Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This I Used to Believe, Part 2: Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Hamilton Predators!

Forget Hamilton. Forget Balsillie. Forget “Make it 7”. Forget 14,000.   Forget Leopold.  Forget Boots.   Forget Bankruptcy.  Ladies and Gentlemen, these are your Nashville Predators.

End of story.

A Focus on the Future

This article is not about the troubles.  If you knew them, you knew them all too well.  If you are unfamiliar, don’t worry too much... its all just history at this point.  This is an article about why the Preds are better off, and what to say to those who think otherwise.

I think that this season has served as an inflection point, and that 2010 will be the year that people look back and say “that was the year the Predators came into their own.”

The Four Changes for the Have Saved the Predators

1) 14,000’s no longer a struggle:  In previous seasons, especially before the lockout, former owner Craig Leopold and the Predators were having trouble getting people in the stands.  Post lockout, and post new ownership group, this has not been a problem.  This year especially, the Predators were confident early on in the year that they would make the 14,000 magic number.  There was no talk of the ownership group having to buy remaining tickets.  Instead, all that we have seen are creative, effective marketing campaigns and an attendance number that is beating last years, despite the worst economic times since the great depression.

2) Ownership that knows how to sell in this community.  The prior ownership seemed to try to get local sponsorships by guilting them into a deal.  “We have the fans, we just don’t have corporate backing.  Support Nashville by Supporting the Preds.”  Such logic is hardly convincing.  Contrast that with the recent flurry of sponsorship activity, Bridgestone, Ford, Petron, Softwick, A.D. Vallet. etc.  Its clear that this group knows how to convincingly make the case to local business to support the team: because it adds value to your business.  The marketing team has also done a fantastic job of marketing to the casual fan, a winning strategy in a relatively new hockey market.

3) Phoenix:  After all of former Preds’ vulture suitor, billionaire Jim Balsillie’s maneuvering in the desert last summer, Phoenix still has a team.  It will take an act of nature to rip the Predators out of Nashville. 

4)  The Playoffs:  Ok, I’m going to go out on a limb on this one, but I truly believe that this will be the year the Predators make a little noise in the playoffs.  If they do, it may be the last factor that shores up this franchise once and for all.

To Those Who Don’t Believe Me

Despite ALL of the positive steps this franchise has taken, there are still bumps in the road. Naysayers abound. 

The troubles that have peppered the Predators past have created two types of people, the Anti-fan, and the indifferent pessimist. 

The Indifferent Pessimist:  This person is does not necessarily know too much about the team, but simply knows that the team used to be in trouble.  Thus, the IP assumes this is still true.  Occasionally they may read a headline, whether it was true in 2008 or now in 2010 is just a hack-job, (for example, Paul McCann did a great job of taking the Tennessean’s Nate Rau to task, on one such article/headline published this week.)

My response: A half condescending, half friendly laugh.  No.  The team’s here, for good, and they are doing great.  Any troubles you hear of are just manufactured to sell copy.  I’d go watch a game soon before they sell out... yes, that’s right, sell out.

The Anti-fan:  The Anti-Fan actively thinks the Preds need to leave town.  Whether their reasons are thought out, I will leave for them to argue.  Here’s an example, from the comments section of the Rau piece I mentioned above.  This is “ThumbodyThed’s” reaction to the headline Predators Will Stay in Nashville until 2012:

I was having a pretty good day until I read this headline. Shucks! "Soccer on ice" needs to go. It has no place in the South, especially Nashville. Because of all the hype, I tried once again to watch it, when the USA and Canada played, but this sports fanatic still can't stomach it. A few years back when they experimented with an orange puck, I became a little more interested, as at least I could follow the object of the game. Then they dropped that, and I gave up again.

My favorite part about this comment:  Two years ago they permeated the message boards.  Now, you have to really struggle to find one. 

My Response:  You’re right, to the uninitiated it can be tough to follow the puck, especially if you are watching in standard definition.  This month, as the playoff race is in full gear, watch a game in HD, or better yet, go to a game.  I promise you will be entertained.  If you are not, no harm, no foul.  But listen... The predators are here to stay.  You can gripe if that angers you, you can plead ignorance if the game seems foreign to you, and you can complain while no one listens to you.  Take my advice, though.  When April rolls around, the playoffs are going to be the best game in town.  Get a ticket, I’d be happy to walk you through the basic X’s and O’s.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This I Used to Believe: Part 1 – This is OUR Time!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Let me take you back.... The date is December 22, 2009.  Christmas is right around the corner; cheer and merriment abound.  If you are a Nashville Sports fan, life is pretty good.  The Titans have righted the ship to make their season respectable... and the Predators. 

Oh, those Predators.  Fresh off of winning streaks of 7-0-0 and 6-0-1, the Preds could do no wrong.    The national media was calling our praise in the weekly power rankings, which had us as high as 5th.  ESPN’s Scott Burnside praised the following:

“No money? No problem. The best story in hockey continues to amaze after a statement win in Calgary on Saturday. We bow to you, Coach Trotz.”

Life was good.  Very good.  PredNation cheered as a four year old proclaimed: This is OUR Time!

New Year, New You

As we closed on the first decade of the new millennium, something changed in PredNation.  This change was not for the better.  Outside of the confines of the Sommet Center Nashville Arena? Sommet Center* Bridgestone Something? Sommet Center? Bridgestone Arena, the Predators fortunes had turned. 

We had some positive stretches here and there, but a devastating 5 game losing streak at the end of January dropped the Predators from 5th in the power rankings to 16th, in two short weeks.  We spent February trading blows, wins, and losses with opponents, but were never able to get on a streak.

The snows came... and went.   The trade deadline came... and went.  The Predators needed scoring, and found none.  The Predators found themselves in a familiar position... fighting for a final playoff spot.  Collectively PredNation thought, “I’ve seen this movie... and I know how it ends.”  Humbled and seemingly forced into playing a one-and-done type-cast role, many in PredNation slumped their shoulders, sank their head and resigned to a familiar fact, “This... this is our time.”

If Winter Comes, Can Spring be Far Behind?

March 8, 2010 marked, IMHO, the first spring day.   How can life be bad when it is that nice outside?  Will it mark the change in our hockey fortunes as well? Only time will tell.

The Predators need a winning streak.  Whatever the magic was that driving the Predators ship at the beginning of the year (scoring by those who are paid to score goals, strong play from every line, truly solid goaltending) needs to return to form.  I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know that it starts in Atlanta tonight.  There are not enough games left to waste, or give away like Sunday.  For the Predators to make the playoffs, let alone get in a position to move past the first round, the winning ways need to return, now.

Put Simply: It’s Time.

This I Used to Believe – Introduction


Sorry again for the radio silence, as life continues to be busy.  One thing that we, as fans, should be grateful for is the pure depth and energy that are Predators bloggers.  It is a challenge coming up with unique stories, ideas, and points of view, or put another way, to add value to what is a very rich conversation.  I attempt to do that this week with a new several part piece, called “This I Used to Believe.”

This series of Posts gets its inspiration from two places, which both deserve credit.  First is AJ over at Pull My (Fang)Finger.  He has a great knack for multi-part posts, including the current and very good Callin’ It as I See It, and probably what is one of my all time favorite posts on the Predators: They Are Who We Thought They Were ... We Hope (Part 1 and Part 2). 

Second, This American Life is a top notch program, and I highly recommend that anyone who has a commute download a free episode to listen to.  They also have a weekly podcast available.  A while back they did a piece called “This I Used to Believe” (Episode Page) (Listen Here), which is a rip off of an old Edward R. Murrow piece titled “This I Believe”, in which people from across the world were asked to send in essays finishing that sentiment.  Tens of thousands were submitted, and only 200 made it to radio.

So there you have it... please enjoy part 1: This is OUR Time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So What?: Big Monday Recap

Wow, so the Preds didn't waste any time post Olympic break getting back into the news.  Here's what you need to know about yesterday.  All that drama inspired a new segment at Preds 101, that I'll call "So What".

The Denis Grebeshkov Trade

The What?:  The following tweet by Preds' forward Steve Sullivan sums it up nicely:  @Sullivan26: "Really good addition! Welcome to Smashville Denis Grebeshkov. Hope we find a nickname for him really fast.....".  We acquired this Olympian from Edmonton for a 2nd round pick.

John Glennon has a quote from the D-man, describing his game: "I'm more of an offensive defenseman, not the kind of guy who's going to score lots of goals, but the kind of guy who can create plays,'' Grebeshkov said. "I think I'm good with the puck. My defensive side … that's the side I need to get some improvement in. But still, I don't think I'm bad defensively.''

The So What?:  DG's is similar to Dan Hamhuis in their age, experience, game style, etc.  One key difference is that Hamhuis is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, where DG is restricted free agent.  That means even if the Preds don't resign him, we can get draft picks in return.  Good move GM David Poile.  Does this mean that Hamhuis gets traded?  Most likely.   Would I be totally surprised if Poile wanted to keep every good defenseman on the planet on the Preds' roster... .... ... no, not really.

David Freeman Steps Aside as Predators Governor

The What?: The Predators have 9 owners, and David Freeman was governor of them, and was by far the most vocal and visible owner.  Preds fans love him.  Due to an ongoing dispute with the IRS over back taxes, however, the Nashville Sports Authority believes the Predators may be in default on one of their covenants of their lease.  To try to take the spotlight off of Freeman, he stepped aside.  Tom Ciggaran, of Healthways and AmSurg fame, steps in as Governor.  Today's Tennessean has a good recap.  

The So What?: Not a huge story.  The face of the ownership group might change for interviews, etc., but the running of the club will remain the same.

I tend to believe that he stepped aside due to the fact that the Sports Authority was imposing deadlines on when the tax lien could be resolved.  These deadlines were impossible for Freeman to make, considering the IRS controls that process.  It may be possible that that Freeman may technically be in default due to a loan he had to give the Predators.  He made this loan due to the fact that Boots' shares of the Preds are still in bankruptcy court.  I am ready for those shares to come out of court and back to the Predators (I'm sure the ownership group is as well). 

The Detroit Red Wings Beat the Colorado Avalanche

The What?: Oh man, don't look now, but the evil Detroit empire is only one point back in the standings.
The So What?:  Its going to be a fast month of important hockey.  We NEED to make it to 6th place, because playing San Jose or Chicago in the first round does not sound like as much fun as playing Vancouver.


Want discount tickets to Preds games in march?  Click here for the post or the form.  Tickets are for select games in March.  Why buy them?  Games are awesome.  also, if you do, my club team gets to play at the Bridgestone Arena immediately following the 3/16 game vs. the flyers.  If you want to learn how to play hockey, watch the Flyers.  If you want to learn how NOT to play hockey, stick around for my game!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Three Things The Causal Fan Needs to Know About March

Before I begin, let me apologize for not posting during the Olympic break.  Life got very busy right when the NHL did not, so that was good timing for me. Thanks to all of the other Preds Bloggers who have more stick-to-it-ness than this Preds 101.  Anyway, here's what you need to know for March:

1. Every Game is Freakin' HUGE!!!!

Seriously.  Nashville finds itself.in a rather familiar position: "just in" the playoffs, with almost no breathing room.  In March, the Preds play 17 games in 29 days.  (Chris Burton at On the Forecheck provided a great preview this morning). This is a very compressed schedule, though fortunately for the Predators have 10 of those games at home.  The result is that every game is going to be an absolute battle, and that every point is absolutely invaluable.

For those of you who have not been to a Predators game in March, its a different atmosphere than any previous month.  The energy is electric and the crowds are tend to sell out.  Can you tell I'm excited already?

2. The Very Important Trade Deadline Approaches (Wednesday)

In Football, the week 6 trade deadline passes with an annual whimper.  Its absolutely a different story in the NHL.  March 3rd is the NHL trade deadline, so expect the Preds roster to look a little different between now and then.  Goalie Dan Ellis and defenseman Dan Hamhuis are two names from Nashville that my be traded, in exchange for some scoring power.  (John Glennon has a good summary this morning on the trade situation).

GM David Poile tends to be a touch conservative at the trade deadline, so don't hold your breath for a superstar player.  However, the Predators were reportedly just beaten out for young all-star Phil Kessel earlier this year, so I suppose anything is possible.

3. The Other Off Ice Non-Issues will Likely Get Resolved.

With the exception of parking, which will be a bit more difficult due to the Music City Center, March (and April) will hopefully result in several of the off ice issues being put to rest for good.  In reality, there aren't any real issues that need to be resolved... all looks to be well in PredNation.  However, I know that given the teams past troubles, the casual fan can still equate the Predators to a shaky franchise.  To the extent that such an association is a good one (and its not), the next few weeks will hopefully go a long way in purging those negative thoughts.  Why?

  • The New Brigdestone Arena is a huge win for the Predators.
  • Ticket sales will likely hit the magic 14,000, as the playoff push nears.
  • Any playoff revenue is pure profit for the franchise, as the main expense (player salaries) have been fully paid.
Other Random Quick Hits

Section 303, who got a National shout-out by NBC for hosting a gold-medal viewing party on Sunday, did a great job of compiling other quick hit questions.

In my opinion, the most important question to the casual fan is this:  Assuming the Preds make the playoffs, do they finish in #6 or above.  A yes to that question makes the odds of the Preds moving past the first round for the first time in history look MUCH better.  So IMHO, #6 or above is the spot to root for, hockey fans!


Want discount tickets to Preds games in march?  Click here for the post or the form.  Tickets are for select games in March.  Why buy them?  Games are awesome.  also, if you do, my club team gets to play at the Bridgestone Arena immediately following the 3/16 game vs. the flyers.  If you want to learn how to play hockey, watch the Flyers.  If you want to learn how NOT to play hockey, stick around for my game!