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The Final Word - How not to battle adversity

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In this week's The Final Word, we take a look at whether or not Nashville has the bottom six covered, five interesting stories across hockey and my say on Taylor Aronson's abandonment of the Milwaukee Admirals

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Here we are. Two weeks removed from Nashville's game seven loss to the Sharks and we have only the summer to look forward to. Even after a dismal finish to the season, the Predators still have plenty of work to do before October rolls around.

Most importantly, they'll have to address the roster spots being vacated by forwards Eric Nystrom and Paul Gaustad -€” notable presences on the bottom six.

But will they?

Nystrom was injured for a large chunk of February and March, only seeing playing time in the final handful of regular season games and game one of the San Jose series. He'd finish the year with seven goals and no assists in 46 games, a career-low in points.

Gaustad, on the other hand, may not have been an offensive dynamo for Nashville, but made his presence known during the post-season. His game-winning goal during game seven against the Ducks helped propel the Predators to the second round.

Even that, though, isn't enough to earn another contract with Nashville.

For both of these players, it's time for the Predators to thank them for their service and send them on their way -€” which is essentially what they're doing.

General Manager David Poile addressed both in his season-closing press conference saying the team wouldn't be re-signing Gaustad and would either try to trade or move on from Nystrom.

If you were trying to trade a player, though, would you publicly note about parting ways with them? That seems counter-intuitive in trying to work out a trade if they're going to just be bought out anyways.

But with Colton Sissons seemingly locked into Gaustad's spot in the line-up and with any slew of young prospects ready to insert into the line-up, those spots aren't really open at all, are they?

I'm sure the argument could be made that Nashville may look towards the free agency market to see about filling those spots with veteran depth, but I doubt that's going to be the case. Poile's been on the record about utilizing the ready youth to fill in those spots, especially in the case of Sissons.

In terms of free agency, I'll be intrigued to see what the Predators do -€” if anything at all. However, it won't be to address the bottom six. Those roles are covered.

The Five Points - Five stories intersecting the NHL

Spotlight on Jumbo Joe: I've gained a new respect for Thornton this post-season, watching him showcase unreal passing abilities that those outside of Boston and San Jose probably didn't know he had. Most importantly, though, Thornton's life outside of hockey has had a small spotlight on it.

ESPN's Craig Custance had this beautiful piece on Thornton just a handful of days ago that is a must-read for any sports fan.

One thing that stuck out to me was Thornton's postgame answers immediately after winning game six of the Western Conference Finals. He was asked if he would be watching the finale of Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. After answering that he would most likely be coloring with his daughter or watching "Cars" with his son, it occurred to me that this guy gets it.

There's more to life outside of hockey.

Vladimir Tarasenko will be just fine: So, the Blues were bounced in six games by San Jose. It happens. Nashville was able to take them the distance, but both teams ended up in the same place. What's most concerning is how both ended up seeing one of their star players effectively neutralized.

For the Predators, that was Filip Forsberg -€” who tallied one point, a goal in game three, and was a -9 overall in the series. It was later discovered that he had sustained a back injury at some point, and that could've been partially to blame, but it's still an excuse.

For St. Louis, Vladimir Tarasenko answered the call. Tarasenko was a -4 and saw his only two points of the series come in game six after the Blues had fallen behind by four goals.

While Marc-Edouard Vlasic did a fantastic job of defending Tarasenko all series, it's hard to imagine this will be a reoccurring thing for him in the future. Tarasenko recorded 13 points in the 14 games prior to the Western Conference Finals, that's not all that bad.

So rest easy, Blues fans. He's going to be ok.

Former Preds will be lifting the Cup: Are you rooting for the team in teal or the team that wears gold but most definitely the incorrect shade?

If you're rooting for former Predators players to find their name inscribed on the Stanley Cup, then rooting for either the Sharks or Penguins will grant that wish.

Lovable favorites are on both sides: Joel Ward and Nick Spaling for San Jose with Patric Hornqvist and Matt Cullen for Pittsburgh.

This could be the first time that both teams in the Stanley Cup Finals will feature players that formerly played for the Predators. What's more is that all players left Nashville on great terms.

Weird signings and trades already: We haven't even reached free agency yet and there's already been a couple of signings and trades that have left us scratching our heads.

Boston Bruins forward Kevan Miller was re-signed to a four-year, $10 million deal. This is an oft injured, 29-year-old bottom-pairing defenseman who will be getting the same amount of money as Ryan Ellis for the next four seasons.

He's never played a full season in the NHL and hasn't recorded more than 18 points in a season. He has only 159 games as in the league, at that.

CSNNE's Joe Haggerty thinks the signing may have a connection to Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey, who spurned the team and will hit free agency later this summer. As they both share the same agent, it wouldn't be a total shocker.

If that deal wasn't strange enough, how about this trade out of Vancouver: the Canucks shipping 19-year-old Jared McCann, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick to Florida for Erik Gudbranson and a fifth-round pick.

Vancouver's been missing a real offensive threat on its blue line for some time, but if they were looking to get that out of Gudbranson they're in for a rude awakening. He may be a big body, but he's not known for his point-production.

But they also sent along a second and fourth-round pick in this year's draft. I'm not sure what Jim Benning has planned for the Canucks, but he's looking more like Dr. Evil rather than Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Speaking of the Florida Panthers...: What in the world is going on in Sunrise these days? Director of hockey operations Mike Dixon, assistant general manager Mike Santos and assistant coach John Madden have all been canned.

Equipment managers have also been fired, others inside the organization have found themselves promoted, weird trades are happening and, to be quite frank, it seems rather messy down in Florida.

Is this a good or bad thing for the Panthers? After the best season in franchise history, it's rare to see this level of shake-up for a team. Honestly, you don't ever see stuff like this happen after that level of success.

If the Panthers end up going backwards rather than forwards next season, you can look back on this series of moves as the likely catalyst.

The Final Word

When life gets you down, how do you respond? Or better yet, if you battle through adversity and there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, do you keep digging onward?

In the case of Taylor Aronson, the answer seems to be an emphatic "no".

He's been at the center of an intriguing temper tantrum after not earning himself a call-up to the Predators late into the regular season. Aronson refused to play for the Milwaukee Admirals, who only had a handful of games remaining in the AHL season prior to the playoffs, after fellow defenseman Corey Potter was given a brief cup of coffee with Nashville instead.

Milwaukee would go on to lose two of their final three games before being swept right of the first round.

The team reported he had left for personal reasons. The league listed he had been suspended. There was clearly some type of disconnect, but we wouldn't know the full extent until Nashville's season ended and Poile was directly asked about Aronson's status:

"It's a grey area right now. It was a situation where we actually called somebody else up and he thought it should be him. He left the [Admirals]. So we suspended him and he's currently suspended," said Poile. "We need to have some discussions and whether it makes sense that we bring him back, if he wants to be back. That type of situation. It was unfortunate and probably a little bit of an immature move on his part. That's my opinion. So we'll have to see in time whether we make up or not."

Five days later, Aronson signed with HC Lada out of the KHL.

I guess he didn't want to make up with the Predators after all?

This is a scenario where you have a player that's worked hard, fought his way out of the ECHL into potentially cracking an NHL roster and threw it all away because life wasn't fair for him.

Well, news flash: life isn't always fair.

So the Predators called up Potter over Aronson late in the regular season? The 32-year-old was going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year and the organization probably wanted to see if he could bolster Nashville's blue line heading into the playoffs.

Aronson is 24 years old and currently a restricted free agent. He was one of Milwaukee's most important defensemen before he took his ball and went home, showcasing a clear potential to play at the NHL level at some point in the next couple of seasons.

There's zero question that he would have definitely earned that chance as early as this upcoming training camp prior to the 2016-17 NHL season. A three-way battle between Anthony Bitetto, Petter Granberg and Aronson would have been entertaining.

Unfortunately, Aronson threw all of that away when he signed in the KHL. The odds of him even getting a sniff of making an NHL roster may forever be lost.

Aronson showed he was willing to abandon his teammates right in the middle of the push to the playoffs. No team will want that type of attitude in their locker room.


This public display of immaturity isn't only something that Poile and company will remember, but it'll leave a lasting impression with other general managers across the league.

It doesn't matter how great of a player you are. Aronson showed he was willing to abandon his teammates right in the middle of the push to the playoffs. No team will want that type of attitude in their locker room.

Did he deserve a call-up at some point in time this past season? Maybe. I'm not saying that Aronson's incorrect in that assumption. I'm saying he handled it much like how my eight-year-old son handles me telling him that it's time to put his video games away.

But that's the side of the story that we know and the side that Poile was willing to share with us. Aronson has yet to speak publicly since leaving the team, which is just as damning as confirming every detail that we know so far.

There may be more to this whole ordeal. Reasoning for why Aronson just up and left that only he himself can explain. But will he step up and offer it? Or will he fade into obscurity playing around the frozen Russian tundra?