Today, we’re taking the wayback machine to 2012! The Avengers assembled in theaters for the first time, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis popped some tags at their local thrift stores, and the world DIDN’T end on December 21st (take that, Mayans!)
Meanwhile, our Nashville Predators were starting to turn the corner from “scrappy young team” to “serious contender.” For a brief moment, it looked as if the Preds were going to Tokyo Drift around that corner and speed full-throttle to the top of the conference. It only took one playoff series to bring that momentum to a crashing halt.
The Previous Season
Record: 48-26-8 (104 points). 2nd in Central, 4th in West, 5th overall.
Playoffs: Defeated Red Wings in Western Conference Quarterfinals (4-1)
Lost to Coyotes in Western Conference Semifinals (4-1)
Well, leave it to the Predators to follow up one of their best playoff triumphs of all time — a moment etched in Smashville history — with an absolute “oopsie.”
Yes, this was the year the Predators finally, finally got the best of the Detroit Red Wings in the postseason. After years of taking big brother to the edge but falling just short, the Preds didn’t just beat Detroit... they annihilated them. It was a statement victory, a clear “passing of the torch” in the Central Division; A message to the rest of the league that you HAVE to take these Predators as a legitimate contender.
Two weeks later, the Predators lost to the Phoenix Coyotes in five games, possibly the worst playoff showing by Nashville in a single series to date.
Such is life.
To add insult to injury, the Predators had absolutely loaded up the roster during the season in hopes of making a big run. They traded away early draft picks for defenseman Hal Gill, high-scoring forward Andrei Kostitsyn, and (for some reason) shutdown center Paul Gaustad. They welcomed back Alexander Radulov, the prized prospect who had spurned Nashville for more money in the KHL just four years earlier. They check notes picked Brandon Yip off waivers... sure!
The high note of the in-season moves? Two Milwaukee Admirals stars made their NHL debuts during the year, each as injury fill-ins. Neither of them were ever sent back to the minors. Those guys were Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis.
The Offseason Moves
Key Additions: F Daniel Bang (free agent from AIK of Swedish Elite League), G Chris Mason (free agent from Winnipeg), D Scott Hannan (free agent from Calgary).
Draft Results: F Pontus Aberg (2nd round, 37th overall), F Colton Sissons (2nd round, 50th overall), F Jimmy Vesey (3rd round, 66th overall), F Brendan Leipsic (3rd round, 89th overall), F Zach Stepan (4th round, 112th overall), D Mikko Vainonen (4th round, 118th overall), D Simon Fernholm (6th round, 164th overall), F Max Gortz (6th round, 172nd overall), G Marek Mazanec (6th round, 179th overall).
Key Losses: G Anders Lindback (traded to Tampa Bay), F Alexander Radulov (signed with CSKA Moscow of KHL), F Andrei Kostitsyn (signed with Traktor Chelyabinsk of KHL), D Francis Bouillon (free agent to Montreal), F Jordin Tootoo (free agent to Detroit), D Jack Hillen (free agent to Washington), D Ryan Suter (free agent to Minnesota).
Best Move: Trading G Anders Lindback, F Kyle Wilson, and a 7th Round Pick to Tampa Bay for Two Second Round Picks (used to draft Pontus Aberg and Colton Sissons), a Third Round Pick, and G Sebastien Caron
Some people feel we’re too hard on David Poile for his past failed moves, but in our defense, we do also spend time showcases his moves that pay off for the Preds. This was absolutely one of them.
Anders Lindback was A.) a guy who inspired one of the best parody Twitter accounts in hockey, and B.) the Predators’ young back-up goaltender during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. That stint happened to fall during the Preds’ “let’s just play Pekka Rinne every single game because what even is ‘load management’” phase, so Lindback didn’t see a ton of action. However, in the few amount of games he did play, he impressed, putting together a 16-13-2 record in 40 games played over those two years (as well as two shutouts).
Lindback’s lateral quickness and his 6’6” frame naturally drew comparisons to Rinne. But with Pekka still very much in his prime, the Preds didn’t have a big need for an heir-apparent. That made Lindback a popular name on the trade market entering the 2012 offseasons, as teams searching for their “goalie of the future” lined up at Poile’s door.
Steve Yzerman, who wasn’t exactly a goaltending whisperer his first few years as a G.M., and the Tampa Bay Lightning won that sweepstakes. Their price: two second-rounders in the 2012 draft and a third-rounder in the 2013 draft (also Sebastien Caron who was set to become a free agent anyway).
When the 2012 draft rolled around, the Preds used one of those second rounders on Colton Sissons, a two-way star with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. It’s safe to say that deal paid off. Sissons, who would earn a full-time spot with the Preds late in the 2015-16 season, has developed into one of the Predators’ best defensive forwards. He signed a seven-year deal with the Preds in 2019, and — barring a Seattle expansion selection — figures to be a long-term piece of the team’s core for the foreseeable future, with Poile even hinting he’d like to see Sissons play a bigger offensive role.
The other second round pick was used to select Pontus Aberg (who I still love, dammit). Aberg couldn’t quite break into the Preds’ lineup full-time and was traded during the 2017-18 season. But he’s still a favorite in Smashville thanks to his performance in the 2017 Stanley Cup run, which saw Aberg fill in admirably as a top six forward after injuries to Kevin Fiala and Ryan Johansen.
As for Lindback, he got a chance to become Tampa’s starter, but failed to impress, going 10-10-1 in 24 games during the shortened 2013 season. To complicate matters, the Lightning acquired another goalie late in 2013 by the name of Ben Bishop. Bishop became the starter (rightfully so, in retrospect) the next season, while Lindback was demoted to backup. After a mediocre season, he was not tendered a qualifying offer, and spent the next two years dividing time between the Stars, Sabres, and Coyotes organizations. He’s currently a starter in the KHL, posting a .920 save percentage in 17 games with Jokerit. He also just did this.
ANDERS LINDBACK DOESN'T GIVE AF pic.twitter.com/5PgyNQQj9P— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) December 13, 2020
Worst Move: Re-Signing D Hal Gill to 2-year, $4 million Deal
There probably is an argument to be made that, under certain circumstances, the Preds matching Shea Weber’s offer sheet belongs in this spot. But let’s face it, the Predators couldn’t afford to lose Weber AND Suter in the same offseason.
Instead, the most ill-fated move of the lockout-extended offseason was re-upping Gill. The veteran defenseman arrived in Nashville around the trade deadline via a trade with Montreal. The trade itself proved to be successful enough; Gill combined with Francis Bouillon to form a formidable third-pairing for the remainder of the season. He was an “old school defenseman” in the best possible sense, using his 6’7” frame to block shots and disrupt passing lanes, while adding another asset to an already stacked penalty killing core.
With the lockout looming and the futures of Weber and Suter still uncertain at the time, the Predators gave Gill a two-year deal to stay in Nashville. It was essentially an insurance policy; If worse came to worse, Gill had plenty of experience to step into a top four role while mentoring youngsters like Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. If things worked out with Weber and/or Suter (which the former did and the latter didn’t, obviously), then the Preds had a proven stay-at-home specialist they could lock into their bottom pair every night.
But when the season began, it quickly became clear that Gill’s best years were behind him. Injuries and age (Gill turned 38 during the season) took their toll as Gill lost ice time to players like Ellis, Jonathan Blum, and Victor Bartley. While still an admirable shot blocker, the speed and agility needed to keep up with the more fast-paced offenses just wasn’t there anymore. He finished the season with no points in 32 games, and a few months later, the Predators bought out the remaining year of his deal.
Gill would go on to sign a one year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, but after playing just six games during the 82-game season, Gill retired the following summer.
Of course, Gill has since established himself as a fan-favorite figure around Smashville. He’s currently the Preds’ radio analyst on 102.5 The Game, and by all accounts, an all-around great guy for fans to interact with. So, you know, I’m not going to ether the guy for a bad season at age 38.
Well you certainly can’t call this an uneventful offseason. Apart from the 2007 relocation drama, I remember this as maybe the most tense the Preds fanbase has been in a given summer.
This, of course, was mostly due to the contract situations surrounding Weber and Suter. We’ve talked about each in depth over the years, so we won’t spend too much time on it here. But I do pose you this question, Smashville: What would have happened in the Predators declined to match that 14-year, $110 million offer sheet Weber signed with the Flyers? From a player standpoint, you obviously don’t want to lose Weber. But did matching the offer sheet really put the Preds in a better spot? I’m not going to answer that question either way, but I’m curious to hear everyone else’s thoughts.
The one strong opinion I will make is that, to this day, I don’t understand why Preds fans booed Jordin Tootoo. I mean sure, he signed with the Red Wings, who were atop the “hate list” at the time. But it’s not like Tootoo spurned an offer to stay in Nashville to chase money somewhere else. Tootoo had become an extra skater in the second half of the season, and Poile had essentially said he wasn’t going to bring him back for 2013. After 8 years giving his heart and soul to the Preds and their fans, it was a little disheartening to see that much vitriol thrown his way simply because he took a chance to revive his career with a rival team.
The rest of the departures were pretty straight-forward. The Predators clearly had no interest in re-signing Radulov or Andrei Kostitsyn after the curfew drama in the Coyotes series (and based on reports from around the league, neither planned to stay in Nashville long-term anyway). As well as Francis Bouillon played in his second stint with the Preds, there were other options in the pipeline to fill is spot.
With the lockout looming, there weren’t many big-time additions. Chris Mason returned for his third stint as the Predators’ backup, but unfortunately suffered through his worst statistical year as a pro (1-8-1 record with an .871 save percentage). Veteran defenseman Scott Hannan didn’t do much in terms of stats (0 goals and 1 assist in 29 games), but when he was in the lineup, he was a fairly-reliable “stay-at-home” presence on the blueline. Daniel Bang, an undrafted free agent from Sweden, appeared in 8 games towards the end of the season, and is up there on the Preds’ “All-Time Best Names” list. The only other big signing not listed was Paul Gaustad re-signing with Nashville for four years, a contract that proved to be questionable down the line.
The Final Grade
This was a hard one to grade considering the circumstances. Poile deserves credit for capitalizing off Lindback’s high interest, as well as a solid draft class. However, his big-money deals for Gaustad and Gill didn’t pan out.
What grade would you give the Predators’ 2012 offseason?
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