While I’m scouring the Caribbean for a 2nd-line winger (since David Poile hasn’t found one yet), stay tuned for a number of features highlighting the members of what has become a vibrant and diverse community – your Nashville Predators bloggers. Before heading out on vacation I had the good sense to get others to do my writing for me this week, so I asked them to answer some questions which will not only help you get to know each one of them, but also provide some conversation about where the Preds are headed this season. I hope you’ll enjoy their replies as much as I did.
Get to know a Preds Blogger: Rachel Raines
I first noticed Rachel's writing over at Hockey's Ladies of Greatness (HLOG), but she regularly sounds off on the Preds over at What the Puck. While I tend to get dry and analytical talking about which players should or shouldn't be on the roster, Rachel adds some personality to the conversation, and mourns the loss of character guys like Jed Ortmeyer more than I perhaps might. Hers is a welcome voice in what is an all-too-often male dominated medium.
Q: How long have you been a hockey fan, and have you always followed the Preds?
A: My hockey loving days date all the way back to when the Nashville Knights played at the Municipal Auditorium. I have a lot of fond childhood memories wrapped up in those games. I also remember wearing my cousin's San Jose Sharks hand-me-downs to the games every once in a while. I'm pretty sure I wore them because their colors were the same...you can't fault a young girl for her lack of hockey franchise knowledge up to that point. ANYWAY, where were we? In the realm of NHL hockey, the Predators have always been my team. As a born and raised Nashvillian (we are few and far between), there was no other choice. The Predators inaugural season fell during my senior year of high school so the first few years, any games I attended were through the graciousness of others and at the mercy of my class schedule. The season following the lockout was when I really became an avid hockey fan once again. Now you'd be hard pressed to not find me at a game or talking about hockey with someone (ANYONE) within ear shot.
Q: What drew you into blogging?
A: I've always been a natural writer. Being the news editor and then managing editor of my high school paper just helped to seal the deal. I fell away from writing during my college days, majoring in child psycology over journalism. But as mentioned in my previous answer, over the years my affection for the sport grew to such a level that I felt as though my friends and immediate family were to a point where they had hit their saturation point as far as how much more hockey talk they could hear from me. That's when I realized I had to get my thoughts out into the world through another forum. My very first blog about the team came as a five or six part season wrap up at the end of the 2005-2006 season on my Myspace (GASP! RIP Myspace) profile. Thank the good Lord that I had the presence of mind to eventually delete all traces of those postings. When I think back to my first crack at blogging, I cringe a little because I'm pretty sure I'd be embarrassed by myself. However, we all have to start somewhere. It was from that point on that I really found my passion for writing about the game and more specifically, the team. Now I don't know what I would do without the joy I get from writing.
Q: Before we dig into the year ahead, what's your favorite hockey memory?
A: As a Predators fan, it is probably a little cliché at this point but I can honestly say that the final regular season home game against the St. Louis Blues on April 3, 2008 is forever burned into my brain. The spontaneous standing ovation during that last TV time out when the entire crowd rose to its feet, without provocation, was a moment in time that still (even as I write this) gives me chills and sends me back to an unexplainable place of joy and camaraderie. I believe, it is, without question, the defining moment of this franchise; one we can look back on fondly and use as motivation going forward.
Q: With training camp on the horizon, which new Predator are you most looking forward to seeing?
A: Colin Wilson is my pick for our next superstar in the making. I have followed him pretty closely since right before we picked him up in the draft in 2008. He impressed me at Rookie Camp last year and managed to leave another strong impression on me after this year's Development Camp. He has the potential to become an All Star player for this organization for years to come. I also think he has some great leadership qualities that should translate well to a locker room teeming with younger talent.
Q: Who would you like to see on the second line with Legwand & Erat?
A: I'd really like to see either Ryan Jones or Joel Ward get a fair chance on this line. If one of these guys can find the right chemistry with Leggy and Erat, we could have a great second line for once. Both Jones and Ward have a different style of play than either of the veterans and it would be nice to see a little shake up in the way those two normally operate.
Q: Who's your pick for Most Improved Pred this season?
A: Does "this season" mean the 2009-2010 season? If so, my list of candidates is so very long. To pick just one, I would REALLY like to see Erat have a year worthy of the contract we pay him. He is more than capable of being a great scorer but he needs to stop playing ballerina on the ice first.
Q: Who will lead the team in scoring?
A: Steve Sullivan could easily run away with that distinction, if he can stay healthy. However, Arnott and Dumont aren't too far behind in my book. If JP can pick up the pace from his just okay performance last season, I think he could be the one to watch.
Q: Where do you think the Preds will finish in the Central Division and Western Conference?
A: Detroit is Detroit and they will somehow always manage to win the Division. I expect this year will be no different. I think we might battle it out with Chicago for second in the Central if we can get (and keep) our act together. I'd love to see us fall either 4th or 5th in the Conference. As long as we beat out Columbus, I'm okay with wherever we land in the top 8.