to combine his offensive skill with defensive determination and the willingness to go to the difficult areas of the ice, the Predators will find themselves with a much improved overall hockey player.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Web Address change

Hockey Night in Nashville was formerly hockeynightinnashville.blogspot.com. Now, in a much needed change, it is just hockeynightinnashville.com. No more blogspot in the address. It's a lot easier!

Preds to go through arbitration with Weber

According to TSN, the Nashville Predators have filed for salary arbitration with Shea Weber. This essentially means that nobody can throw an offer sheet at Weber through the arbitration process, which gives the Predators a little more breathing room to get a deal done with Weber.

Weber is set to become a resricted free agent on July 1st, and the Preds had hoped to sign him before then. While they certainly still hope to do so, they technically do still have time after that. The arbitration hearings can't be done until at least July 20th, so Weber and the Preds have time to get a long-term deal done before then.

I don't know what it is about this situation that's making me feel uneasy, but it is. While filing for arbitration is perfectly normal and happens on a regular basis throughout the league, I have a tense feeling about the Weber situation. I probably will until he's signed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boston Wins Stanley Cup

The Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks by a 4-0 score on Wednesday night to win their sixth Stanley Cup title, and their first since 1972. Boston controlled the game from the opening faceoff.

Tim Thomas was stellar once again with his shutout performance in Game 7. Thomas was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the Most Valuable Player in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Vancouver has now been to the Stanley Cup Finals on three separate occasions, and have come up empty-handed each time. Lack of discipline and the vanishing act of the Canucks' best scorers contributed to this loss in the series.

Boston very easily could have one each and every game in this series. They were the better team, and deserve all of the credit for winning the Stanley Cup. Congratulatios to the Boston Bruins' organization on a great year.

After the game was over, the people of Vancouver took to the streets in a riot. Cars were burned and flipped over, and there have been reports that people have died in this riot.

There is no greater act of idiocy than what some of the people in Vancouver did after losing in Game 7. At the end of the day, it's a hockey game. Is that really worth a human life? No.

The city of Vancouver should be ashamed of itself. If it's that bad, they probably don't need to have a team.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Game 6 of SCF and Preds Blogger Notes

The Vancouver Canucks have a chance to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history on Monday night as the series shifts back to Boston for Game 6. This has been an extremely entertaining Stanley Cup Final, and I fully expect the Bruins to win and force a 7th game. Anything less really wouldn't do this series justice.

Roberto Luongo looked very comfortable in Game 5 after the beatdown he took in Games 3 and 4 in Boston. If he remains calm, the Canucks have a legitimate chance to win the cup in Game 6. You can bet that Tim Thomas will be on his game for Boston, as he has been all series. Prediction for Game 6: Boston wins 4-2.

Update on local blogs

Preds On The Glass
Check out predsontheglass.com for coverage of the upcoming NHL Awards. Buddy will be traveling to Las Vegas for first-hand accounts from some of the players and coaches.

Section 303
Jeremy Gover and the gang at section303.com will be providing Nashville Predators news and analysis all summer. Check them out for excellent coverage of the upcoming NHL Draft!

Inside Smashville
Formerly the Preds blogger for Predlines, Amanda DiPaolo has moved to insidesmashville.com. Amanda has great analysis of the Nashville Predators and the rest of the Central Division. Go check it out!

On The Forecheck
Dirk Hoag and the crew at ontheforecheck.com provide in-depth analysis of the Nashville Predators and all of the things going on around the NHL. OTF's Top 10 Moments from the Predators' playoff run will be coming soon!

RLD Hockey
Check out Ryan Porth at rldhockey.net for all things NHL. Ryan has great coverage of all 30 teams in the NHL!

The Predatorial
Kristopher Martel at thepredatorial.com has news and analysis for the Nashville Predators!

The View From 111
If you're looking for Nashville Predators news mixed in with a little bit of daily life and comedy, go check out Mark Willoughby at theviewfrom111.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Buckle up Preds' fans

As it stands, the most exciting day of the off-season is 23 days away. On July 1st, the free agency period begins in the NHL. The Nashville Predators will be very busy from now until that point trying to get Shea Weber signed to a relatively long-term deal. Obviously, that's the biggest current priority for the Predators. Assuming he gets signed, then Nashville has some decisions to make when free agency begins.

Joel Ward will be an unrestricted free agent, and will probably command more money than his last contract with Nashville. By most accounts, Ward had a below-average regular season last year with the Preds. However, Ward had an excellent post-season, scoring 7 goals in 12 games. Nashville will have to decide if they're truly willing to pay a pretty good amount of money in order to keep Ward.

Marcel Goc will also be an unrestricted free agent. Goc was having a great year on the offensive and defensive sides of the ice. Injuries throughout the year eventually ended his season. He will be healthy going into the 2011-2012 season. My gut feeling tells me that Goc will be back in Nashville.

Out of all of the free agents for Nashville, Shane O'Brien is the one that I don't think has a chance of coming back to Nashville. It's nothing against O'Brien, but the depth of the Nashville organization on the blueline will probably keep him from being re-signed. Younger players like Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi will get serious looks next year for a full-time defensive spot.

Added to all of this is the fact that Nashville needs a legitimate goal-scorer. In order to take that next step toward a Stanley Cup, David Poile is going to have to find somebody in the free agent market who can score. Having said that, Poile also has to get them at the right price. Unfortunately for Nashville, they're not a team that can throw a high dollar amount of money at a superstar type of player. There's no denying, however, that more offense is needed for the Preds to seriously contend.

It's going to be an interesting ride for Preds' fans over the next few weeks. Will the Weber deal be completed before July 1st? Who will the Predators decide to keep throughout this process? What additions will Poile make to the coaching staff and roster? We're getting closer and closer to finding out.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

We have a series!

The Boston Bruins annihilated the Vancouver Canucks by an 8-1 score in Game 3 on Monday night to pull within one game in the Stanley Cup Finals. Roberto Luongo and the Canucks had a terrible night defensively and it allowed the Bruins to hand them an old-fashioned mauling.

This game was exactly the kind of game Boston needed. It turned into a street fight after Aaron Rome delivered a brutal hit on Nathan Horton, which sent Horton to the hospital. That hit was disgusting and there is no place in the game for it.

Tough, physical games are when the Bruins thrive. Vancouver is a much faster and more skilled team than Boston. However, when they try to go pound for pound with the Bruins physically, that's when Boston will win games. That happened in Game 3.

As Game 4 approaches, it will be interesting to see how Luongo reacts. He was dreadful in Game 3. In the 1st rounds series against Chicago, Luongo fell apart before finally returning to form in Game 7. It will be interesting to see how strong he is mentally for Game 4.

So far, it's been a very entertaining series to watch. Originally, I picked the Canucks to win the series in 5 games. I'll stand by that pick, but I sure do hope I'm wrong. A seven game series in the Stanley Cup Finals would be a perfect way to end the season!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Vancouver takes Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final by a score of 1-0 on Wednesday night. It was an extremely physical game one, and it was a game that showed little discipline by both teams.

It took nearly three periods for someone to break through on the score sheet. Nearly. Raffi Torres scored for the Canucks with 18.5 seconds remaining in the 3rd period to give them the Game 1 victory. The play started when Ryan Kesler stole the puck(and looked to be offside) and fed it to Jannik Hansen, who made a pretty pass to Torres for the goal.

Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo were both brilliant in net. Thomas, in particular, made several dazzling saves to keep Boston in the game. However, it ultimately wasn't enough.

Vancouver now leads the series 1-0. Both teams have several adjustments to make before Game 2 on Saturday night. Former Pred Dan Hamhuis left the ice and did not return after he delivered a great hip-check to Milan Lucic.

I picked Vancouver to win this series in five games, and I stand by that. The Canucks are just destined to win this year, and they are the best team.

Prediction for Game 2: Vancouver wins 4-1.