After having surpassed the Detroit Red Wings in the regular season and playoffs for the first time ever, apparently the Nashville Predators have really gone "all in" with the Motown Model, and now have their very own Goose Loonies moment.
What's that, you say, what's "Goose Loonies"? Let's walk through a little piece of NHL history...
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Back in 1988, the Red Wings were a team on the rise, with Steve Yzerman already ranked among the game's great stars and head coach Jacques Demers on his way to a second consecutive Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach. Also for the second straight year, they made their way into the conference finals against Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, a team which put up video game-like numbers on the scoreboard and bolted out to a 3-1 series lead over Detroit.
Jimmy Devellano, who was then general manager of the Wings, picks up the story from there in "Road to Hockeytown", describing how assistant coach Colin Campbell found Bob Probert, Petr Klima, and a few other players out drinking at a club called Goose Loonies in Edmonton, the night before Game Five. Initially, the team tried to keep the story a secret, but a reporter overheard a conversation the next morning at breakfast... and things broke from there.
The story absolutely blew up that day, complete with a Demers tirade blasting those players, and the Wings got pasted that evening 8-4, ending their season.
It certainly sounds like we have a number of parallels here with the suspension of Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov for Game Three of the Predators/Coyotes series. John Shannon of Sportsnet and Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun indicate that indeed it was a late-night out on the town the night before Game Two which landed them in hot water.
Are the Preds disintegrating before our eyes, coming apart at the seams right when the pressure is mounting?
Perhaps not... entirely.
On the ice, there is no question that taking Kostitsyn and Radulov out of the lineup hurts the team. They are here for a reason, and the Preds will miss their skills when they face off with Phoenix tomorrow night.
At least give the Predators credit for getting out ahead of this issue, however. They're the ones that made the news here by suspending the two forwards, before any reports of their carousing even made the rounds.
David Poile hits the right notes here in his public statement:
I've been a general manager for 30 years and I always try to treat each individual player with care, but I never put the individual player ahead of the team. In this situation, both these players violated a team rule. They have both been made aware of it; I met with both them this morning. They know that they are not playing in the game. [The situation] has been no more than a big distraction to our hockey team. I wanted to make the announcement today just to get the distraction out of the way so our players could get better prepared for Game Three tomorrow night. It is very disappointing - anytime something like this happens, it's disappointing. In the playoffs, it is even more so, to take out two of your better hockey players. It was a pretty easy decision. Our creed has always been to do the right thing. I try to do that in my personal life, so I certainly should do it in my business life. We've done the right thing by putting the team ahead of a couple of individual players. We will see where we go from here.
Unlike Devellano so many years ago (granted, that was an entirely different world in terms of media coverage), Poile is doing his best to get this out of the way immediately. The team had today to deal with all the distraction, but on the ice, guys like Jordin Tootoo, Matt Halischuk and Craig Smith can focus on being ready to play tomorrow night.
You can bet that they'll be motivated to give their best effort in an attempt to stay in the lineup.
Another guy to keep your eye on?
Willy has been sitting on the sideline for most of this playoff run, a difficult situation for a young power forward looking for his next contract. With AK46 out, that opens a spot on the left side of a scoring line, and the potential to make an impact right when the Predators need it most.
Make no mistake, this is a LOUSY situation for the Nashville Predators, and the finger of blame needs to be pointed directly at Radulov & Kostitsyn for... well... outright stupidity.
But at least give Poile credit for trying to move the team past this as quickly as possible. Let's just hope that it pays off in time to salvage the Preds' playoff run.