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: Mark Willoughby
Mark launched "The View from 111" last season with the intent of sharing his fans-view perspective on the Predators and the NHL, but he's provided so much more than that over the course of this summer. With his financial background, Mark also has written incisively about the Phoenix Coyotes situation, and other "off-ice" NHL issues as well. At one point last spring, he traveled along with the Preds on a key West-Coast road trip, and his blogs were our only source of information as to which players were working through injuries and getting back in the lineup. Oh, and he knows how to show the visiting out-of-town bloggers a good time, too. Right, Mirtle?
How long have you been a hockey fan, and have you always followed the Preds?
My dad took me to see my first hockey game when I was 9. We went to the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville and watched the Dixie Flyers play the Charlotte Checkers. I was amazed at the speed of the game and the athleticism of the players, and I fell in love with hockey right there. At the NHL level, I was a follower of the Bruins when I was growing up. I had a friend that had moved down from the Boston area when I was in elementary school, and he got me interested in the B's. Guys like Derek Sanderson, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheever- I just like the way they played hockey. Once the Preds came to town, though, it was all over for any other team and I have followed them since their inception.
What drew you into blogging?
It was an opportunity to express my opinion about the Predators and hockey in general as well as sports and anything else that was interesting. Our local media coverage of the Preds was pretty skimpy and was virtually non-existent regarding any other issues surrounding the game, so I wanted to try to focus on a more analytical approach. We have some outstanding bloggers that not only have, in my opinion, taken the place of the mainstream media with their in-depth coverage of the Preds, but do a great job of gathering news about the sport from across the spectrum of writers. I knew I couldn't match their efforts, so I wanted to try to probe into issues. This is as much for my own understanding as it is anyone that reads the blog.
What is your favorite hockey memory?
That one is tough, because I have so many. I hope you will let me cheat and pick two. The first is going to that very first game with my Dad. I was just enthralled with the game. Afterwards, he took me down and I got to meet some of the players and coaches as they came out of the locker room. I will never forget that night.
My favorite current memory is undoubtedly the first home playoff game against Detroit. I have been in a lot of sports venues as a spectator and player, but I have never experienced an atmosphere like that. The intensity and the electricity of the crowd was incredible, and it was like that from the pre-skate through the final buzzer.
What new Predator are you most looking forward to seeing?
Colin Wilson. He obviously possesses all the tools and has great upside potential. The question is can he make the jump from the college ranks to the NHL (I think he can) and sustain a high level of performance over an 82 game grind.
Who would you most like to see on a second line with Legwand and Erat?
Who is my pick for most improved Pred?
Cal O'Reilly. The time he had in Nashville last season will be invaluable to him. He understands what it takes to get to the big club, and more importantly, what it takes to stay here. He showed some promise last season; he has the skill set to play at this level; and I think he will parlay that experience into a productive roster spot.
Who will lead the team in scoring?
Total points- Dumont
Where will the Preds finish in the division and the Western Conference?
Sticking with my prediction I made with Matt Reitz on his blog, I think the Preds finish fourth in the Central behind (in order) Chicago, Dtroit, and St. Louis. The Preds will finish 8th in the Western Conference.