I am done with the Nashville Predators. Not the team, or all of the players, but the concept of what it means to be a Nashville Predators. I am through with David Poile and his mild mannered ways. His soft spoken voice and lack of emotion. I am done with Barry Trotz and his 'Trotzisms'. Maybe Barry Trotz should use his own advice and get a dog, b/c his bantering isn't working anymore on his players. I am tired of watching Nashville field a team of role players. Tired of watching 2nd liners play on the first line, 3rd liners play on the 2nd line, 4th liners play on the 3rd line, and AHL'ers play on the 4th line. I am tried of draft picks traded away for role players. I am tired of free agents slipping away for nothing in return. I am tired of hearing about potential instead of seeing talent. I am tired of over paying for players just b/c they won't play for less in Nashville, but will almost anywhere else. I am tired of reading reports about how good our prospects are but never seeing any of the talent materialize in Nashville. I am tired of Peter Horachek being behind the bench. In a nutshell, Smashville has lost its luster. It is boring, dump and chase hockey, played by mostly nice guys who wouldn't know how to stand up for their teammate if his life depended on it. You push us around, we get out of your way. You score 5 goals in 8 minutes, and we laugh about it on the bench.
If you made it this far, you probably think I am just ranting and have no understanding of the NHL or what it takes to be a successful team. Guess what....I am ranting. Nashville scored 4 goals the other night and lost by 3 to Phoenix. We have lost 9 games this year by 3 goals or more. We have given up 4 goals or more 9 times this year. If you have followed the Predators over the years, you know, this is not Predator hockey. We don't give up 4 goals in a game. We may not score a goal, but rarely give up 4 goals. This year it seems like the norm. However, the fact that we are losing, and how we are losing isn't what ticks me off. What ticks me off is the nerve of ownership to send out season ticket renewal packets this past week. You honestly want me to send you more money and commit to next year when you entertain me with a bunch of old underperforming veterans and role players who would be better off in a local beer league? No, I am done. I have survived the early losing years, the Craig Leipold firesale, the Boots Del Biaggio relocation, the Hamhuis, Suter, and Weber GM debacle. I was part of 'Save our Team' and watched our fan base increase attendence from 12,000 to over 17,000. I have been in the trenches with this team since day one. And for the first time EVER, I realize I have been blinded by Smashville. I have ignored the trends, the historic facts, and reality. For the first time in a long time, Nashville has take a major step backwards this year. And what ownership and David Poile does over the next 6 months will determine my future support. Do nothing and I am perfectly content to watch games at home. Do more of the same and I am willing to watch games at home. The puck is in your court David Poile. If you need a few suggestions, here you go. I won't even ask for a discount on my season tickets for these peals of wisdom.
1) Go back 10 years and evaluate the rosters of the last 20 teams that made the Stanley Cup playoffs. Identify trends, payrolls, and how they were built. You will find that scoring is a big part of every team. You will see that most every team had at least a very bad year or two that allowed them to get a super star to build from. (Toews, Kane, Malkin, Crosby, Ryan). Or you will see a team that spent big money and brought in super stars like LA did last year. My point is you won't see a team led by role players and guys with 'character'. Someone on the roster has to dominate offensively. You need a player or two who can step up in those 5-4 games.
2) Take a step back and pretend you have no emotional attachment to any player in the organization. Ask yourself whether this player is worthy of a roster spot AND whether his current line position is warranted. If Poile and Trotz were to do this, they would quickly realize that most of the players on our roster are playing one line ahead of their natural position. I am thinking under these conditions, many of our players would get the boot, starting with our first 2 lines.
3) Understand that every player, AHL'er, and prospect is an asset. If they haven't made it to the NHL by the end of there 3rd year of being drafted, they are at best going to be a role player. Every team needs role players, but no team needs 10-20 of them. Take your top 5 role players and trade away the rest. If you don't see a player being a top 9 forward or a top 4 defenseman, trade them. You can always plug 4th liners in at forward and find acceptable 3rd line D-men. However, under no circumstances do you let them walk away in free agency for free. Trade them for a 6th round draft pick, but don't let them walk. If a player is in his contract year, offer him a contract and trade him if he doesn't accept it. Understand that if a player makes it to free agency, there is a very small chance he will remain in Nashville. Don't think loyalty carries any weight in Free Agency. Maybe for Detroit, but not for Nashville. If you are wondering how many real assets we have let walk away, think of the following list: Hartnell, Timonen, Hamhuis, Suter, and Weber. YES, Weber did walk away. Only through a technicality did Nashville get to keep him. That is our 2000, 2001, and 2003 1st round draft picks by way(Hartnell, Hamhuis, and Suter). In all fairness, Hartnell and Timonen were a result of the great fire sale which wasn't Poile's fault. However, Poile is easily to blame for not trading away Hamhuis and Suter for assets when he had a chance. Don't let it happen with Hornqvist, Josi, or Bartley.
4) Lastly, ask management this simple question. Is it more important to make the playoffs, and maybe get to the 2nd round, or take steps that strengthens the team for the future and increases the chance of s Stanley Cup appearance, even if it means not making the playoffs? Management ultimately has to make the decision. If it is the former, then keep on doing what you have been doing. However, if it is the latter, you have some work to do.
If we want to remake our organization into a Stanley Cup caliber team, here are a few suggestions:
1) Take out the trash. It's time for Leggy and SK74 to be unloaded. Find a way, Trade them for a bag of pucks and a pair of tickets to Taylor Swift if you have too, but get rid of them. SK74 can't shoot, and Leggy can't lead. And neither can score enough to justify 1st or 2nd line minutes. Bonus points if you can do this before the trade deadline this year. Extra bonus point if you can unload Fisher and Erat as they may be the only offensive players that return us a draft pick worth bragging about.
Go for broke. SIGN COREY PERRY! Enough said. Go for broke, SIGN ALEX SEMIN. Nevermind, there is no superstar talent left in this years crop of free agents. Wait until next year. Maybe consider Mike Ribeiro if you can get him for a 'fair' price. Otherwise, sign a couple of free agents to 1 year contracts. We aren't looking for long term deals unless they are studs.
3) Piss off the world, and especially the St. Louis Blues and put in an offer sheet on either Shattenkirk or Pietrangelo. Worse case is St. Louis hast to match at a higher rate then they would have offered. If they do, put in an offer sheet for the 2nd player. Surely they can't match both. Our problem isn't that we haven't replaced Suter. Our problem is that we haven't replaced Josi. Either Shattenkirk or Piertrangelo give us a true 1st line player who can push Josi to get better.
4) Trade away as many of the following as you can before the deadline this year: Hannon, Gil, Blum, Gaustad, Halischuk, Spaling, and Mueller. They aren't going to get any better and they will all want more money in their next contract.
5) Promote Latta, Ekholm, Watson, Beck, and Winchester.
6) Sign Josi and Hornqvist, as well as Branden Leipsic once his season is over.
7) Stop handing out NTC and NMC like they grow on trees. I mean come on. What in the hell did Paul Gaustad do to deserve a NTC?
8) Tell Poile he has until opening night next year to revamp the talent pool. If management doesn't see a Stanley Cup caliber organization by opening night(NHL, AHL, Prospects, Future Draft Picks), it is time for Poile to go. Bring in someone like Brian Burke. We need someone willing to energize the fan base out of our malaise. Let the next GM decide the future of Barry Trotz. But do not fire until he is given a quality team. But feel free to fire Horachek.
9) Evaluate our scouts. I am not sure if scouts are more prone to offense or defense, but we appear only to identify defensive talent. We need a scout who can identify offensive talent.
10) Trade Pekka Rinne. OK, now I have your attention. Pekke is probably #1 in fans hearts and by far our most popular player. He is also the one player (outside of Weber) who has the most value in a trade. If we are serious about being a top team, then we trade Rinne and reap a wealth of assets in return. Rinne is 30 years old. Not ancient, but at an age were talent starts to diminish for goalies. The question isn't whether he is worth his remaining contract. (HE IS). The question is what we could get in return. Right now, I think Rinne would return a massive haul in prospects and draft picks.
So there you have it. Ten steps to reworking our organization. However, if Poile goes down this route SOON, there is a good chance that there is a bonus benefit that presents itself. Nashville may end up with the one of the top 3 picks in the draft. And as luck would have it, there is a Center and Left Wing slotted in 2nd and 3rd in most mock drafts. Personally, I'd like to go after the LW b/c we haven't had one since Kariya and Hartnell left. You could move Bourque up to the 1st line, move Wilson down to center the 2nd line and put the new 18 year old LW in on the 2nd Line. A few other tweaks and you would get the below roster:
Bourque / Ribeiro / Hornqvist
Top 3 Pick / Wilson / Smith
Beck / Watson / Leipsic
Winchester / Latta / Clune
Pietrangelo / Weber
Josi / Ekholm
Ellis / Klein
Smith / Hellberg
Do I think taking this approach would win the Predators a Stanley Cup next year. NO. But look at how exiting the team would be. Would the kids make mistakes? Sure. Would all of the kids eventually live up to the hype? No, but it would break the cycle that has plagued the Nashville Predators for the last several years. Maybe it would take an extra year and another low draft pick after that to finalize the rebuild. But it would be worth it. Predator fans will hold on if they see progress. But they have to see hope. And right now, there isn't any and Poile is too afraid to dismantle to team to start the rebuild process.