Friday, December 14, 2012

Preds must find a way to continue positive momentum

This season's NHL Lockout threatens the long-term health of every team in the league, and the Nashville Predators are no exception. In a time where hockey in Nashville had been reaching new heights, the lockout threatens to destroy the positive momentum that the Predators and the Nashville area have seen over the past few seasons.

The Predators are coming off of their two most successful seasons in franchise history, both on and off the ice. They advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the last two seasons, and attendance has been steadily rising.

Nashville is in a better situation during this lockout than it was in the 2004-05 lockout, but the challenge remains virtually the same. Back then, the Predators had just made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in the 2003-04 season and suddenly found that momentum halted by losing a full season in 2004-05.

Once the NHL came back, the Predators knew they had to make a splash to regain the interest of local fans around the Nashville area. They were able to make that splash by acquiring superstar free agent forward Paul Kariya. It was exactly the jolt of energy that hockey fans in Nashville needed, and the 2005-06 season saw the Predators reach heights they had never seen before. They finished fourth in the Western Conference Standings and once again made the playoffs.

Things are slightly different this time around, but the challenge remains the same. Obviously, the entire 2012-13 season has not been canceled as of yet. However, the NHL has missed enough time to alienate their fans all across the league, and it's very likely that attendance and winning fans back to the NHL will be a challenge for teams all across the league whenever they do resume play.

Nashville has to find a way to continue to build upon the momentum they have gained over the last two seasons. In all likelihood, that solution isn't going to come in the form of a new free agent signing or by way of a trade. The Predators have a pretty good roster in place already. Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne are arguably the best at their respective positions in the entire league, and the Predators have a good mixture of veteran and young talent at the forward position. They shouldn't have too much of a problem putting together a competitive team on the ice. The challenge is going to be maintaining the interest of the casual fan and continuing to grow the game and fan base.

If the current lockout comes to an end sooner rather than later, it's going to be a little bit easier for the Predators to regain the interest of the casual sports fan in the greater Nashville area. After all, the Tennessee Titans have been nothing short of awful this season. There's no telling how well the Predators could have been doing right now from an attendance perspective had the season started on time.

The big challenge that the Predators will face is the same challenge that every other team in the NHL will face. The longer this mess goes on, the more apathetic the fans will get. That's the true doomsday scenario for the NHL. People can be mad all they want, but that means they still care about the game and will more than likely return once the games return. Once apathy starts to set in, that's when things get hairy. It's hard to sell your product to people who have become so fed up with nonsense that they simply do not care anymore.

Over the past few seasons, the Predators have been fortunate to have some of the very best in the business from a marketing perspective. Predators CEO Jeff Cogen and COO Sean Henry, along with a good on-ice product, have been able to fill Bridgestone Arena consistently. The Predators are visible in the community, hosting all sorts of different events to engage with their fans. They have even put together some events during the lockout to continue an engaging relationship with their fans and maintain an interest level.

All of that positive momentum and growth will truly be put to the test once the NHL returns. A good on-ice product is obviously going to be the biggest step in trying to get fans back and build on the success of the past two seasons. Cogen, Henry and the rest of the Predators' staff will have their work cut out for them, however. It's no different from any other team around the NHL. It's just the way it works when the business sees two work stoppages in an eight year span. However, if the last two seasons are any indication, the Predators are in a pretty good position to regain that positive momentum that this NHL lockout has put on hold.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, December 7, 2012

NHL, NHLPA speaking two different languages

The NHL is running out of time. After Thursday's disasterous turn of events, talks between the NHL and NHLPA have stalled, and hope seems to be dwindling pretty fast.

Gary Bettman and Bill Daly's question and answer session with the media on Thursday evening, which can been seen here, was quite telling. Bettman was visibly upset and flabbergasted on exactly how this process has reached this point.

Before Bettman and Daly spoke to the media on Thursday evening, NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr spoke to the media and painted a fairly rosy picture about how close the two sides were.

"We think there is a complete agreement on dollars. If that's the case, and we think it is, there wouldn't seem to be very much reason why we shouldn't be able to conclude an agreement in the near term. And we certainly expect and hope that that turns out to be the case," Fehr said.

Bettman and the NHL had a very different message. In the media sessions Thursday night, Bettman and Daly seemed to be totally bamboozled on why Fehr would say the two sides were close.

"Actually, it's not the first time (Fehr) said we were close when we weren't. I don't know why (Fehr) did that, especially when he knew the parameters that had been laid out last night and what had evolved over the week," Bettman said. "I find it almost incomprehensible that he did that."

It appears the NHL is getting fed up with trying to deal with Fehr and the NHLPA. Bettman and Daly didn't have much of a filter on Thursday night and didn't hide their displeasure on the way negotiations have been going from the NHLPA's side.

"The Union basically, up until recently where there started to be some movement, made the same proposal dressed up a little differently over and over and over again," Bettman said.

It's unclear what exactly Fehr was trying to accomplish by saying the two sides were close on Thursday night. It's pretty apparent that they aren't really that close. Fehr had even asked for mediators to be brought back into the negotiating process earlier on Thursday. If the two sides were as close as he claimed, why would mediation be necessary?

The 2012 NHL Lockout has turned into a complete mess. A league that was on the rise and continually increasing their hockey related revenue is now being slowly destroyed by each passing day that is missed.

At what point do both sides look in the mirror and decide whether or not trying to win the battle for collective bargaining is worth missing an entire season?

There comes a point when both sides have to realize that neither of them is going to get exactly what they want out of these negotiations. That's the entire point of a negotiation. Both sides need to be able to realize when they have reached the absolute best possible deal they can get out of this situation. It's not going to be the ideal solution for the NHL or the NHLPA, but is it really worth destroying the product that has seen pretty rapid growth over the last seven years?

Regardless of what Fehr said on Thursday, the two sides are not speaking the same language and do not appear to be close to making a deal. Time is running out. If this issue hasn't been resolved by the middle of January, the cancellation of the entire 2012-13 NHL season will soon become a reality. A totally unnecessary reality.

Will the NHL be able to recover from that? In some ways, yes. There will be a lot of fans that, despite what they may post on Twitter or tell their friends, will come back when NHL hockey returns. There will also be some that will not return.

Perhaps an even bigger issue that the NHL will face is corporate sponsorships and business partners. Why in the world would a company want to go in business with a league that is making a habit of having a work stoppage every time a CBA expires?

Time is running out for the NHL and NHLPA. Make no mistake about it, both sides are to blame. Both sides have done stupid things throughout this process that have delayed a deal. At what point do they wake up and realize they are risking their own futures? Let's hope that realization comes soon or it will be too late.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Preds hosting pizza party Tuesday night in Franklin

NHL Lockout got you down? Come on out to A-Game Sportsplex on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 6:15 p.m. for a Preds Pizza Party. The best part about it is it's free.

Hunt Brothers Pizza will be supplying the pizza and beverages, and Gnash will be providing the entertainment for the night. It will be a very memorable night for all who can attend.

Everyone will meet upstairs in "The Turf," which is right above the basketball courts. Just ask the people at the front desk for the Preds Pizza Party and they'll send you in the right direction.

A-Game Sportsplex is located at 215 Gothic Court in Franklin, TN. Make sure to get there around 6:15. There are some surprises in store that will be sure to create a memorable night for all who attend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NHL makes significant proposal to NHLPA

After more than a month of little to no progress in the negotiations between the NHL and the NHLPA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, a step was taken by the NHL today that could be the real beginning of negotiations that will lead toward a new deal.

The NHL made a proposal to the NHLPA on Tuesday morning that reportedly offered a 50/50 split in hockey-related revenue. Also, there is reportedly no salary rollback in the NHL's new proposal, which is something that the players will like.

This is a good starting point for continued conversation between the two sides, but it is highly unlikely that the NHLPA will accept the new proposal by the NHL as is. There are still many issues, like accepting a 50/50 split and lengths of contracts, that the NHLPA will probably want to swing more in their favor. However, this new proposal by the NHL goes a long way toward swaying public opinion.

Tuesday's proposal by the NHL shows how much pressure they are feeling to have an 82-game season. Their goal is to start the 2012-13 season on Nov. 2.

Donald Fehr and the NHLPA now have to make a decision and more than likely present a counter-proposal. Once that happens, we will start to get an idea of how significant this new development is toward bringing the lockout to an end.

The entire process of these CBA negotiations is complicated. There are a lot of figures and percentages to try and evaluate and figure out what amount of money goes where. In the long run, the fans really don't care about any of that stuff. They care about getting the players back on the ice and getting the season underway. While this new proposal by the NHL is by no means the end of the lockout, it certainly is a positive step toward making that happen after weeks of inactivity by both sides.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nashville JDRF Walk Saturday

In a non-hockey related note, the Nashville walk for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is taking place this Saturday at the Bicentennial Mall in downtown Nashville at 600 James Robertson Parkway.

This is a cause that is near to my heart. My youngest brother was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of four and has dealt with it every day for the last five years. In May of 2011, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as well.

Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that attacks the pancreas. It destroys the beta cells in the human body that produce insulin, which is the body's way of keeping blood glucose levels under control. Without those beta cells, patients with Type 1 Diabetes have to artificially supply their bodies with insulin. I do that by injections at least four times a day.

People who deal with Type 1 Diabetes daily have to constantly be aware of their blood sugar levels. It's a never-ending battle. But, with your help, we can come that much closer to finding a cure.

If you would like to stop by the JDRF walk on Saturday, it begins at 10 a.m. You can also make a donation to my team at the following link:

Thank you for your help.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

NHL cancels preseason games through Sept. 30

The National Hockey League announced on Wednesday that all preseason games around the league through Sept. 30 will be cancelled. Here is the official statement from the NHL:

The National Hockey League announced today the cancellation of the 2012 preseason schedule through Sept. 30. In addition, the 2012 Kraft Hockeyville preseason game, scheduled for Oct. 3 in Belleville, Ontario, has been postponed to 2013.

The cancellation of the schedule was necessary because of the absence of a Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL Players' Association and the NHL.

While the Kraft Hockeyville game has been postponed, many of the scheduled celebrations in the winning community of Stirling-Rawdon, Ontario, will proceed as planned beginning on Sept. 30.

With news of preseason games being cancelled, the NHL has a mess on their hands. They simply cannot afford to have a lengthy lockout. Missing preseason games, while thoroughly disappointing from a financial standpoint and a fan's standpoint, isn't the end of the world. However, with no agreement in sight between the NHL and the NHLPA, the chances of the regular season starting on time aren't good. And that is bad news for hockey fans.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Preds extend Bourque before CBA expires

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed forward Gabriel Bourque to a two-year, $1.55 million contract beginning in the 2013-14 season. This announcement comes a day before the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA is set to expire. Here is the official press release regarding Bourque's contract extension:

Nashville, Tenn. (September 14, 2012)- Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed forward Gabriel Bourque to a two-year, $1.55 million contract which starts with the 2013-14 season. The deal will pay him $725,000 in 2013-14 and $825,000 in 2014-15.

Bourque, 21 (9/23/90), posted 19 points (7g-12a) in 43 games during his rookie NHL season in 2011-12, ranking ninth in points per game among rookies who appeared in at least half their team's games (.44). During the 2012 playoffs, the 5-10, 192-pound winger tied for the team lead in goals (3), and ranked third in points (5), also ranking among the rookie leaders in both categories. Bourque set franchise records for points (3g-1a-4pts) and plus-minus rating (+5) by a rookie in a playoff series in Nashville's Western Conference Quarterfinal victory vs. Detroit, which included scoring two goals, including the game winner, in his NHL playoff debut in Game One, making him the third player in the last 14 playoff years to attain the feat.

The Rimouski, Que., native--selected 132nd overall (fifth round), in the 2009 Entry Draft - helped Moncton win the 2010 President's Trophy as QMJHL Champions and advance to the 2010 Memorial Cup, being awarded the 2010 Guy Lafleur Trophy as playoffs MVP in the process. Bourque earned a silver medal with Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championships.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Preds sign Blum to one-year deal

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed defenseman Jonathon Blum to a one-year deal worth $650,000 at the NHL level. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (September 13, 2012)- Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that club has signed defenseman Jonathon Blum to a one-year, two-way contract worth $650,000 at the NHL level and $105,000 at the AHL level.

Blum, 23 (01/30/89), played in 33 games with Nashville in 2011-12, recording seven points (3g-4a), and 48 games with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, notching 26 points (4g-22a). The 6-1, 191-pound blueliner saw his first action with the Predators in 2010-11, playing 23 regular season games before suiting up for all 12 of the team's 2011 postseason contests, recording two assists and ranking fourth among team defensemen in average ice time (18:51). In 56 career regular season NHL contests, Blum has 15 points (6g-9a).

A native of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., Blum became the first native of the Golden State to be selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft when Nashville selected him 23rd overall style in the 2007 Entry Draft. Blum rounded out a decorated junior career with the Vancouver Giants (WHL) in 2009 by being named CHL Defenseman of the Year, and as the franchise's all-time leader in defensive scoring (248gp, 49g-155a-204pts). During his tenure, the team claimed four division titles, two conference titles, a WHL Championship and a Memorial Cup Championship.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Press Release: Preds sign Sissons to entry-level contract

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed 2012 second-round draft pick Colton Sissons to a three-year entry-level contract. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (September 13, 2012) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed 2012 second-round draft pick Colton Sissons (KOHL-tuhn SIH-suhnz) to a three-year entry-level contract.

Sissons, 18 (11/5/93), is entering his second season as captain of the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets in 2012-13. A season ago, the 6-0, 187-pound right wing ranked second on Kelowna in goals (26), and tied for third in points (41), in addition to pacing the club in power-play goals (13). Sissons also captained Team Orr to a 2-1 victory at the 2012 Home Hardware Top Prospects Game and served as an alternate captain for Team WHL at the 2011 Subway Super Series.

The North Vancouver, B.C., was Nashville's second choice, 50th overall (second round), in 2012 Entry Draft, and says he models his game after Predators forward Mike Fisher.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Smith no longer 'wandering around in the dark' at NHL level

The word "experience" is thrown around in many different aspects of life, not just in sports. By default, people are better prepared to handle any given situation when they've had prior experience in dealing with that situation. Nashville Predators forward Craig Smith got 72 regular season games worth of NHL experience in the 2011-12 season, and the Predators are hoping that experience will catapult consistent production in the upcoming 2012-13 season.

Smith took the NHL by storm early last season when he posted 14 points in his first 15 games. As the season went on, Smith began to struggle with is consistency and ended the year with 14 goals and 22 assists. By the time the playoffs came around, Smith usually found himself watching the games from the pressbox.

After Nashville was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Phoenix Coyotes, Smith immediately went overseas to Europe to join Team USA in the IIHF World Championships. He was an effective player for Team USA, recording two assists in four games played. However, Team USA suffered a disappointing finish when they were eliminated by Team Finland in the Quarterfinals. Despite the disappointing finish, however, Smith values the time he spent in Europe representing the Red, White and Blue.

"It was good. I got to jump in late with the guys. Everyone was great. I really enjoyed their company and letting me join the team. We made some good runs and I thought we should've went further. I really felt the last game was a little bitter. It was a really good experience getting to go over there and play for the USA again and meeting some guys around the league," Smith said.

Now that one year of NHL experience is behind him, Smith feels much more comfortable coming into the 2012-13 season than he did approaching his rookie season. The grueling 82-game regular season schedule in the NHL takes a toll on the body, but it also takes a mental toll on players who haven't dealt with anything like that before in their hockey careers. That's something something that Smith now knows how to handle.

"I just know what's going on now,' Smith said. 'The biggest thing was trying to catch up on the regiment every day. What am I doing? Where do I go if I need this? Now, I'm kind of familiar with the town. It's a better feeling coming in when you know people and you know where to go and your schedule throughout the day. When you're wandering around in the dark, it's pretty hard to find the light."

Coming from college directly into the NHL without being exposed to the AHL was a big culture shock for Smith. During his time at the University of Wisconsin, a big chunk of the games he played were held exclusively on the weekends. He had time to be a normal college student and worry about his classes. In the NHL, there is a set schedule that players have when they're with the team, but there aren't any classes or anything to worry about during time away from the rink. Often times, Smith found himself not really knowing what to do with his down time.

"You've just got to jump in and be flexible. I didn't have things going on throughout the day and it was just kind of like 'OK, well what am I going to do today?' Now it's a thing where you're taking care of your body. I know what I have to do. Take a nap here and make sure I'm feeling good, and I think that's some of the small, important details," Smith said.

Smith's game dropped off toward the end of last season, but those last few months were critical for him. Even though he may not have been playing in every game, Smith learned some very valuable lessons during Nashville's playoff run that he thinks can make him a more consistent player all season long in 2012-13.

"I just think, just from watching the playoffs and especially watching the team and getting to play in playoff games, it's just doing the right things all the time and not stepping out from the player that you are. If you're doing those things, you just know in your head that good things are going to happen. I think that's one of the biggest things. Make the right play. We always talked about it in college. Mike Eaves always used to say 'Take what is given.' I always kind of thought of that and that's always making the right play," Smith said.

With young, versatile players like Smith and Colin Wilson who have the ability to play on the wing and at center, the Predators have a lot of options and depth at forward heading into the 2012-13 season. Now only time will tell how much Smith has learned from one full year of NHL experience and how he can apply that to avoid a "sophomore slump."

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blum motivated to make NHL squad

Jonathon Blum has been working hard this summer to put himself in a position to compete for an NHL roster spot in Nashville once training camp rolls around. He came to Nashville for the summer to work on getting into prime physical condition with Strength and Conditioning Coach David Good, and he seems to be making progress.

"It's been great. I'm really learning a lot from David Good. I think this is exactly what I needed to work on with the coaches. David Poile said at the exit meetings what I needed to do, and I'm here doing it and getting in shape. A lot of the testing and stuff we've done has been up so I think everything has been going good in that aspect. I love the city here so it's always nice just to come back here early and be able to use the facilities here that the team has because they're really nice. It gives you every advantage to be a better player," Blum said.

Blum began the 2011-12 season in Nashville, beginning the season on the Predators' second defensive pairing with veteran Kevin Klein. However, Blum only played in 33 games for the Predators last season before being sent down to the team's AHL affiliate in Milwaukee. That experience was tough for Blum to accept, and he has been using it as motivation this summer during his workouts.

"It's the biggest thing I've ever gone through. The biggest challenge. I've proved that I can play here. I played 60-something straight games with the team and getting sent down and stuff was hard to take. I've proven that I can play top four minutes and be on this team in the NHL. This summer has really been a good summer for me to really put all that stuff that happened last year to good use in the gym," Blum said.

The physical tools that make NHL defensemen successful are there for Blum. After all, he was drafted in the first round by Nashville in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. For some reason, he simply wasn't able to be a productive player last year at the NHL or AHL level. However, Blum is making a change off the ice that could drastically improve his quality of play on the ice.

"I just think off the ice, just changing my habits of eating. The team has a nutritionist and being in contact with her a lot and really changing the way I eat. Getting body fat down and stuff like that. All  of that makes a difference being on the ice and being in top-level shape so I've been doing that," Blum said.

Now that the Predators have signed veteran defenseman Scott Hannan, Blum will really have to make a positive impression on the coaching staff during training camp if he wants to start the season in Nashville. However, Blum is obviously motivated heading into the 2012-13 season and a competitive battle for roster spots on defense would be healthy for the Predators in the long run.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fisher signs two-year extension with Nashville

The Nashville Predators announced on Monday night at their annual Skate of the Union that they have signed veteran forward Mike Fisher to a two-year contract extension worth $8.4 million. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (August 20, 2012) - Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed forward Mike Fisher to a two-year, $8.4 million contract that will pay him $4.2 million in both 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Fisher, 32 (6/5/80), ranked second on the Predators in goals (24) and third in points (51) in 2011-12, in addition to ranking 11th in the NHL in game-winning goals (7). His offensive numbers - coupled with his solid defensive play (he posted a +11 and tied for eighth among NHL forwards in blocked shots with 76) - earned him the seventh-most votes for the Selke Trophy. The Peterborough, Ont., native also became the franchise's second-ever award winner as the recipient of the 2012 NHL Foundation Award, which recognizes a player who applies the core values of hockey - commitment, perseverance and teamwork - to enrich the lives of people in his community. In 774 career regular-season NHL games with Ottawa and Nashville since 1999, Fisher has amassed 411 points (196g-215a). In 97 playoff contests, he has 39 points (18g-21a) and advanced to the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals.

Ottawa's second selection, 44th overall (second round), in the 1998 Entry Draft was acquired by the Predators on Feb. 10, 2011 and proceeded to pace the club in points (3g-3a-6pts) during the franchise's first-ever series victory over Anaheim in the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals. He has twice represented Canada at the World Championships (2005 and 2009), earning a silver medal on both occasions.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Preds sign veteran defenseman Scott Hannan

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed veteran defenseman Scott Hannan to a one-year, $1 million contract. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (August 17, 2012) - Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed defenseman Scott Hannan to a one-year, $1 million contract.

Hannan, 33 (1/23/79), has amassed 197 points (33g-164a) and 522 penalty minutes in 908 regular-season games and 15 points (1g-14a) and 89 penalty minutes in 82 playoff games with San Jose, Colorado, Washington and Calgary since the 1998-99 season. The 6'1, 225-pound blueliner enters the 2012-13 season having played more games than any NHL defenseman in the last 10 seasons (798). Hannan dressed for 75-or-more games for the 11th consecutive season (78), and averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons (20:21) with the Calgary Flames a season ago.

The Richmond, B.C., native was drafted 23rd overall (first round) by San Jose in the 1997 Entry Draft, and was part of the gold-medal winning Canadian squad at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. He joins captain Shea Weber as Kelowna Rocket alums in the Predators organization, having posted 139 points (46g-91a) and 339 penalty minutes in 235 games with the club from 1995-99.

With the Hannan signing, the Predators now have two defensemen with more than 800 games of NHL experience for the first time in franchise history (Hannan, 908gp; Hal Gill, 1,070 gp). Both veterans -in addition to top-four blueliner Kevin Klein - also perennially rank among the League leaders in average penalty kill time on ice and blocked shots. That trio joins the two-time Norris Trophy runner-up Weber and talented, offensively gifted under-23 NHLers Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, giving the Predators both three left shooting and three right shooting defensemen among their balanced top-six corps.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Predators plan to reduce Rinne's regular season workload

Nashville Predators superstar goaltender Pekka Rinne played in 73 games during the regular season last year, which tied Anaheim's Jonas Hiller for the most games played by a goaltender in the 2011-12 season.

Now that veteran goaltender Chris Mason will once again take his place between the pipes in Music City, will the Predators expect him to take some of Rinne's heavy regular season workload off his shoulders?

"That gets talked about all the time. Just like last year, there's a plan and then there's what really happens," said Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile.

Last season, Anders Lindback played in a total of 16 games for the Predators and posted a below average 5-8-0 record. While there is no question regarding Lindback's talent, his on-ice results simply weren't as good as they were in his first season with the Predators where he posted an 11-5-2 record.

"He didn't play as well last year as he did the year before. If you remember, in his first year, the first game of the season Pekka got hurt in the first game. Lindback came in in the first game here at home. Then we went to Chicago, who won the Stanley Cup, and we beat Chicago in no small part to how well he played," Poile said.

Things changed for Lindback in his second season with the Predators. A lot of it had to do with the fact that he simply wasn't playing often enough to establish any sort of rhythm. There were several different occasions throughout the season where Lindback would go nearly a month without making an appearance in a game. Even when he did get in the game, Lindback didn't get much goal support from his teammates. Whatever the reason, the Predators weren't winning a whole lot of games when Lindback was in net.

"(Lindback) couldn't seem to get the wins for us. He was just off a little bit. In fairness to him, he got to be playing so irregularly," Poile said.

With Nashville locking up Rinne to a long-term contract that will keep him in Nashville for the next seven years, they decided to deal Lindback to Tampa Bay in exchange for some draft picks this past summer. Lindback has a bright NHL future but he simply wasn't going to develop properly in Nashville sitting behind Rinne.

After Lindback's departure, the Predators decided to bring in a familiar, veteran presence in Mason to fill the role of backup goaltender. Mason brings quality NHL experience to the backup position and together with Rinne forms arguably the best goaltending duo in the league. Given all of his experience not only in the NHL but in Nashville as well, it's likely that Barry Trotz and the coaching staff will be more comfortable putting Mason in games that they may not have been with Lindback.

If Mason is able to take some of the heavy workload off of Rinne, it could benefit the Predators in the long-haul. A more rested Rinne in the latter half of the season would obviously benefit the Predators. After all, Rinne is arguably the best goalie in the league when he's on his game. It certainly seems like the Predators are planning on reducing Rinne's workload during the regular season. Of course, that's a lot easier said than done.

"There will be a game plan of all the opportunities where Chris Mason will play games. I would say it would be 57-25. Something like that. I would say that's probably where we start," Poile said.

If the Predators able able to get 25 games out of Mason while still competing for the Central Division crown, that could be a major plus for them heading into the postseason next year. However, in a league that has more parity than ever before, Rinne may have to play close to 70 games out of necessity.

"It's a little bit of a balancing act,' Poile said. 'But, again, you've got to make the playoffs first, and there's no shortcuts to getting there."

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Registration now open for Nashville Predators August/September G.O.A.L! session

Nashville, Tenn. (August 14, 2012) - The Nashville Predators are currently taking applicants for its upcoming session of Get Out and Learn (G.O.A.L!)- held two Fridays in August (24 and 31) and two in September (7 and 14) from 6:10-7 p.m. at Centennial SportsPlex in Nashville (222 25th Avenue North). Space is limited and registration can only be accessed through

G.O.A.L. is a free on-ice youth hockey program hosted by the Predators in association with local ice rinks. Designed for boys and girls (ages 4-8) with no prior skating or hockey experience, the four-week program introduces the sport of ice hockey to kids while teaching the life experiences of teamwork, sportsmanship and self-confidence through athletic participation. Since October 2006, more than 2000 families have graduated from G.O.A.L!

Full hockey equipment, including skate rental, is provided free of charge. Once the four-week session is complete, hockey programs at both Centennial Sportsplex and A-Game Sportsplex will be available for continued development.

The Nashville Predators are dedicated to supporting youth hockey at all levels and recognize the need for local skating facilities to be accessible for beginners to help grow the sport. The Nashville Predators G.O.A.L! program is offered multiple times throughout the year; for more information, visit

Monday, July 30, 2012

Weber's long-term presence extends beyond his on-ice play

The Nashville Predators made what is unquestionably the biggest hockey transaction in the history of their franchise last Tuesday when they decided to match the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet between the Philadelphia Flyers and Shea Weber. In doing so, the Predators sent a message not only to Weber, but to the rest of the NHL: Nashville is committed to winning the Stanley Cup.

By locking up Weber to a long-term contract, the Predators have put themselves in a position to be a consistently competitive team for years to come. Sure, signing arguably the best defenseman in the league for essentially the rest of his respective career is good enough in itself. However, Nashville's long-term commitment to Weber could pay huge dividends to the franchise in a number of different ways.

On August 5, 2005, Paul Kariya became the first big name free agent to sign with the Predators. In many ways, that day was the beginning of a new era for Nashville. Prior to the Kariya signing, the Predators had made the playoffs just one time. The infamous lockout that had caused the complete cancellation of the 2004-2005 NHL season had just ended and the sport of hockey, particularly in Nashville, needed a boost. Kariya was that boost for the Predators.

Since that time, Nashville really hasn't been much of a player in free agency. Of the 37 players that made an appearance in a Nashville uniform during the 2011-12 regular season, only Francis Bouillon, Jack Hillen, Jerred Smithson, Niclas Bergfors, Zack Stortini, Kyle Wilson and Chris Mueller originally came to the Predators by way of free agency. The other 30 players were either drafted by the Predators, acquired through a trade or acquired via waivers.

Nashville now has the building blocks to attract other big name free agents. Weber and superstar goaltender Pekka Rinne have both signed a long-term contract with the Predators. As Ryan Porth of brilliantly illustrated, Weber could be a great recruiting tool for the Predators. Nashville has never really been known as a "desitination" place for NHL players. It's always been a stop along the way. Now, with Weber's long-term commitment, Nashville becomes a more attractive option for other big names around the NHL.

Secondly, Weber gives the Predators that iconic figure. The Pittsburgh Penguins have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Washington Capitals have Alexander Ovechkin. For the past 20 seasons, the Detroit Red Wings had Nicklas Lidstrom. Now, the Nashville Predators have Shea Weber. He is the face of a franchise that has been on the rise for the past few seasons. Weber is Nashville's Captain and locking him up for the next 14 years is a huge public relations plus for the Predators.

Weber has not only become just the face of hockey in Nashville, he's become the face of the Nashville sports scene in general. He is the prominent professional athlete in Music City. When people think of Nashville as a sports city, Weber will be one of the first names that are mentioned, much like it was during the glory days of the Tennessee Titans with Steve McNair and Eddie George.

However, perhaps the most important repercussion in Nashville's decision to match Weber's offer sheet is the fact that it allows the franchise to continue to grow and build on the progress that it has made over the last few seasons. Had the Predators failed to match Weber's offer sheet, it's fair to say that the Predators would have been in a rebuilding mode. It's hard enough trying to recover from losing Ryan Suter. If Nashville had lost Weber and Suter in the same off-season, there would have simply been no way for them to recover on the ice for this upcoming season and maybe beyond.

Now that Weber is in place for the long haul, David Poile and the Predators' ownership group has the opportunity to build around two elite NHL players toward a common goal that they haven't shied away from. Nashville is commited to winning the Stanley Cup, and they now have a player locked up for the next 14 years that can help make that goal a reality.

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nashville matches offer sheet for Weber

The Nashville Predators have matched the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet between the Philadelphia Flyers and Shea Weber. This means that Weber will remain in Nashville for the next 14 years.

There was a lot of speculation around the league that the Predators wouldn't be able to match this offer sheet. This decision by the management in Nashville is a huge statement to the rest of the league that the Predators are very serious about competing for a Stanley Cup.

With Weber now on solidified, the Predators managed to keep two of the three players that have made up Nashville's "Big 3" over the past few seasons. By signing Pekka Rinne back in November and now securing Weber's services for the next 14 years, the Predators have a nucleus around which they can build a team that consistently competes for the Stanley Cup.

Nashville has their Captain. They have the face of the franchise. They have arguably the best defenseman in the NHL, and it shows their fan base that the ownership and David Poile are willing to do what it takes to build a consistent Stanley Cup threat. Here is the official press release from the Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 24, 2012) – In the most important hockey transaction in franchise history, Nashville Predators Chairman Tom Cigarran, President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile and CEO Jeff Cogen announced today that the team has matched the 14-year, $110 million offer sheet between the Philadelphia Flyers and defenseman Shea Weber, insuring that the Predators' captain will remain with the franchise for the next 14 years.
The decision to enter into the largest contract in franchise history was made by all parts of the organization, including ownership, hockey operations and business operations.

As the organization analyzed the overall situation and worked toward a conclusion, the decision boiled down to three questions:

- Was Shea Weber the individual that this franchise wanted to lead our team, a team that would compete for the Stanley Cup every year, for the next 14 years?

- Would matching the offer sheet be in the best long-term interest of the team and organization?

- Would a decision not to match the offer sheet send a negative message to current Predators players and other NHL organizations, a message that the Predators would only go so far to protect its best players and be pushed around by teams with "deep pockets?"

The answer to each of the above questions is clearly “yes.” The organization spent the last several days analyzing all aspects of the offer sheet, from economic implications to the impact on the team hockey operations puts on the ice.

 Most importantly was the reaction to whatever decision the organization reached and the impact it would have on our fans, sponsors and marketing partners. We wanted to insure that our decision reflected not just the feelings of these groups but also conveys a strong message to them that our actions would speak for us and demonstrate our commitment to them. It was absolutely essential that they understand and believe that we are doing everything possible to ice a Stanley Cup competing team each and every season.

With this decision behind us, we continue to focus on our mission: Develop Bridgestone Arena into the number one sports and entertainment facility in North America with a Stanley Cup-winning Nashville Predators team as the centerpiece. With Shea Weber in the fold for the next 14 years, we are closer to this mission, and will continue to contend for the Stanley Cup on an annual basis.

Cigarran, Poile and Cogen will be available for a media conference tomorrow at 1 p.m. CT on the Bridgestone Arena concourse to discuss the organization's decision.

There will be no further comment from the Predators until Wednesday's media conference.

Preds sign Wilson to three-year deal

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed forward Colin Wilson to a three-year, $6 million contract. Wilson will make $1.5 million in the 2012-13 season, $2 million in the 2013-14 season and $2.5 million in the 2014-15 season.

Wilson is coming off his best season as a Predator from a statistical standpoint. He notched 35 points in 68 regular season games. His potential is much higher than those numbers, however, and that's something the Predators will hope to help him reach over the next three years.

Wilson has endured the growing pains over the last few seasons of becoming a consistent NHL player. This could end up being a really good deal for the Predators if Wilson is able to perform consistently. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 24, 2012) - Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed forward Colin Wilson to a three-year, $6 million contract. The Greenwich, Conn., native will make $1.5 million in 2012-13, $2 million in 2013-14 and $2.5 million in 2014-15.

Wilson, 22 (10/20/89), set career highs in assists (20) and points (35) while scoring 16 goals in 2011-12. The 6-1, 212-pounder also tied for second on the Predators in game-winning goals (5), and fourth on the club in power-play goals (5) this past season. In 185 career NHL contests since the start of the 2009-10 season, Wilson has 84 points (39g-45a).

Nashville's first choice, seventh overall (first round) in the 2008 Entry Draft spent two seasons at Boston University prior to joining the Predators (2007-09), helping the Terriers win the 2009 NCAA National Championship and being named USA Hockey College Player of the Year in the process. Wilson was Team USA's Most Outstanding Player at the 2009 World Junior Championships and was the only current college player to represent the Red, White and Blue at the 2009 World Championships.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Preds sign Sergei Kostitsyn to avoid arbitration

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed forward Sergei Kostitsyn to a two-year, $6 million contract to avoid an arbitration hearing that was scheduled to take place on August 2. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 23, 2012) - Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed forward Sergei Kostitsyn to a two-year, $6 million contract.

Kostitsyn, 25 (3/20/87), notched 43 points (17g-26a) in 75 games in 2011-12, one season after leading the Predators in goals (23) and tying for the team lead in points (50). In addition to setting career highs in game-winning goals (3), shots (97) and average ice time (16:28) in 2011-12, the 6-0, 196-pound right wing ranked 10th in the NHL in shooting percentage (17.5), making his 21.1 percent success rate from 2010-12 is tops among players with at least 30 goals. In 307 career NHL contests with Nashville and Montreal since 2007, the Novopolotsk, Belarus native has 161 points (64g-97a).

Montreal's sixth choice, 200th overall (seventh round), in the 2005 Entry Draft has represented Belarus in 10 international competitions since 2003, including the 2010 Olympics and the World Championships in May.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Preds issue statement after Weber signs offer sheet with Philadelphia

The Nashville Predators released a statement today from General Manager David Poile regarding the offer sheet that Shea Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. Here is the press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 19, 2012) - Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile issued the following statement this morning:

"We are in receipt of the offer sheet signed between the Philadelphia Flyers and Shea Weber. Under the rules pertaining to an offer sheet, the Predators have one week to decide whether to match or accept the compensation. We have stated previously that, should a team enter into an offer sheet with Shea, our intention would be to match and retain Shea. Our ownership has provided us with the necessary resources to build a Stanley Cup-winning team. Due to the complexity of the offer sheet, we will take the appropriate time to review and evaluate it and all of its ramifications in order to make the best decision for the Predators in both the short and long-term.

"We do not anticipate any further comments on this situation until we make our decision within the next seven days."

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Report: Weber agrees to 14-year offer sheet with Philadelphia

According to TSN's Darren Dreger by way of his Twitter account, Shea Weber has reportedly agreed to an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. The offer sheet is reportedly for 14 years and upwards of $100 million.

Dreger also tweeted that Nashville was working on a trade and it is "believed several deadlines passed before Flyers grew tired of waiting." Dreger later tweeted that Philadelphia, the New York Rangers, Detroit and San Jose were all big players in trade scenarios regarding Weber.

Nashville has seven days to match Philadelphia's offer sheet. If they choose not to do so, the Predators will receive four first round draft picks.

While it may seem like doom and gloom for Predators' fans at first glance, this could actually work in Nashville's favor. David Poile and the ownership group in Nashville have stated that they will match any offer for Weber. Now is their chance to prove it. If they do that, they will lock up a player who has arguably become the best defenseman in the NHL for the next 14 years.

We'll have more on this as the story continues to develop.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is Josi ready to take big step?

The phrase "baptism by fire" has been used for hundreds of years as a way to describe a soldier's first time in battle. It's usually a very difficult experience that a person probably isn't ready for until they are actually put in that situation.

While the game of hockey is a far cry from a battlefield, there are certainly times when players are put in situations early on in their careers that they may not be completely prepared for. With the loss of Ryan Suter to free agency, Nashville Predators' defenseman Roman Josi may soon have to deal with the daunting task of "replacing" Suter.

With 52 games of  regular season NHL experience during the 2011-12 season, plus 10 playoff games, Josi had a pretty solid first season in Nashville. After overcoming a concussion in training camp for the second consecutive year, Josi was called up on November 26 last season and found a permanent spot on Nashville's roster throughout the remainder of the year.

Josi's ability to move the puck effectively was his most noticeable asset when he first arrived at the NHL level. The then 21-year-old defenseman was arguably the best puck-moving defenseman on the ice for the Predators. On a team that boasted names like Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, that's saying something.

As the season progressed, Josi was able to showcase his offensive skills from the blueline. He saw significant power play time alongside fellow rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis and was even paired with Suter when Weber was out with a concussion in late December and the first week of January. Josi's talent level was evident and it was clear that he possesses the skills to be a special player.

There were times, however, where Josi had his struggles defensively. Whether it was pinching up on a play where he shouldn't have, or not taking the body along the boards and letting the opposing player skate around him, there were times when the rookie defenseman looked like just that: a rookie.

Now that the Predators will no longer have what most considered the best defensive pairing in the league in Weber and Suter, Josi might be pushed to the forefront alongside Weber on Nashville's top defensive pairing. The only question is, is he ready for that?

At 22 years of age, Josi is still a relatively inexperienced NHL defenseman. He's shown flashes of brilliance, but he wasn't a consistent player every night for the Predators. If he is elevated to Nashville's top pairing alongside Weber, he would likely see close to 25 minutes of ice time per night. That is nearly seven more minutes of ice time per game than he saw last year.

Josi is one of the most talented young defenseman in the entire NHL. There is really no limit to his potential if he is able to become more defensively reliable. He has all of the intangibles to be a high-quality defenseman in the NHL for years to come. His speed and puck-moving ability are sensational, his passing is crisp and his versatility is invaluable. The question is, at this stage of his career, is he ready to take on that responsibility of playing 25-30 minutes every night?

If Barry Trotz and the rest of the Predators' coaching staff feel he's ready to take on that responsibility, then Josi will truly be tested throughout the course of the 2012-13 season. If they feel he's not ready, then the Predators have to acquire a veteran number two defenseman to play alongside Weber.

Fair or unfair, Josi has been billed by many as the player most likely to replace Suter in the Predators' organization. The upcoming season will be crucial in not only the development of Josi's NHL career, but the future of the entire franchise. There are so many unanswered questions heading into the 2012-13 season for the Predators but in a lot of ways it's no different from many past seasons. Nashville has always been a team that has heavily relied upon young talent. They will have to do it again this upcoming season, and Josi will be right at the forefront.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Preds can't afford to take risk on Weber

With the loss of Ryan Suter to free agency, the Nashville Predators now turn their attention to two-time Norris Trophy nominee Shea Weber.

Weber has been Nashville's Captain for the past two seasons, and is arguably the best all-around defenseman in the game today. He has one of the hardest shots in the NHL, he has deceptive speed, he's physical and he has a tremendous hockey sense. As far as defenseman go, Weber is the complete package. He's also now the number one priority for a Predators' team that just lost the other half of the NHL's best defensive pairing.

Suter's departure puts the Predators in a tough spot. They took a risk on Suter by not trading him away when it was unclear whether or not he would re-sign in Nashville. The Predators took an "all in" approach to last season, hoping that would be enough to convince both Suter and Weber to sign a long-term deal in Nashville. Well, it didn't. Suter landed in Minnesota and now the Predators have to focus all of their attention on signing Weber to a long-term deal.

The Predators simply cannot afford to take that same risk with Weber. They have the money to make him the highest paid defenseman in the NHL, and General Manager David Poile has stated that Weber is the player they want to build the team around. Now is the time to make him a lucrative offer.

If Weber is willing to accept a long-term offer from the Predators that would make him the highest paid defenseman in the NHL, that's obviously good news for Nashville. If not, the Predators have to put him on the trading block and get something for him. They simply cannot afford to lose Weber for nothing like they did with Suter. It would be a catastrophic blow to the franchise and would put the team into rebuilding mode.

There are several different things that work in Nashville's favor toward signing Weber to a long-term contract. Number one, they have the money. Nashville made a very competitive offer to Suter (13 years, $90 million) and they could easily throw more money at Weber. They have to throw more money at Weber.

Another thing that could work in Nashville's favor is the fact that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA expires on September 15. It's very likely that a deal like Suter's will not be possible in the next CBA, which could make Nashville's inevitable long-term offer to Weber more appealing. He will have a chance to be locked up for 10-plus years, more than likely making over $100 million. That simply may not be possible in the next CBA, and that's something that Weber will have to consider.

However, one has to wonder what is going through Weber's mind right now. With Suter gone, how much does that affect Weber's desire to continue playing in Nashville? Weber has stated that he wants to play for a team that is competitive every year and has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. The Predators had that team last year, but is that the sort of team that they can put together on a consistent basis? It will be harder without Suter but not impossible.

Nashville simply doesn't have a lot of options when it comes to Weber's future in Music City. They have to offer him a long-term deal that is worth over $100 million. If he says yes to that, great. If not, the Predators have to trade him. Weber could demand a pretty big return that would allow Nashville to still remain competitive now and also help build for the future.

It's not the ideal situation for Poile or for the Predators' fanbase, but it has become a reality. Nashville took a risk on Suter and it didn't work out. They can't afford to take that same risk with Weber.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Suter signs in Minnesota

According to reports, former Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter and former New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise have agreed to terms with the Minnesota Wild.

Now the Predators have to look toward their future without Suter. What does this mean for Shea Weber? Will the Predators continue to try and negotiate a long-term contract with the superstar defenseman or will they look to trade him away while they still can? Either way, Nashville is in a precarious position right now.

More later....

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Q&A: Development Camp Day 1

The Nashville Predators held their first day of the 2012 Development Camp on Tuesday at Centennial Sportsplex in Nashville. Hockey Night in Nashville caught up with Pontus Aberg, Colton Sissons and Victor Bartley on Tuesday. Here is what they had to say:

Pontus Aberg (2nd Round/37th overall, 2012 NHL Entry Draft)

Hockey Night in Nashville: What are your first impressions of Nashville as a city?

Aberg: "I like it. It's warm. It seems to be a great city."

HNIN: What do you think are the biggest areas of your game that you've improved over the course of last season?

Aberg: "My hard work all over the ice I think. Backchecking and forechecking. Plus, the points came at the beginning of the season. I was pretty happy with the first half of the season."

HNIN: What's the biggest area you need to improve on going forward?

Aberg: "Maybe get a little bit bigger and stronger. I want to be more consistent. I think that's the big thing."

HNIN: Take us back to that moment when you were picked in the draft. I would guess that was a pretty exciting time for you and your family.

Aberg: "Yeah, of course. I've been working on that for my whole life. Since I was a little kid, I dreamed of playing in the NHL. Now I'm a little bit closer but I know there's still some left. This is only the beginning."

Colton Sissons (2nd Round/50th overall, 2012 NHL Entry Draft)

Hockey Night in Nashville: You're a guy that prides himself on playing a two-way game. How important do you think that will be in your development?

Sissons: "It's huge, especially defensively. That's probably the key aspect of my game coming into hopefully the pro level one day so I take a lot of pride. I work extremely hard in my defensive zone, and I also like to think that I can put some goals in the net and produce offensively."

HNIN: You were the Captain this past season in Kelowna. How valuable was that experience for you?

Sissons: "It's huge. Leadership is one thing that's hard to come by these days, it seems. It's a huge advantage that I have that in my back pocket."

HNIN: If you were scouting yourself, what would you say would be your biggest asset?

Sissons: "Probably my competitiveness more so than anything. I work extremely hard and get into battles. I like to think I come out of those battles with the puck more often than not so that's huge for me."

Victor Bartley (Led all Milwaukee defensemen in scoring last season)

Hockey Night in Nashville: You've got a year in Milwaukee under your belt now. What do you think the biggest differences are in your game now as opposed to a year ago? 

Bartley: "It's been honestly just knowledge of the game and understanding the systems here. That year in Europe helped me a lot actually going over there and having the wide open ice and then coming back over here and learning a more sound, positional game. We had great coaches (in Milwaukee) with Kirk Muller, Ian Herbers and Stan Drulia. I think halfway through the year I really picked up the knowledge of the game and I thought I improved my game a lot."

HNIN: What do you think you have to work on to get to that next level?

Bartley: "I'd say my D-zone and my stick. Skating is my asset so that really helps my game out overall, but I'd say just more D-zone positional stuff, which I'll learn through time here in Nashville or in Milwaukee.

The prospects will hit the ice for Day 2 of Development Camp on Thursday. The sessions are open to the public and it begins at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Highlights of 2012-13 schedule

The National Hockey League released the Nashville Predators 2012-13 schedule on Thursday morning. The complete schedule can be found here. Here are some of the highlights of the newly released schedule:

October 12 @ Detroit: The Predators will open the 2012-13 season on the road in the Motor City against the Red Wings. It's an intriguing game for several reasons. Nashville was finally able to get over the hump in the 2011-12 season, finishing ahead of Detroit in the standings for the first time in franchise history. The Predators went on to defeat the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs and seemed to finally dethrone their long-time arch-rival. One of the biggest off-season stories this year for the Predators, and the entire NHL in general, is the future of Ryan Suter. Will Suter be playing in this game on October 12? If so, which team will he be playing for?

Seven-game road trip: After playing four of their first five games within the friendly confines of Bridgestone Arena, the Predators will embark on a seven-game road trip starting on October 22 in Anaheim and concluding on November 6 in Winnipeg. It will be the longest road trip of the season for the Predators. The long road trip could actually be a good thing for Nashville because it comes early in the season, and it could be a pretty good team bonding experience.

Eastern Conference "wild card" teams: The Predators will take on every team in the NHL at least once during the 2012-13 season. They will play each team in the Central Division six times, every other Western Conference team four times and will play every team in the Eastern Conference at least once. Nashville's three "wild card" opponents from the Eastern Conference will be the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. The Predators will play one game at home and one game on the road against each of those three teams.

February homestand: Nashville will play eight of their 12 games in February in Music City. That gives them a big opportunity to collect points at home during the latter half of the season. The Predators have been one of the best teams in the NHL at home over the past five seasons. February could be a huge month for the Predators in determining playoff positioning.

Tough 10-game stretch to close out regular season: The Predators will have a tough 10-game stretch to close out the 2012-13 regular season. Six of those 10 games will come against Central Division rivals. The Predators will take on Detroit three times in the final 10 games, Chicago twice and St. Louis once. Nashville's last game of the regular season will be on April 13 in Dallas.

It's easy to look at the schedule on the day it comes out and try to pinpoint exactly what the key moments in the upcoming season will be, but the biggest determining factor of Nashville's success next season will be what happens in free agency this summer. If the Predators are able to retain key impending free agents such as Suter, as well as make a few more additions to give more depth to the roster, they will be very competitive next season. The picture will start to become more clear during the next few weeks.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Press Release: Nashville signs Hellberg to entry-level contract

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have signed 2011 second-round pick Magnus Hellberg to an entry-level contract. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (June 18, 2012)- Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed goaltender and 2011 second-round pick Magnus Hellberg (MAG-nuhs HEL-buhrg) to an entry-level contract.

Hellberg, 21 (4/4/91), played his first season with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien) in 2011-12, posting a 2.64 goals against average and a .904 save percentage. He also saw action last season with Frolunda's junior team and Orebro of Sweden's second league (Allsvenskan). The 6-5, 185-pound native of Uppsala, Sweden led all juniors and ranked second among all Allvenskan netminders in save percentage (.936) and goals-against average (2.04) with Almtuna in 2010-11, in addition to ranking fourth in Sweden's second division in shutouts (5).

Nashville's first choice, 38th overall (second round), in the 2011 Entry Draft led the Swedish Junior League in save percentage (.928), goals-against average (1.97), shutouts (4) and games played (22) with the Almtuna Under-20 squad in 2009-10.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Preds trade Lindback, Kyle Wilson to Tampa

The Nashville Predators announced today that they have traded goaltender Anders Lindback and forward Kyle Wilson to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Here is the official press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (June 15, 2012)- Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has acquired two second-round draft selections (37th and 50th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, a 2013 third-round selection and goaltender Sebastien Caron in exchange for goaltender Anders Lindback, forward Kyle Wilson and a 2012 seventh-round selection (202nd overall).

The Predators now have nine selections in next week's Entry Draft at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. In addition to Tampa's two picks, and three picks of its own, Nashville previously acquired Toronto's third-round pick (66th overall), Phoenix's fourth-round pick (118th overall), Dallas' sixth-round pick (164th overall) and the New York Rangers' sixth-round pick (179th overall).

Lindback was a seventh-round choice of the Predators (207th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Wilson, Minnesota's ninth-round selection (272nd overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, was signed as a free agent prior to the 2011-12 season.

The 2012 NHL Draft will take place at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. The first round is Friday, June 22 starting at 6 p.m. CST and the subsequent rounds (two through seven) will begin at 9 a.m. CST on Saturday, June 23.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Radulov era in Nashville appears to be over

As reported by Josh Cooper of the Tennessean, the Nashville Predators have decided not to bring back Alexander Radulov next season. It appears to be the final twist in a saga that will always have Predators fans wondering what might have been.

Radulov was drafted by the Predators in the first round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He put up a combined 95 points in his first two seasons in a Predators uniform in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons respectively, and the future seemed to be extremely bright for this young, emerging superstar.

However, things took an unexpected turn in the summer of 2008. After a 58-point regular season that left him third on the team in scoring behind Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont, Radulov suddenly bolted to the Kontinental Hockey League while still under contract with the Predators. Suddenly, one of the NHL's bright young stars was gone.

Radulov went on to become the face of the KHL, and won just about everything there is to win over in Russia. He won the KHL's "Golden Stick" Award as the league's most valuable player in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and also helped Salavat Yulaev Ufa win the Gagarin Cup in the 2010-11 season.

During Radulov's absence from the NHL, the Predators were in desperate need of a legitimate scoring threat. Nashville never had a player produce more than 65 points in a single season while Radulov was gone, and it was clear that they could really use a world-class player like Radulov to provide more offense.

Predators' General Manager David Poile was always adamant that Radulov would return to play in Nashville again one day. That day finally came on March 21, 2012. Radulov met with the media that morning at Bridgestone Arena and participated in his first practice in a Nashville uniform since his abrupt departure in 2008.

In nine regular season games with the Predators to close out the 2011-12 regular season, Radulov had three goals and four assists. He seemed to be ready to be a huge difference-maker for the Predators in their playoff run, and he certainly was in the first round against the Detroit Red Wings. Radulov was the leading scorer in the series, notching one goal and four assists in Nashville's first round victory over the Red Wings. Things took a completely different turn in the second round, however.

Radulov was blasted for his seemingly lackluster effort in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes by NBC Sports analyst Keith Jones. Things got a lot worse for Radulov in the hockey world when it was announced that he, along with Andrei Kostitsyn, would be suspended for Game 3 of that same series for violating a team rule. Nashville eventually lost to the Coyotes in five games and Radulov seemed to fall out of favor with the entire Predators' organization.

Now that it appears the Predators will cut ties with Radulov, one can only wonder what might have been. He has the skillset to be one of the top players in the world. Few can match his creativity with the puck and fewer still can match the passion with which he plays the game. However, it appears that he is no longer in Nashville's plan.

With his contract with the Predators fulfilled, what does the future hold for Radulov? He can always return to play in the KHL, and many experts believe that is the path he will choose. However, if Radulov does want to play in the NHL, how many teams would be willing to take a chance on him? More importantly from a Nashville standpoint, what kind of return could the Predators get by trading his rights? My guess is not much.

Radulov's NHL stock has never been lower than it is right now. He's always been widely regarded as one of the most talented players in the game, but his character and apparent lack of effort at times are big question marks. Whatever the future holds for Radulov, it's fair to say that he is the biggest bust in Predators' history.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Preds sign Cehlin to entry-level contract

The Nashville Predators announced today that the team has signed 2010 draft pick to a three-year entry-level contract. Here is the offical press release:

Nashville, Tenn. (June 5, 2012)- Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed 2010 draft pick Patrick Cehlin (PAT-rihk SAY-lihn) to a three-year entry-level contract. Cehlin is expected to play his first season in North America in 2012-13.

Cehlin, 20 (7/27/91), ranked fourth on Djugarden in both goals (10) and plus/minus rating (+1) during his third season in the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien) in 2011-12. In 2011-12, the 5-11, 170-poind right wing tied for fifth among Elitserien junior players in points (16) and assists (12), and during his rookie season on the senior circuit (2009-10), the Huddinge, Sweden native helped Djugarden reach the League finals and earn a silver medal.

Nashville's third choice, 126th overall (fifth round), in 2010 Entry Draft also has represented his homeland in a pair of international competitions in the last four years: he was named on of Sweden's three best players of the 2011World Junior Championships while tying for the team lead in points (4g-2a-6pts) and tying for fifth in the tournament in goals (4), and tied for first at the 2009 U-18 World Championships in penalty minutes (37) while posting four points (2g-2a) in six games.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blum has something to prove in 2012-2013 season

Heading into the 2011-2012 season, the Nashville Predators faced some uncertainty on the blueline. Cody Franson and Shane O'Brien were no longer with the team, and it seemed like the Predators were on their way to having perhaps their most questionable defensive roster in recent memory. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were obviously the top pairing. Veteran defenseman Kevin Klein was sure to take a spot on the second defensive pairing. There was another defenseman that was a lock to be on the opening night roster, however, and that was Jonathon Blum.

After playing in 23 regular season games with the Predators in the 2010-2011 season, plus 12 games in the playoffs, Blum had high expectations placed upon him heading into the 2011-2012 season. He was drafted by the Predators in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft , becoming the first California-born player to be selected in the first round of the draft. It seemed like he was poised to have a breakout year after his solid play in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Blum's 2011-2012 season with the Predators turned out to be disappointing and short-lived. He played in just 33 games for the Predators before being permanently sent down to the Milwaukee Admirals. Blum was a minus-14 in his 33-game stint with Nashville and didn't seem to be anywhere near the same player that he was the prior season.

Things didn't go so well at first in Milwaukee with Blum either, but he seemed to begin to find his game again as the season went along. He ended the AHL portion of his season with 26 points in 48 games played and was a minus-11.

Given the uncertain future of impending free agent defensemen like Ryan Suter, Hal Gill and Francis Bouillon, Blum could potentially have a big opportunity to earn his way back onto Nashville's roster to start next season. His talent and hockey sense are very apparent, but he just wasn't able to put it all together for the Predators last season for some reason.

Blum is a skilled, puck-moving defenseman that is a very intelligent player when he's on his game. That's what made him successful when he was first called up to play in Nashville during the last quarter of the 2010-2011 season. His physicals skills were on par with NHL caliber defensemen, but the mental aspect of his game allowed him to have success at a young age. He always seemed to be in the right position.

If Blum is able to get back to the style of play that made him successful when he first was called up to the NHL level, he will put himself in a very good position to make the NHL roster out of training camp next season. He has all of the physical attributes. He has pretty good speed, a good shot and can position himself to take away quality scoring chances from the opposition. He just has to put those qualities together consistently.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Stanley Cup Final preview

The 2012 Stanley Cup Final begins on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center as the New Jersey Devils host the Los Angeles Kings. It will be the fifth time in the past 17 seasons that the Devils will make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. They have won the Stanley Cup three times in their previous four trips.

Los Angeles has been rolling through the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They have posted an 8-0 on the road in the playoffs so far and have only lost a combined two games through the first three rounds. Dustin Brown has led the charge for his team in the playoffs so far, posting 16 points through 14 postseason games.

New Jersey's big guns have been their strongest players in the playoffs so far. Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have led the way offensively for the Devils, while Martin Brodeur has been excellent in net. New Jersey has a lot of offensive firepower, and they are a complete team that can win in several different ways on any given night.

As good as Brodeur, who is arguably the greatest goaltender of all time, has been for the Devils, Jonathan Quick has been even better for the Kings. Quick leads all goaltenders in save percentage(.946) and Goals Against Average(1.54) in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs and has simply been sensational. He has proved that he is one of the best goalies in the NHL and he will have to play like he played for the first three rounds to keep the high-powered New Jersey offense at bay.

Los Angeles has been playing at an almost unprecedented level throughout the first three rounds of the playoffs. Will they be able to continue that trend against the Devils? New Jersey has been able to score timely goals in the playoffs to put themselves in the position to win their fourth Stanley Cup championship. Will they be able to get through the tenacious forecheck of the Kings and get quality scoring opportunities on Quick?

Prediction: I expect a fast-paced and entertaining series. Both teams have plenty of speed to burn and both teams have a pretty high amount of skill on their team. Brodeur and Quick have been the main reason that these two teams have made it to the Stanley Cup Final. That goaltending matchup will be the difference in the series. Los Angeles will win the series in six games and will win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. With the way that Los Angeles has been playing in the playoffs so far, I don't see how anyone could beat them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Smith now knows what to expect at NHL level

At the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, rookie forward Craig Smith was stealing the headlines for the Nashville Predators. He scored a goal in each of his first two NHL games, and put up 14 points in the first 15 games of the season.

Nashville drafted Smith in the fourth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He spent two years at the University of Wisconsin where he had 76 points in 82 games. Smith really made a name for himself in the 2011 IIHF World Championship when he played for Team USA. He had six points in seven games played for the U.S. Men's National Team, and he made the decision to turn pro in the summer of 2011.

Coming into training camp, Smith had high expectations for himself. It's very rare to see a rookie make the NHL roster straight out of training camp, especially in Nashville. The Predators like to let their players develop in Milwaukee before they are called up to the NHL. Smith wasn't about to accept that path, however.

"Everybody wants to prove themselves and everybody wants to make the team, and I think if you're setting your expectations lower than that you're cheating yourself," Smith said before training camp. "I'm extremely excited to be here. It's my first camp, and by no means am I coming in here and accepting that I'm going to be sent down right away. I'm going to control what I can control and play my game. If that means I'm up in Nashville, it's great. If it means that I'm playing in Milwaukee, then I've got a little more work to do."

His determination paid off, and he was able to make the Predators' NHL roster out of training camp. Smith's blazing speed was really noticeable throughout training camp, and it was evident that he could handle an NHL pace. He had the offensive skill-set to go with his speed, and it seemed that he could be an effective player at both ends of the ice for the Predators. The only question was could he be consistent throughout the grind of an 82-game NHL season after only playing 41 games a year in college hockey?

Smith found himself in the Calder Trophy conversation in the beginning of the season along with rookie phenom Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers. Through the first 15 games of the season, Smith held a one-point advantage over Nugent-Hopkins for the rookie scoring lead.

After that, Smith hit a bit of a dry spell. He was still finding his way on to the score sheet by racking up some assists, but there was a stretch from November 12 to January 5 where he only scored one goal. After scoring seven goals in his first 15 games, Smith ended the season with 14 goals in 72 games played.

Smith finished his first NHL season with a solid 36 points in 72 games played, but his production was sporadic after his explosive start. It was the first time that he had ever had to play that many games in a single season, and it's an experience that will prepare him for next season.

"It'll help him a lot. He knows what to expect now. You can tell a player all those things when he's in college, but when he has to go through it it's a different animal," said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.

At only 22 years of age, Smith is still a young player learning what it takes to succeed in the NHL. His impressive rookie season earned him a trip to the All-Star weekend in Ottawa, and it's something that he can build on moving into next season. It's all a part of the growth process.

"It's no different than you growing up and mom and dad telling you all of those things. When you get older you've got to do this, you've got to do that. Until you live on your own and do those things, it's a different animal," Trotz said.

Expectations will be higher for Smith next season. Now that he has gone through his first NHL season and knows what it takes to succeed, he will be expected to provide more consistent offense throughout the 2012-2013 season. He has enough talent to be a very reliable forward for the Predators. Now he just has to do it every night.

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Should Nashville re-sign Tootoo?

Since coming on board with the Nashville Predators in the 2003-2004 season, Jordin Tootoo has been one of the most recognizable athletes in Music City. His thundering hits and his fighting were a big reason for his popularity with the fans in Nashville when Tootoo started his career, and that popularity has grown ever since.

With the 2011-2012 Predators' season now in the history books, Nashville will now focus their attention on their impending free agents. Tootoo is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and many have speculated on whether or not the Predators will attempt to re-sign him.

Tootoo is coming off of the best season of his career from a statistical standpoint. He recorded a career high in points with 30, which is 12 points higher than his previous career high of 18 in a season. He also played in 77 regular season games for the Predators this past season, which is the highest amount of games that he's played in his NHL career. It wasn't all good for Tootoo, however.

Over the last 15 games that Tootoo played in the regular season, he registered just a single point and had a plus-minus rating of minus-eight during that time. His poor play over the last part of the season cost him a chance to really prove himself in the postseason. Tootoo played in just three games in Nashville's 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff run and failed to register a point.

How will Tootoo's up-and-down season affect his future status with the Predators? He has spent his entire NHL career with Nashville since being drafted by them in the fourth round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. He seems to be very comfortable in Nashville and doesn't really appear to have the desire to go anywhere else. The question is do the Predators want to bring him back?

Should the Predators re-sign Tootoo? If so, how long of a deal should he be given and how much money is he worth?

(Photo Credit: Leanne Charles)