8:30 PM CST | 102.9 FM | FS-TN (HD)
At this point, I sit down to write, and end up shaking my head in disbelief instead. The Nashville Predators, without a single player on pace for 30 goals, and many key injuries, sit a mere 4 points behind the Detroit Red Wings in the Central Division. It's Shea Weber being a better captain than Jason Arnott. It's Barry Trotz out-coaching most everyone else. It's Pekka Rinne turning into one of the NHL's best goalies.
Most of all, though, it's about hard work, and playing as a team. Detroit? You are now on notice.
The Preds and Wings have each played 48 games. Nashville has earned 60 points, Detroit 64. They play each other four more times - three times at Bridgestone Arena. That's 16 points hanging in the balance, and 12 of them in front of the raucous home crowd. You do the math.
I'm not saying it'll happen. I don't even think it's all that possible. But at this point, do you want to count the Predators out? I didn't think so. If Nashville returned several important players from injury, and Detroit were to hit a slide, then anything could happen. Until then, we'll take it one game at a time.
In Calgary, times are getting pretty hard. They're near the basement of the Western Conference, and have some fans asking if a complete rebuild is necessary:
Do the Flames rebuild? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. The question is- will they do so willingly or just continue to slide until they've become the Islanders of Canada? I see there being two types of rebuilds- controlled and unintentional. If you see a rebuild being necessary far enough in the future, you can plan on it, work towards it, start stocking draft picks, sell off the older high end players while they're still good, and generally prepare for a few years of losing and teaching younger players the ins and outs of the game.
Unfortunately, for many teams, that rarely happens. What you most often see is a team refusing to acknowledge its decline, refusing to sell off top players and one day waking up at the bottom of the standings and no first round draft picks to show for it, having been sold for declining veterans in the hope that they'll "spark" the team. Fortunately, Calgary has not hit that point yet- but it's coming up in the rear-view mirror pretty quickly.
Of course, the Flames have already beaten Nashville once, in a game that was, quite frankly, the most boring of the year. The Preds have changed since then, however, and are showing a propensity for scoring that we're not that used to around these parts.
Calgary has managed to preserve a pretty good defensive corps, which means that players like Patric Hornqvist and Martin Erat have to step up if Nashville wants to win their 4th straight and yet another game that they should win.
You've seen the recipe for success, and know how it works - now, to do it once more and prepare for a top of the conference showdown with Vancouver before the All Star break.