[This is an editorial. The opinions in it may or may not reflect the official position of On the Forecheck.]
I’m writing to you on the day after what I think was a very telling day for you and for the Nashville Predators. You have been a healthy scratch for four consecutive games during a losing streak you had nothing to do with. Most recently, the Nashville Predators found themselves down one top-six forward. During your time in the press box, the organization sent fourth-liner Miikka Salomäki to Milwaukee and brought up Mathieu Olivier to play on the fourth line. Meanwhile, you’ve been a healthy scratch. Last night, your team had another game, this time at home, against the St. Louis Blues. We were standing at a crossroads where Peter Laviolette and David Poile had to make a choice: Use the best possible forward to take the spot in the top-six, or take literally any other option.
Any rational person would have put you in without question, but I believe they have decided it is your character on trial and not your skill on the ice. Continuing to healthy-scratch you in this situation is Caesar crossing the Rubicon; it is an act of war. It is a clear statement that Peter Laviolette, David Poile, and the rest of the Nashville Predators organization is willing to put a personal issue ahead of the good of the team—a team that managed a Pyrrhic victory over St. Louis on Saturday night and a shootout win against the same team last night at the tail end of a terrible string of six losses.
"Healthy scratch." There must be few words as frustrating and infuriating for a professional hockey player to hear. I imagine being healthy and ready to go play hockey to help your team through the remarkable slump they’ve been in this month, only to be told you have to sit and watch from the press box as they flail, helplessly in the wind, unable to consistently get any offense going while an AHL call-up takes your spot on a line you shouldn’t even have been demoted to in the first place. Sure, they eked out wins on Saturday and Monday, but this isn’t about winning anymore; this is about you.
I said before that I believe your character is on trial. Now, I can’t claim I know what goes on behind closed doors, but I’ve seen everything that’s happened on the ice since you’ve been here. I’ve also paid close attention to a lot of the things that have happened off the ice, as well. Even in light of the down season you had last year while plagued with a broken foot, you produced. More so this year—even when you spent time in the Laviolette line blender only to be spat out, unceremoniously, on the fourth line with a revolving cast of characters for linemates, you’ve managed to create chances on the ice, enter the zone cleanly, avoid dumping the puck, AND produce offense. Even when planted among the weeds, you still managed to bloom.
It seems we are on the cusp of what may be the end of your tenure in Nashville. I feel like they want you to ask for a trade, but based on what I’ve seen, this is the last thing you’d want to do. You are still the same person who spent your free time building a bond with the Capital City Condors—a bond so strong that even after you scored the winning goal in an overtime playoff game, you threw on a suit and rushed to be with them at the end of the season banquet and awards night. Even in Nashville, you jumped aboard to be the team ambassador for Hockey is for Everyone because you wanted to support friends and family in the LGBT+ community. It seems like no matter where you go or what you do, you find ways to flock to the very people who society seems to shun the most.
Yet, here you are. Suddenly you’ve found yourself alone in a room full of people, being shunned by your bosses. Well, Kyle, I just want to let you know that I’m with you. And I’m not the only one. There are literally thousands of us who think this situation is absolute garbage and think you should be in the lineup every night. We appreciate what you’ve brought to this team and to this city, and we can’t believe the type of treatment you’re receiving. Simply put, you don’t deserve this.
Come what may, I wish nothing but the best for you professionally and for your family personally. When your time in Nashville comes to an end, you may not look back too fondly on the organization, but I hope you can look back happily when you think of the fans that see the nonsense for what it is and supported you through it all.
Shaun C. Smith
(and a lot of other people)