Hockey

Ryan Johansen – Treat Boy here always gets labeled as one of the top centers in the game, and we still can’t figure out why. His numbers the past two seasons mirror that of Jonathan Toews, and everyone’s relatively sure he looks like the host of “Tales From The Crypt.” RyJo Sen played his ass off just long enough in 2017 to get a fat new deal from the Preds, and then he became a fat new deal. The dude has one 70+ point season. When the Preds get bounced early again, it’ll probably be because Ryan O’Reilly or Nathan MacKinnon hand him his considerable lunch.

Matt Duchene – Rich kid face with an Oakland booty!

Austin Watson – Any day now, David Poile is going to yell, “I’m so fucking glad we have Austin Watson” at some female reporter. Except it’s Nashville, so that’s probably like an every day thing there.

Hockey

Ryan Johansen – Treat Boy here always gets labeled as one of the top centers in the game, and we still can’t figure out why. His numbers the past two seasons mirror that of Jonathan Toews, and everyone’s relatively sure he looks like the host of “Tales From The Crypt.” RyJo Sen played his ass off just long enough in 2017 to get a fat new deal from the Preds, and then he became a fat new deal. The dude has one 70+ point season. When the Preds get bounced early again, it’ll probably be because Ryan O’Reilly or Nathan MacKinnon hand him his considerable lunch.

Matt Duchene – Rich kid face with an Oakland booty!

Austin Watson – Any day now, David Poile is going to yell, “I’m so fucking glad we have Austin Watson” at some female reporter. Except it’s Nashville, so that’s probably like an every day thing there.

Everything Else

So what banner are you going to raise now, assholes?

The Nashville Predators, everyone’s darling and if you don’t believe just ask them, have once again bitten the dust before doing anything anyone will remember. And this is truly their nature. Aside from that run in ’17, this is what the Predators do. They’re that veritable “dangerous team no one wants to play” until they run into a team that doesn’t seem to mind terribly in the first two rounds and off they go before any kind of silverware is in the building. And hey, maybe that’s enough for fans who maybe don’t notice while they’re telling everyone who won’t listen that they’re the wildest fans in the league. I always wonder how they cram the 11,000 back into that car they smash outside so they can go back to the shed. Must be quite the sight.

As no hockey writer wants to endanger their free moonshine and grilled pigeon, you won’t hear a bad word about another flameout far too early for a team with this cap situation. But let’s go back through entrenched throbbing brain David Poile’s moves to make this team a Cup-winner, shall we?

Kyle Turris is signed for another five years, and for their investment the Preds have gotten 20 goals and 65 points in 120 regular season games and a solitary playoff goal in two years, and a bewildered gape while he was second best to Radek Goddamn Faksa this spring. Look, when the Ottawa Senators are offering up their consistently fourth-highest scorer, you have to jump on it, ok?

Poile’s other center, Treat Boy Ryan Dough-hansen has managed 44 goals in three years and 179 points. This year, Nashville’s “first ever true #1 center” ranked 35th among centers in scoring. Hey, that averages out to mean only four teams have two better centers! Over the past three seasons, he ranks 31st among centers, behind luminaries like Ryan Getzlaf (hasn’t cared in five years), Brayden Schenn (now a wing), Sean Couturier (checking center), Jonathan Toews (was told he is ready to be a white walker), and Eric Staal (a million years old and playing in a wasteland). That David Poile sure can spot a pivot!

Oh but it doesn’t stop there. Various pundits couldn’t help but have to change their shorts when Poile added tried and tested PLAYOFF GRIT with Wayne Simmonds (never seen a conference final) and Brian Boyle (an ent with no wisdom). Simmonds was on the fourth line within five games and Boyle had a stupid look on his face when something wasn’t falling off of him. Sure can win a draw in the 2nd period, though.

That Mikael Granlund sure looked like he’d fit in. He scored one goal.

All of this would be more than enough rope to hang Poile with, and then you throw in his penchant for stocking the Preds with a true shithead or three every season and you wonder how this guy hasn’t been chucked into the river. Don’t worry, Poile will get more spins at the wheel because due to Southern hospitality/incompetence he can’t actually ever be fired. Maybe one day Preds fans will figure out they’ve only had one and a half true top line forwards for like four years. Maybe after the next standing ovation they’re told to give during a TV timeout.

It’s ok, Preds fans will tell you, Matt Duchene and his glorious record of success are already on their way to Music City in the summer. Funny how that will work when the Preds have all of eight dollars under the cap to spend. That’ll happen when you pay Ryan Ellis for looking great against bums and then are shocked when he can’t handle a top-pairing role. Whoopsie daisy!

The Preds are that team and fanbse that has carried itself with a completely unearned arrogance and are going to look awfully stupid when they continue to be first and second-round kindling. One Final appearance and suddenly these guys think they’ve redefined the sport. The Devils have the same amount of appearances. So do the Sharks. And the Hurricanes. And the Ducks, and the latter two actually bothered to win it. The Flyers have the same. The Canucks. The Rangers. And yet Nashville will have you believe they’re a traditional power. Maybe the next Cody McLeod acquisition will push them over. God knows they’ll try.

You can be sure in the next day or two there will be “whispers” that PK Subban is the problem, that his dating of Lindsey Vonn and his suits mean he’s not committed to the cause, that he’s a dressing room issue, because hockey and the South form a perfect nexus of the tried and trusted tradition of “When in doubt, blame the black guy.” It certainly couldn’t be that Subban was the only one who figured out how to bust the Dallas trap while good clean boy Roman Josi was trying to remove Jamie Benn’s skate from his colon. Perish the thought.

Once again, while the Preds try to claim their strength in numbers is higher than that of any star power, they’ve lost because they don’t have the star power. This year it was Seguin and Benn. Last year it was the entire Winnipeg top nine. The year before that it was Crosby and Malkin. We could keep going. Pavelski and Thornton and Couture put them to the sword in ’16. Keith and Kane the year before. Maybe you’d think they’d learn? But that would go against what they do in the Confederacy, wouldn’t it?

Oh, and the little matter of teams figuring out that once Ol’ Shit Hip has to move side-to-side, he starts to sound like a car stripped of its converter.

This is what you are, Predators. Your hockey’s Trail Blazers, a funny little quirk of the league’s geography but never meant to be around when things matter. Except you’re not nearly as cool. But look at this way, Rocco Grimaldi has even more time to figure out which Planned Parenthood he’ll spend his summer outside yelling or for Poile to find another sex criminal to sign to his second line. Some traditions never die.

Everything Else

I’ll admit my first reaction last night when I saw that Austin Watson had been suspended 27 games for pleading no-contest to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge was, “Well, at least they did something.” Such is my weariness and the way my expectations have been beaten down, not just by the NHL’s, but really all sports’ handling of such things. Honestly, I don’t envy anyone who has to come up with what the right number should be for this charge. There’s many who are incensed that it’s barely more than Nate Schmidt got for his sneeze’s worth of a banned substance, but that’s actually negotiated with the NHLPA and has a standard.

It goes two directions from there. The first is that there are those who think Watson and anyone else caught up in a domestic violence charge should immediately be banned, fired, tarred, feathered, whatever. And believe me, I understand that impulse. Playing in a professional league is a privilege and there’s certainly an argument to be made it should be taken away much easier than it is today.

But various survivor’s groups have said that really isn’t a solution, partly because loss of income doesn’t help anyone in the long run and is a factor in the fear of coming forward for women to report such things. Second it can make a woman or partner an even bigger target for someone who’s already shown to be violent, which can lead to somewhere much worse. I can certainly see the problem.

The second is to mock or spew venom at the NHL for not having a standard, domestic violence policy, and this is obviously understandable, too. Except the standard policies in the NFL, MLB, and NBA haven’t really satisfied anyone either. And I’m not convinced a bad policy is better than none at all. That’s a discussion that could go on forever, but for the only the optics this is probably something the NHL should hammer out with the NHLPA tout suite.

There’s also the small complaint that the players’ union is filing an appeal. And while I could just settle for the usual, “That’s just what unions do,” at some point they have to draw the line as well. It’s one thing to file an appeal to a weird, flimsy failed drugs test or an on-ice suspension. This guy swung at his wife and mother of their baby, and whether or not that’s what they’re actually doing the optics are that the union is taking the side of a wife-beater. Some cases you just let slide by and tell that union member to sit down and swallow this one.

What I do know is that as long as hockey players stop going to school around 7th grade, and their entire social world is developed inside a hockey dressing room and around a hockey team, this is almost always going to be a problem that they’re going to have to deal with.

I don’t know what the answers are to any of these questions, but I do know what I worry about most, even though it’s not the most important component.

When Watson returns to the Predators’ lineup, currently scheduled for December 3rd against the Sabres, we know that he will get a standing ovation from the Bridgestone Arena faithful. This doesn’t really make them any worse than every other fanbase. We’ve already seen this in town with Daniel Murphy and up the road a bit with Josh Hader just in the past couple months. However, next time any media member tries to proclaim that there’s something special about Preds fans, you’ll know there isn’t.

I know it’s not the biggest problem, but it’s the one that seems to wound the most. It’s what I never got over with Patrick Kane at Notre Dame, and we could pick any one of hundreds of instances where this has happened with a player and that team’s fans. Oh, I’m sure some dimwitted Brewers fan would try and tell me, for instance, that what they were really doing is showing Hader that they support him in his attempts to evolve and become better from what he had done and was.

But that’s horseshitt. They know it, we know it. What it is is putting being a fan above all else, that no one really cares what these guys do away from the field as long as they can strike out 38% of the hitters they see or be a decent penalty-killer (if that’s what Watson does and that’s up for debate). When Preds fans salute Watson in December (or November on appeal), it won’t be to show support in his rehabilitation into a non-piece of a shit, if he even does that much. It’ll be a thumb in the nose to his suspension at all, because he’s a player on their team. And what he did to that woman won’t matter, and certainly her emotions won’t either.

And mostly out of ignorance rather than maliciousness, what it will be is a thumb in the nose to any Preds fan, hockey fan, or anyone who is a survivor of domestic abuse or anyone close to one. That their feelings, their history, the damage caused doesn’t matter as much as the Preds winning a hockey game. And there will be Preds fans who feel this, and they’ll feel helpless to say anything because nothing will change and they will fear being drowned out by the masses.

We can figure out the standards and suspensions at some point soon. What the Predators and NHL can do now is find a way to avoid the above scenario. Watson doesn’t have to be booed by his home fans. I feel like it should be greeted by nothing but silence, out of respect to those in yellow who have had this heinous scenario in their lives and also as a patient approach to force Watson to earn the adulation back through demonstrated progress, contrition, learning, and evolution.

I don’t know how you go about that. A concerted campaign by both team and league to illustrate the horrors of this. Perhaps Watson himself doing an ad or speech on the jumbotron, though that would probably just garner applause, too. Some sort of regular press-release about the details of the case and the reasons for the suspension, so it doesn’t fall out of the memory or news cycle. Maybe that’s harsh, but it doesn’t feel like it’s too much so. Perhaps Preds fans themselves could start a campaign to makes this happen, but I’ll just go ahead and assume they’re too busy trying to figure out yet another way to keep Hawks fans from buying their tickets.

There are obviously loftier goals we should be reaching for when it comes to professional sports and domestic violence/sexual assault. And we shouldn’t stop. But for right now, this one, small, attainable step should be something we can accomplish and sharpish.

So the next time a team acquires an Aroldis Chapman or Roberto Osuna or Watson or Mike Ribeiro (never forget), their fans aren’t spurred to cheer even louder because every other fandom is disgusted. That only polarizes and hurts.

Let’s just aim for silence. It doesn’t seem that far away.