Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sommet Deal Good, not Great, for Predators

Yesterday the Predators announced that a deal has been reached with the Sommet Center.  Allow me to provide my two cents on the deal.  I'm going to speculate about all of the details of this post, because none of them are public, so please keep that in mind.  Feedback is welcome in the Poll and in the comments section.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Week In Preview

Last week = Bad.
This week... lets find out in the first "The Week in Preview"!

The Preds enter this week in tied for 6th place in the western conference.  Remember at the beginning of last week when some power rankings had us as high as 3rd in the league... ah, the good old days.

On the injury front, it appears that Joel Ward and Marcel Goc need maintenance days.   Replacing them will be Cal O'Reilly and (maybe) Colin Wilson.  I hope we get to see Wilson play at least one game.  Wilson showed some flashes before his groin injury slowed him down.  Big presence with the ability to score... who doesn't love that.  Everytime a player gets a maintenance day, I think to myself: well heck, I'd like to take one of those.  I'm currently thinking I'd want Jack Bauer as my replacement.  He'd definitely get more done in 24 hours than I ever could.  On the other hand, Nashville might teeter on the brink of a Nuclear/Bioterrorism/Disease-ridden apocalypse... which might make me have to miss the Thrashers game on Saturday.  I digress.

Goalie Rotation:  Head Coach Barry Trotz is signaling that his every-other-night goalie rotation may be coming to an end.  A reversal from his statement that there was no shutout rule this season, but probably good news none the less.  If nothing else, I think this gives the message of "hey goalies, one of you is going to get traded, and the other is going to start for us in the playoffs.  Who's going to step up?"

Games This Week: The line-up this week is perfect for a post-three-game-slump rebound.  The Preds (61 pts.) are at division Rival Columbus (49 pts) Tuesday, and that game is a must win simply because Columbus is so bad right now.    A win there will go a long way in boosting the Preds confidence and in the standings, because Friday the Preds play at Detroit (58 points), currently in 9th in the West.  That game is of course critical for positioning in the Standings.  Saturday the Preds come home for a Black-and-Blue night against the Atlanta Thrashers (52 points).

So to recap, we play three teams below us in the standings.  Three wins goes along way in making up for last week and keeping us in the hunt of home-ice advantage during the first round of the playoffs.  Three losses put us out of top 8.

Fearless, Perhaps Reckless, Prediction:  The Preds go 3-0 this week to rebound from a miserable dads' trip outing.

Outside of Hockey: The NFL pro-bowl is Sunday.  Congrats to Vince Young on being the 8th best AFC quarterback according to the fans a now two-time pro-bowler.  I generally never watch the Pro-Bowl, because, honestly, its boring.  However, I do love this one Pro-Bowl clip of Sean Taylor reminding us why punter's should never run the ball.

The Poll!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Personal Optimism & Stats Regarding Preds Attendance Numbers

In the game against the Maple Leafs on Monday, three themes that were bigger than the game got lost in the noise following was a very tough loss.
  1. A great attendance number...
  2. Which leads to an even better aggregate attendance number.
  3. The return of the TV timeout.  
A Great Attendance Number

Monday, Jan. 18, 2010 vs. TOR: 16,510 in reported attendance.
Monday, Jan. 19, 2009 vs. NJD: 14,848 in reported attendance.

Monday, Jan. 18, 2010's game vs. TOR was nearly a sold out game.  Of the 21 Monday or Tuesday games played at home so far this year and last year, it was the second best attendance (with the best being last year's sold out season finale).

The statistics are to prove a point.  The attendance numbers are starting to look really strong in PredNation.  How strong?

An Even Better Attendance Number

According to my totally unofficial, home-brewed (but fairly predictive) calculations, Monday's game was pivotal.  All season, the Preds have been trailing behind their ticket sales from last year, by about 2%.  That margin, however, has been shrinking.  Last night's game flipped the script, if you will.

Through 25 games, the Preds are actually ahead of last year's paid attendance number.  Sure, its not by much, but that is not the point.  What is the point?  The "second half playoff push" that the Preds typically rely on has come on early, strong, and fast.  The "magic number" (i.e. the average paid attendance that is needed for the preds to average 14,000 paid attendance for the year) is 15084 +/-.  The paid (not reported) attendance for the last six games, 15528 +/-?  (The average reported attendance for the last six games was 16,220).  Barring a complete meltdown on the ice, expect that to continue and the Preds to beat the 14,000 paid attendance benchmark (again) by a comfortable margin.  March & April feature 12 home games that provide for a specular, and well attended, playoff push to the finish.

If I'm right [and though I trust my calculations based on publicly available information, I can't want for the next round of attendance numbers to be released, to let me know I'm right] it is a big accomplishment, given the early troubles for NHL attendance overall this year, the economy, etc.

Return of the TV Timeout

I know some die-hard fans and bloggers that I respect (including The View from 111) were furious at last night's game.  I can't argue with that.  But I can say this.  That was an exciting game, and the crowd was rocking.  Its not the storybook ending I would have liked, but it showed me alot of good things about this team and its fanbase.

If, at this point last year, during that abysmal stretch, you would have told me that, with almost the exact same roster, the Preds would be in fourth place, rallying from an 0-3 deficit, and an almost sold out crowd would be doing the famous TV timeout on a Monday in January, I would have called you crazy.

Why the Success?

Personally, I think its a combination of strong play on the ice, a really great job by the new marketing team, and (perhaps) the early demise of the Titans.  What are your thoughts?  Think its something else, or disagree with the premise entirely?  Vote in the poll or share it in the comments sections below.

The Poll

Monday, January 18, 2010

If you like KENNY BRITT, you'll love PATRIC HORNQVIST

In their first full years, they have come on the scene, dazzled with flashes of offensive talent, and do not hesitate to go to the hard places and take a big hit... that's Titans' WR Kenny Britt and Predators' RW Patric Hornqvist.  One's a first round pick, the other was picked last.  Both are big parts of their team's future. Oh, and only one has a fan favorite nickname... check the differences section for that one. [EDIT:  This was published before this morning's announcement of Britt's 800+ traffic ticket arrest.  Timing is a funny thing...].

Britt had a very good rookie campaign.  Hornqvist has established himself as a staple of the Preds’ offense.  Here’s a great description from Chris Burton at On the forecheck:

"Hornqvist has given opposing goaltenders nightmares this season, continually parking in the crease and screening shots. ... As the old saying goes, good things happen when you go to the front of the net, and Patric has proven that repeatedly, even willing to stare down a Shea Weber slap shot.  Hornqvist has also shown impressive versatility, prospering with any line combination the coaches have placed him on. ...The combination of Patric's scoring touch and hustle won him a spot on the Swedish Olympic team, and are what makes him my choice for the Nashville Predators' 1st-half MVP."

Not convinced?  The rave reviews don't just come from the Nashville faithful.  Check out this great article from The Toronto Star as well.

  • Both are offensive players who are willing to pay a price to make good things happen.
  • Britt was first on the team in reception yards with 701.  Hornqvist is currently first on the team in goals with 19.
  • Both filled a role that fans demanded from their teams for years.  Britt was a big deep threat WR, while Hornqvist was a strong gritty winger who can plant in front of a goalie.  
  • Kenny Britt was a first round draft choice.  Hornqvist was MR. IRRELEVANT.  That's right, he was the LAST player taken in the 2005 draft.  Not bad for one of the Preds offensive stars and leading scorers.  You have to marvel at the Preds’ developmental system sometimes.
  • One’s from New Jersey, the other is from Sweden.  I’ll let you guess which one is which.  HINT: the Swede was nominated to play on that country’s Olympic team in the 2010 winter games.
  • Hornqvist always goes to the front of the net.  Britt has shown flashes of going over the middle.  Many, including myself, anticipate and expect Britt to step up more next season.
  • Shortening names is common in Hockey... Arnott is Arnie, Legwand is Leggy, Sullivan is Sully.  Hornqvist?  Well everyone calls him "Horny."
Anatomy of a Goal
Not convinced of the analogy?  Think you've got a better one?  Share it in the comments section below.

The Poll

Saturday, January 16, 2010

AOAG: Going to the Net - Why We Love Patric Hornqvist

PredNation, what a great win last night.  A fabulous defensive game ends in a big win for the Predators.  The 1-0 victory by the Predators, courtesy of a great defensive and goal tending game, and a gritty goal by my current favorite Predator, Patric Hornqvist.  

In this edition of Anatomy of a Goal, lets look at how Hornqvist's hard work and a timely defensive turnover to score the game winning (and only) goal of last night's game.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Starting Goalie Duos vs. Starting RB Duos - A Blessing or Curse

Is it better to have a clear #1, or a solid tag team?  That's the question for today's poll and fan feedback.  Today's headlines got me thinking...

In the World of the Titans: Congratulations to Titans' RB Chris Johnson, who was named Offensive Player of the Year.  His amazing 2000+ yard season proved to be the a rare brightspot in this year's season.  This is one year off of last season, where Lendale White and CJ were "smash and dash", a two headed running threat that lead the titans to a 13-3 record.

In PredNation: John Glennon reports at the Tennessean that The Preds' Cant Afford a Two Goalie Luxury next season (though, as I pointed out earlier, we are far from screwed this offseason).  The article points out that both goalies Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis are free agents at the end of the season, which means it may be hard to resign them.  This season Glennon points out that the Preds, currently #4 in the West, are only one of three team to have two goalies each win 10+ games in 20+ starts.

So Which is it, Sportsfans?  Does having two #1s = zero #1s?  Or do teams with depth win the day?

Personally, I think that depth is the key, and that home grown depth is the most important.  Injuries do happen (lets not forget about the Titans' playoff loss against the chargers last season).  Having a capable replacement is important.   For Predators fans, the financial realities of the team lead to a style that rewards hard working achievers over superstar talent.  Thus, a scheme with two #1s, but no superstars, is the recipe for success.  For the Titans, getting locked into superstar contracts can troublesome at best (see Vince Young's contract).

I could elaborate more, but I'd love to see your thoughts and the poll results.  So vote away!

The Poll

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PredsOnTheGlass Comments on Lane Kiffin

Great thoughts on the Lane Kiffin fiasco.  For the followers of this blog who are football fans, you will enjoy this article.  (Also, the blog generally).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Thanks PredNation!... and a Call for this Week's Questions

That's one month in the books!

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, and especially the bloggers of PredNation, for the support, advice, link-love, shout-outs, etc. over the past month.  When I started this, I really didn't know if it would have an audience (lets be honest, its a bit of a weird concept.  However, the response from the community has been HUGE.  It certainly would not have been possible without such an avid Predator fanbase.  Special thanks go out to Nashville's Top 10 Blogger Dirk Hoag at www.ontheforecheck.com, and also Buddy Oakes at www.predsontheglass.com.  Seeing as this is a new venture, I always love feedback.

As my thanks in return, I am trying to put together a comprehensive list of Preds blogs, with brief descriptions of each of them.  Think of it as a way of introducing those unfamiliar with the Preds-blogosphere with the who, what (and most importantly) why of each blog.  Keep an eye out for that in the coming days.  Bloggers, feel free to send me your own discription (otherwise I'll try to steal something off your website).

Once again, thanks to everyone for an amazingly successful first month.  Now, its time for the weekly Q&A.  Last weeks question was "Why Barry Trotz is Successful in Nashville", which was another great question.  Please submit your questions now.  Feel free to leave a comment, or email me at Preds101@comcast.net.

Monday, January 11, 2010

AOAG: Defensive Breakdowns & Losing Your Man

PredNation,  tough loss for the good guys over the weekend.

Some PredBloggers, including a really hilarious blog in See Puck City, and a bunch of post-game tweeters, were up-in-arms over the defensive pairing of Dan Hamhuis (D, #2) and Kevin Klein (D, #8).  I didn't get to see the game myself, so I decided to devote an Anatomy of a Goal to one goal against this defensive duo.  My conclusion:  Hamhuis, Klein, and David Legwand (C, #11) get caught flat footed.  Who is most responsible?  Cast your vote in poll after the break.

In this edition of Anatomy of a Goal, lets look at how defensive breakdowns, and losing track of your man, can result in easy goals against.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

So I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out... KHL Style

PredNation, this is just hilarious.  I know we hate the KHL, the Russian upstart league funded by questionable oil money, because one Alexander Radulov decided to ignite a hockey cold war to play there.  Its too bad he wasn't part of this brawl.  Though former NHL great Jaromir Jagr was.  According to ESPN:

A series of fights between Vityaz Chekhov and Avangard Omsk resulted in 691 penalty minutes against more than 30 players. The game had to be suspended because neither team had enough players to continue.
Hilarious! The three fights/brawls/melees happened about 3:30 into the game.  Here's the video for your amusement, via google translate. The fight goes from big to freakin' huge around the 1:30 mark.

Fighting in Hockey

In the NHL, fights in hockey are strategic.  People, such as Tootoo and Belak, are known enforcers.  They typically only fight enforcers.  There are rules, and then there is unofficial etiquette.  In the NHL, this type of Brawl is unheard of, and reprehensible.  Then again, there are alot of things about the KHL which many think are reprehensible.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year... So You Have a Mission.

Ah its that time of year again? Can you feel it? All that is sports in Nashville has all but ended. The Titans gave it a good run, but sadly, its over. College football (except the BCS game tonight) is over. Do you know that that means...

Welcome to Smashville!

Its when Talk Radio talks about the Preds.  Its the time when Nashville's own TV time out returns. Its the time when Pred Miracles happen. Its that time when Barry Trotz pulls magic out of the Pred hat. Its the time when PredNation can look around and honestly say "This might just be the year we advance and compete in the playoffs, boys."  Its the most wonderful time of the year!

That's right, Sports Fans, get your Preds tickets. Hockey Season in Nashville begins! Did you see the attendance numbers for last Tuesday's (TUESDAY'S!) game? 15000+. Glorious! Its that time when the die hard fans look around, and sitting next to you in what may have been an empty seat is a Titans first, Preds second fan.

That's how I define that it is the second half of Nashville's season.

Readership, that means you have a mission, should you choose to accept it. We all want the Preds to be a longterm success, and we all know that it will. However, that means converting the non-fan to casual fans, and the casual fans into passionate ones. It means we, as the zealous, rabid fan base that we are, must take a minute to teach the game, and spread the love, to those around us.

Its what Preds 101 is all about.

What can we do about it?  Talk passionately about the game to those who aren't familiar.  Explain not what just happened, but why it happened.  But things on context that makes sense.  Analogize to other sports or life in general.  Wear your Preds gear around town.  Take some new people to the games.  Make sure bars & restaurants have the game on their TVs.  Share blogs, articles, tweets, and stories with the casual or non-fan.

Until next time PredNation... get excited.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Question from Columbus: "Barry Trotz... How Does He Do It?"

Today I got a great question from Dark Blue Jacket, a Columbus Blue Jacket Blogger.  Recently the St. Louis Blues fired their coach Andy Murray, and some people in Columbus are wondering whether the same fate awaits Blue Jacket coach Ken Hitchcock.  Hence the question:
"What makes Barry Trotz the ideal coach for the Preds? What is it about his coaching and/or leadership style that allows him to stay as the team's only coach when some teams change coaches more often than they change third jerseys?"
I have no doubt that Tennessee sports fans may well disagree with my answer, or with the premise of the question entirely.  Regardless, I think DBJ is spot on, and here are my top four reasons for why Barry Trotz (and, to some extent, Titans coach Jeff Fisher) have been successful long-term coaches in Nashville.

To put it simply, Nashville's fans (and management) trusts our professional coaches.  That trust been rewarded with defensively minded teams that are almost always competitive.  Barry Trotz (and Titans' coach Jeff Fisher), are "player's coaches." So even if some fans are disgruntled, you'll never hear any negative quotes coming out of the locker room.  In a small market like Nashville, you need a system based on character, grit, and hard work.  Trotz epitomizes and breeds success in that system, which is good, because no superstar free agent is going to walk through the door anytime soon.

UPDATED: What are your thoughts?  Share them in the Poll and/or comments below.

1.  Perhaps its "Southern Hospitality", but In Nashville, Keeping Coaches is What We Do.

Preds' coach Barry Trotz  is second longest tenured coach in the NHL.  Trotz began coaching the Preds in 1997, and over 12 years later is the only coach this city has ever known.Titans' coach Jeff Fisher is the longest tenured coach in the NFL.  Fisher began coaching Titans in 1994 and over 15 years later is only Titans' coach this city has ever known.

Two coaches... 27+ years.  Enough said.

We keep our coaches.  Local media often remarks that Nashville isn't the most critical sports city. We give a fair amount of deference, and trust that the GMs, coaches, and staff are doing their jobs.   Of course, the city can be patient when our teams tend to win more then they lose.  But the point is this, in some cities a losing streak can end a tenure, and the years of hard work that have gone into building and molding a team.  Not here.

2. Coaching a Scheme that Nashville Needs

Predators fans, Canadian media, and everyone else knows one simple fact:  the Predators are going to be spending near or at the salary cap floor for the foreseeable future.  It takes a long time to develop a team that can succeed in that type of system.  Fans realize that, and GM David Poile and Coach Trotz realize that.  It helps that both Poile and Trotz have been at the helm together for over a decade now, slowly and methodically building that system.  This "Lunch Pail Gang" mentality, outlined really well by AJ in his Pull My (Fang)Finger blog, is what Trotz breeds: a hard working, role playing, team first, defensive, take-care-of-the-puck, system, develop talent from within, system.  Over the years, the different rosters may have forced  variations on this coaching theme... but the theme is always the same.

It should be noted this is almost exactly the same style and system that the Titans and Jeff Fisher employ as well.

3. Player's Coaches

Both Fisher and Trotz are class acts, and Player's coaches. One predators blogger, Mark from The View from 111, wrote up this piece about Trotz last week.  As a result, one thing you almost never hear in Nashville is locker room dissent from the players.  Disgruntled fans may jaw on the radio, but you never hear any quotes from players as ammunition.  In Steve Sullivan's words:
Sullivan said one of the reasons Trotz has been around since 1997 is the coach's ability to form relationships with players. "I definitely think he's a players' coach ... He has an open-door policy. He takes into account a lot of the players' ideas. We not only have captains, but a leadership group that meets regularly to talk about the month ahead, what our plans are. There are no surprises from the coaching staff. That's what we're looking for, an idea of what our game plan is."
When the players are happy, everybody's happy.  Conversely, look at former Titan Albert Hayneswoth.  Under Fisher, he was kept relatively in check when talking to the media.  Half a season later, he's denying rumors of organizing a player boycott in Washington.

4. Beating Teams and Expectations

Expectations are critically important for coaches who want to keep their jobs.  In last season, when expectations were high, and the team fell short, it was because of an ownership crisis.  This season, like our early seasons, the Predators were, well, supposed to be terrible.   We win more games that we "should", and Trotz always gets a lot of credit for that.

Expectations for the Predators will likely always be a little lower than other, larger markets.  What the fan base does demand and expect is that that the coaching staff has the attention and respect of the locker room.  So long as that is the case, Trotz can be behind the Nashville bench for years to come.

Today's Poll

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Anatomy of a Goal: Crisp Passing


Everyone raves about how the Predators are a hard working team.  Very true.  The Preds, however, are a really good passing team as well.  Who cares?  You do.  Well, crisp passes move faster than the fast skaters.  In this edition of Anatomy of a Goal, lets see how solid passing makes Preds' opponents look silly, in Arnott's game-winner.   Don't forget to vote at the bottom to let me know how impressive you think this play is.

[Need help with all the arrow's and circles and nonsense?  Check out the new AOAG Legend.]

The Breakdown: Four Passes, Eight Seconds, One Goal.

1. Shea Weber (D, #6) begins the play in the defensive zone, making the first pass ("Good Pass #1") to defensive partner Ryan Suter (D, #20).

2.  Patric Hornquist (RW, #27) breaks toward the top of the screen.  Hornqvist will fill the void created by the Anaheim player moving forward to forecheck Suter.

3.  Suter receives Good Pass #1, and waits until the defender is on top of him.  He then sends a long bomb pass ("Good Pass #2") down ice to Hornqvist.  Weber breaks quickly down ice.

4.  Good Pass #2 = Long Bomb to Hornqvist.  He does a great job of collecting the pass.

The star means this is the "Play of the Play", IMHO.  That means that it was this play that was the most crucial in setting up the goal.  

5.  Hornqvist also waits until the defender is on him, and then fires a hard, crisp, accurate pass.  This Good Pass #3 goes directly to the spot where Weber will be. Tape-to-tape.  Weber is full speed and catches the pass in stride.  

6.  The Anaheim defender moves up to make a play on Weber and the puck.  

7.  Because Weber receives Good Pass #3 at full speed, he is able to make a quick move and blow by the Anaheim defender.  Weber's speed forces the defender to turn around.  Thus, the Predators are able to enter the zone with speed, instead of dumping-and-chasing.

[Entering the zone with speed is critical to setting up the offense.  It is much easier than getting the puck deep and having to race behind the net to reestablish possession].

8.  Because of the speed of entering the zone, the both Anaheim defenders cheated toward Weber.  Weber makes the Good Pass #4 to Jason Arnott (C, 19).  Arnott has a direct shooting lane because both defenders played Weber.  Good Pass #4 is tape-to-tape, allowing Arnott to fire a quick wrist shot.

Good Pass #4 forces the Anaheim goalie to move quickly from his left to right.  Arnott's quick shot is able to go over the goalie's shoulder for the game winning goal.

The Video

The Poll

Friday, January 1, 2010

Side-by-Side Breakdown: Turnovers Below the Goal Line

Pred Nation,  Happy New Year!  Good win last night by the Predators.  Almost every PredBlog had a recap last night, so check them out on the blogroll.

Turnovers.  They will kill any team, including last night's opponents the Columbus Blue Jackets.  In this special edition of Anatomy of a Goal, let's do a Side-by-Side Breakdown to see how defensive turnovers by the Blue Jackets below the goal line resulted in two easy goals, a win, and two points, for the Predators.

The Breakdown

Thuresson's tying goal is on the left.  Legwand's OT game winner is on the right.

1. In both shots, the Columbus player has the puck against the boards in their own zone.  Both puckholders are being pressured by an aggressive Predator's forecheck.

2. In both cases, the Columbus player attempts a pass because of the pressure by the Preds' forecheck.
--On the left:  the player attemps to pass to a player behind him (and not to the player on the left of the screen).   This is a bad pass because, as we can see from the replay, the only person behind him is a Predator.
--On the right:  The pressure causes the Blue Jacket to get tripped up.  The player makes a pass while he is falling, which is good.  However, lets just say the pass was quite crisp and tape-to-tape.

3.  The bad pass results in a turnover.  Once each Predator gets the puck, he does a good job of making a quick pass.
--On the left: The turnover is relatively easy, as the Columbus player passes the puck directly to the Predator.  However, the active forecheck was what resulted in the Predator being in position to recieve the pass.
--On the right:  Joel Ward does an EXCELLENT job of fighting for this puck and creating the turnover.  Watch the replay and check it out.  What a player.  Once Ward is able, he quickly makes a pass.  (We've seen where this kind of grit scores Pred's goals before).

4.  The passes are both quick and to Preds standing wide open in the slot.  What a shooter's pipedream.  Both shots catch the Columbus goalie moving, and the shots are so close in that that goalie has no time to react.  Easy goals.

Conclusion & Video
What impresses me about these plays (and admittedly I did not get to watch the due to new year's eve festivities), is the aggressiveness of the Predators in forcing the turnovers.  These are not necessarily the prettiest goals.  These (especially Joel Ward's) are hard work goals.

Credit also belongs to the Columbus defense, who apparently are not the best at clearing men out of the slot. Keep in mind, however, that when the play is below the goal line, at least one defenseman usually is too, which means it is easier for a forward to creep in front of the net.  A quick play like this is very hard to defend against.  Here's to hoping that the Preds get to score alot more of these goals, and that they can limit their recent trend of sloppy turnovers as well.

Thuresson's Goal

Legwand's Goal