When I was in high school, I played on the basketball team at my school way down the pine. Whenever my team was having a fantastic game, the starters and second string would take a rest while the grunts like me would finish out the last half or quarter depending on the lead. Occasionally, the tables would turn the other way, and we would go in as white flags in the flesh. I believe that the Predators’ season begs to employ at least one game of the latter tactic.
The Predators have six games left: a jaunt out west, a two game homestand, and the old rekindling of hateful spirits in Minnesota. The games against Anaheim and San Jose are going to be late games that will either give fans false hope of "how well we could have been if we had played like that all season" or "see how good teams play well every single game no matter the opponent." It would be nice to win, but let us not get our little (if any remains) hopes up.
The other two away games are at Dallas and Minnesota. Those two teams sit in the last two Wild Card spots in the Western Conference. I feel that a rivalry is starting to heat up in Dallas, but it would feel especially good to play playoff spoiler against the Wild, especially in the last game of the season. Everyone loves putting down Suter, and what better way than to deprive the Wild of a place in the post-season.
The last two games are at the Bridgestone. The last game at the arena this year will be against the Chicago Blackhawks, and it just feels good to calm the ubiquitous sea of red that Blackhawk fans oft comprise. The first of the last games, however, is next Thursday against our old desert friends the Phoenix Coyotes. Even though the Coyotes are also fighting for that last playoff spot, you have to kind of respect the organization and the success amidst turmoil that they have managed.
What if the Predators gave the fans a little treat on their second to last game in the Bridgestone this season? Everyone knows that this season has been nothing but disappointing. However, the organization could mix things up a little bit. What if the organization called up a whole line’s worth of our young prospects? We would treat this time a little bit different, however. We could practice treating the prospects like competent hockey players. Over the last year, the organization has treated the young players from Milwaukee more like youngin’s than players. The prospects are put in timeout (Trotz-house, doghouse, whatever you wish to call it), and when they are allowed to play, they are monitored very closely for any sort of mistake. The organization has forgotten to let the players play. Instead, the string-pullers assume the role of over-protective parents.
Obviously, keeping up with the happenings in Milwaukee is a little difficult. But I would love to see a consistently clicking line in Milwaukee brought up as a teaser trailer of things to come. Simon Moser is an Olympian, and I would love to see him paired up with someone that he is comfortable with. Taylor Beck has had youa few stints in Nashville, but Austin Watson’s sample size of play in Nashville needs a little boost. Colton Sissons scored his first goal a couple of games ago and has played in 16 games sporting a Preds’ sweater. I would love to see him playing with someone that he is a little more familiar with. Barry Trotz may have damaged Forsberg for the time being, but can you imagine if Forsberg was paired up with someone he was a little more comfortable with? I think that a line of Forsberg-Jarnkrok-Hornqvist would be a thrilling show and something maybe not so far off? They are all Swedes. Step 1 has been established: call up a whole line from Milwaukee.
After calling up the kids, the next thing to do would be to give them a little more leeway. For the most part, the youngsters have been promoted to Nashville only to be demoted to little or no ice time. If the Preds go through with step one, then the organization should allot them more than ten minutes of playing time. The line to be determined could take over third or even second line minutes. The prospects knowing that they have more ice time could possibly simmer out the jitters could help prevent a flop in the pan. Getting out of the grit could be all that these players need to show what they can do in Nashville. Step 2: give the players more ice time and freedom.
Everyone in the NHL knows that this has been a disappointing season for the Predators. Instead of a proud resident of Smashville, I feel more like a wronged tenant of trashville. There is really nothing left to prove this season. We should expect to see some changes in the roster during the offseason (but don’t get too hasty on those expectations), but while we are still stuck in the doldrums of the 2013-14 season, Management has six chances to shift focus from this sucky season to a flash of the future. Maybe a little Milwaukee mix-up could at least help us fans forget the folly of this season. If in some crazy way something like this could happen, then the powers that be need to treat prospects like prospects and not like children. Or if they do decide to act more parental than professional, treat the kids like kids and let them play.
In the comments, write what you think would be the best line combo from Milwaukee.