Hockey

Needing to fire Peter Laviolette isn’t a huge surprise. Hopefully, it’s a feeling we’ll get here one day, as that will mean the Hawks hired him in the first place. He’s a good coach, maybe even a very good one, but his style tends to grate on players pretty quickly. He burned himself out in Philadelphia, but the Flyers haven’t really been the same since, and it’s kind of amazing he lasted as long as he did in Nashville. It’s no surprise they had their greatest success under him as well.

But eventually the time comes when the players are sick of his act, and the Preds clearly were. This is not a team that should be floating outside the playoff spots, or even anything close. It was built to compete for the Western crown, not slap-fighting with the Coyotes over the leavings. And yet here we are.

But hiring John Hynes smacks of GM David Poile only having half of a plan. He knew he needed to fire Lavvy but didn’t have any idea who should replace him. And then he was forced to hire what was out there, which was Hynes.

Hynes’s claim to fame is that he happened to be standing behind the bench when Taylor Hall went on a “Fuck Edmonton” world tour after being traded to Newark, earned a Hart Trophy, and dragged a thoroughly unimpressive Devils team to the playoffs where they were promptly thwacked by the Lightning. The Devils never came close to the playoffs since, and in fact that was the only year that the Devils even finished above .500.

Sure, Hynes was never given a real roster to work with, and maybe that’s the best he could do. He certainly helped transition the Devils from a war crime to a fast-moving team, but that was a few years ago. The Preds already were that. So why is he here?

Poile will tell you it’s to improve their defensive game, as they’d become lax under Lavvy. Ok, how’s that going? Under Lavvy, the Preds were still one of the better possession teams around, ranking 8th in the league in Corsi-percentage at 52.8. Under Hynes, they’re 22nd at 48.2. And they’re giving up five more attempts per game than they were before the firing. But hey, they’re also generating four less attempts too!

When it comes to xG%, the Preds under Laviolette were again top-1o, ranking 8th at 52.5. Hynes has managed to fuck that up too, ranking 20th since he was hired (behind the Hawks!) at 49.6. Oh, and their xGA/60 went from 2.08 to 2.37 since the change. This is going well! We’ll give Hynes this, at least the attack has stayed steady at 2.3 xGF/60 per game. He hasn’t blown everything up yet.

Hynes has even gotten better goaltending than Lavvy did, with Juese Saros has at least shown some competence of late whereas before Hynes was hired neither Saros or Rinne could find their ass with either hand. And yet the Preds have still gone just 10-8 under him, which isn’t exactly the bump Poile would have been hoping for.

This isn’t a team built to play defensively, and if it isn’t skating with its hair on fire it can be awfully open. But that’s how they were designed, with their go-go defense. Hynes hasn’t been helped by Ryan Ellis being out for his entire stay so far, but there’s more than enough here to do better with. It’s also not Hynes’s fault that Johansen and Duchene spend most of their time having money-fights in the dressing room, but he was probably brought in with the idea that he could get them to snap to attention. Still waiting on that one. This is still a team where a d-man leads them in scoring by 17 points!

There probably can’t be a more clear exhibit of how in the NHL if you get one job, you get 17. Hynes never did much in New Jersey and yet somehow ended up with a better team in Nashville. And when this goes balls-up, which is looking soon, you can bet he’ll get another job because someone will think if the Predators hired him he must be good. And so it goes.

Hockey

One of the things people marvel about the Nashville Predators is their stability. John Hynes, hired this week, is only their third coach in the 20 years of their history. They’ve only had one GM, and that’s David Poile. Something about southern loyalty or whatever. One might have to ask though…why?

Because when you total it up, the Preds record of success doesn’t really justify keeping things the same this long. There are two division titles, both in the past two years, and one Final appearance. The latter was their only journey even beyond the second round. It’s always spurious to judge a team merely on playoff success, because the sport itself and the playoff structure can be so random. But we’re talking about 20 years here.

On regular season parameters, the division titles could be a touch misleading. There have been regular 100+ point seasons, including three of the last five. If you’re gobbling up over 100 points, where you finish in the division is again, sort of random, basically however many overtime or shootout points you or the teams you’re competing with have gathered.

Still, this isn’t like the Lightning who kept losing to the eventual champion. The Preds lost to those same Hawks in ’15 that the Lightning did, and outplayed those Hawks for at least three of those six games and saw Pekka Rinne undo all that work. But last year they lost to the ultra-boring Stars and the year before that it was the Jets, and each of those then bit it in the next round.

Still, after 20 years, you’d think more than one Western Conference championship would be required to keep David Poile in the GM chair. And he may be out over it now.

Poile fired Peter Laviolette, because the Preds have been amongst the favorites for a few years  and are currently out of the playoff picture. The pressure is clearly being felt, and expectations are clearly not being met. This isn’t just a good time for home and visiting fans alike anymore. The feeling that the Preds might miss their window is starting to get palpable in Tennessee.

How much responsibility does Poile take for this season? Or last? Well, last year is a mixed record. The pickup of Mikael Granlund made all the sense in the world on paper. Is it Poile’s fault that Granlund completely flattened out upon arrival? You could make the argument either way. The acquisitions of Brian Boyle and Wayne Simmonds only made the Preds slower and dumber, and harkened back to the 1st round pick given away for Paul Gaustad. It’s something that Poile has had a weakness for during his entire tenure. They certainly didn’t provide enough dash to get through the blockade the Stars were putting up in the first round.

This year? Again, Granlund not adapting to a team and style that should have hit him between the eyes isn’t totally on Poile. He sacrificed PK Subban because they had depth on the blue line, which they always seem to have, so they could sign Matt Duchene. And yet even with Duchene, no forward is scoring at a top-tier, first-line forward rate. Forsberg leads with 30 points in 36 games. Duchene has 29 in 39, which is kind of what he’s always been. This has been a bugaboo of the Preds for a while, no true game-breaker up front other than maybe Forsberg, and you still have to do some back-bends to call him that.

But then, most GMs’ and coaches’ fortunes simply hinge on PDO, and mostly on their goalies. The Preds do everything mostly right. They’re top-ten in Corsi and expected goals percentages. They have the puck most of the time. What they can’t get is a save, and especially on the penalty kill. The Preds have a .798 SV% on the kill, which has sunk both Rinne’s and Juuse Saros’s overall SV% below .900. Is that on Poile? Because if you go by the chances their PK is giving up, the Preds actually have a good kill. But it doesn’t matter if the goalies let every chance in. Certainly no one was advocating for the Preds to make changes in the crease in the offseason, if Rinne is turning into dust now.

But it’s never that simple in these calculations. If the Preds miss out, you have to feel there will be a house-cleaning. One wonders what Poile thinks he’s going to get out of John Hynes, who only had a good season in New Jersey when Taylor Hall said so. It reeked of a desperate move without a plan. Was Hynes really in the wings all the time to replace Laviolette? If so, why? Lavvy certainly has a shelf-life, but is it his fault that Rinne nor Saros couldn’t stop a sloth on the penalty kill? Did Poile only pull the trigger when Hynes became available?

Maybe Hynes knows how to get Ryan Johansen away from the postgame spread and playing like a top line center again. Maybe he can juice Viktor Arvidsson. But what’s clear is that the Predators aren’t content to be everyone’s cute little getaway anymore, and perhaps for the first time since they actually played games, they might be on the lookout for a new GM.

 

Hockey

Everyone’s favorite darling, basically because national media types love to get drunk there for free and it’s not cold. Generally that has shielded everyone’s eyes from this being a pretty repugnant organization run by a ghoul in David Poile, who just engaged in the long-running hockey and Southern tradition of when things go wrong blame the black guy. It’s also put the wool over most experts’ eyes that the Preds have taken two straight division championships and done just north of dick with them, or that Ryan Johansen blows, or Eli Tolvanen didn’t redefine the sport upon arrival, or Roman Josi is starting to age, or half a dozen other things. Is it finally going to, thankfully, crash down around their ears this year?

2018-2019

47-29-6  100 points  (1st in Central, out in 1st round)

2.88 GF/G (18th)  2.59 GA/G (4th)  +24 GD

52.1 CF% (7th)  51.1 xGF% (13th)

12.9 PP% (31st)  82.1 PK% (6th)

Goalies: Same crew. Pekka Rinne will take the starter’s role as he has done in Music City since before Marvel Studios existed. He was more than acceptable last year with a .918. But that was down from the previous season, and he is 37 now and one wonders if that’s a slide that’s just going to continue. No one outruns time forever. Encouragingly for the Preds, Rinne did get stronger as the season went along last year, with a .913 in February and a .927 in March after a very shaky winter period. Didn’t really save him in the playoffs though, where he put up his second consecutive .904 in seven games against the Stars. And that’s usually the story for Rinne when the games really matter, as other than that one run to the Final he’s been nothing more than ordinary in the spring. And he’s running out of chances.

There are probably some in the Preds braintrust that hoped Juuse Saros would take the job from Rinne last year. He wasn’t bad, but he didn’t outperform Rinne and if the Preds are going to move on from a club legend while he’s still playing the difference has to be clear. Saros is only 24 and has time on his side, and if he sticks around his career .920 one might think that could be enough to usurp the incumbent, should his age-induced slide continue. Either way, the Predators are solid here.

Defense: Well it must be pretty damn good if they thought they didn’t need PK Subban anymore, huh? Must be nice when you can jettison the d-man who had the best metrics on the team.

It’ll put more pressure on Roman Josi, whose influence hasn’t been as great the past two or three seasons but still puts up points. Matthias Ekholm should be his partner, as Ryan Ellis was completely exposed taking on top pairing assignments in the playoffs. He’s a great bum-slayer but don’t put him up against real players, or you’ll pay the penalty.

There’s also a lot of faith in Dante Fabbro, who was tossed into the deep end of the playoffs after being a point-per-game at BU the past two seasons. He could end up driving things on the second pairing, either alongside Ellis or forcing him down to the third pairing where he started in the first place. Then again, that’s probably not what you want out of a d-man you’re paying $6.2M until the Earth’s heat death. More brilliant work from Poile.

They’ll round it out with Matt Irwin, Yannick Weber, and Dan Hamhuis‘s slowly-turning-to-dust bones, and they’ve definitely got this. Again, solid, but if Josi isn’t around Norris-level discussion, it’s short a top-pairing guy.

Forwards: The headlines are Matt Duchene finally came “home,” if home is the place where you’ve made it clear you want to play for about five years because you’re a true Canadian shit-kicker. Duchene will certainly juice the second line, whether from the wing or in the middle.

The Preds as always will do it through a strength-in-numbers method. Their only proven top line talent is Filip Forsberg and he’s made of graham crackers. Viktor Arvidsson is probably a genuine top-liner as well or a tick below. Ryan Johansen is completely overmatched as a #1, at least when he’s not playing for a contract to blow on a lifetime supply of ding-dongs, but they’ll keep selling it. Mikael Granlund will get a full season in yellow before hitting free agency, which probably means a big season for him. Granlund’s and Duchene’s presence will shove Kyle Turris down the lineup where he will hope no one notices he’s not worth $6M a year either. Same goes for Colton Sissons, and Craig Smith, and Calle Jarnkrok, Marriage counselor Austin Watson is still here to fill out Nashville’s absolute bastard quota. It might not have the highest of ceilings but this crew probably has the highest floor.

Prediction: My comrade in arms Fifth Feather thinks this squad is headed for a collapse. I wish I could get there, though the chance that Peter Laviolette‘s style finally is too much for the players is non-zero. The chance for Pekka Rinne to look his age is also non-zero. But the chance of both Rinne and Saros being bad is pretty close to zero. The defense certainly lost most of its fun to New Jersey, but it’s still more than enough as long as they keep Ellis away from anything flammable. They’ll be more than that if Fabbro is the real deal. The forwards carry more than enough speed and dash to light up most teams.

There isn’t a guarantee in the West to expose Johansen or outgun them, but they can also lose to anyone as they did last year. They very easily could win the division again. They could very easily eat it early with the wrong matchup. If that happens again, there could be changes.

But they’ll still be assholes.

Previous Team Previews

Carolina

Columbus

New Jersey

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia 

Pittsburgh

Washington

Boston

Buffalo

Detroit

Florida

Montreal

Ottawa

Tampa Bay

Toronto

Arizona

Calgary

Edmonton

Los Angeles

San Jose 

Vancouver

Vegas

Colorado

Dallas

Minnesota

 

Everything Else

Last week, The Maven brought up the idea of trading Brandon Saad. You should read the whole thing, but the SparkNotes version is that the Hawks might have as many as three forwards who can maybe do what Saad does for less money. This money will be important for re-signing Alex DeBrincat after next year.

While we’ve been hemming and hawing over how the Hawks need to make a legitimate run at Erik “My Crotch Is Itchy” Karlsson, it’s hard to picture the organization having the stomach to pay him the $12 million per over eight years he’ll probably ask for (and deserve). EK65 will always be the dream(boat), but you can see the Hawks balking, with DeBrincat and possibly Strome asking for the money the Hawks owe them in arrears for setting the world on fire.

With all that in mind, there are three things the Hawks should be looking to do this offseason:

1. Shore up the defense

2. Improve the penalty kill

3. Add a top-six forward

Shoring up the defense and improving the penalty kill are so far ahead of adding a top-six forward in my view that if the Hawks decided to trade Brandon Saad—who himself is a top-six winger, even if Beto O’Colliton thinks he was born for this third-line horseshit—to solve the first two problems, I wouldn’t even be mad.

I’ll stop edging you here.

Let’s offer Brandon Saad, Erik Gustafsson, and a pick/prospect for P.K. Subban.

How the FUCK Did You Come Up With That?

After the Preds were hilariously bounced from the playoffs much earlier than anticipated, the trade rumors around Pernell-Karl began circulating immediately. (Whether they’re true or not doesn’t matter right now. We’re bored and don’t really want to think about the Cup, so this is what we’re doing.) If there’s even a small consideration that David Poile would trade someone as dynamic, fashionable, and wonderful as P.K. Subban, you absolutely must make a phone call, division rivalry be damned. (As much as I’d like to use the Hartman–Ejdsell trade as proof that in-division trades can happen, what I’m proposing is a much more unwieldy beast than that.)

P.K. Subban on the Hawks definitely shores up the defense. He most likely improves the penalty kill as well.

OK, Dumbass, Why Would Nashville Ever Do That?

Let’s say you get Poile on the phone and offer Saad, Gus, and a pick/prospect. Let’s say the pick/prospect is either Boqvist or this year’s second round pick (#43 overall). Is this comparable? Let’s start with the stats.

2018–19 GP G A P CF% xGF%
P.K. Subban 63 9 22 31 53.61 50.54
B. Saad 80 23 24 47 52.69 47.27
E. Gustafsson 79 17 43 60 50.24 45.50

Last year was Subban’s worst year as a professional hockey player. He posted his lowest games-played total (not counting the season-in-a-can in 2013), his lowest assists total, his lowest points total, and third-lowest goals total. He was out for six weeks nursing an upper body injury, which no doubt contributed to his off year.

Compare that to the two players the Hawks would give up. Erik Gustafsson not only had the best year of his career by far but also was one of the best offensive D-men statistically in the NHL last year. He and P.K. Subban have exactly the same number of 60-point seasons under their belts. He’s also younger (27 vs. 30) and on a much friendlier albeit soon-to-be-ending contract ($1.2 million vs. $9 million). Something tells me you can use these points to convince Poile it’s not a bad idea.

Likewise, Brandon Saad’s 47 points would have made him a top-five scorer for the Preds last year. His 23 goals would be third behind Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. His 24 assists would also be top five on the Preds.

Based solely on last year’s numbers, this trade is a huge win for the Preds, statistically.

But of course, we can’t neglect history. P.K. Subban is without a doubt one of the top D-men of his generation. He’s been a consistent force on both sides of the puck and on both sides of the special-teams ledger. His presence on the PP is devastating, and in the four years prior to last year (2014–2018), Subban played a top role on both the Canadiens’s and Preds’s PK units: Each team’s PK finished 7th, 12th, 15th, and 6th, respectively, and in the two years a Subban team finished outside the top 10, Subban had missed at least 14 games. Neither Saad nor Gus have anything close to his pedigree.

At this point, it’s probably not a bad idea to talk about cap implications, because that could matter.

With this trade offer, the Preds would free up $1.8 million in cap space, giving them just about $9 million to play with (according to CapFriendly). Maybe they use that money to add another scoring threat in, like, Jeff Skinner, I don’t know. Fuck Nashville, I’m not doing this for them.

The point is: If Nashville truly believes it’s Subban’s fault they got knocked out so early and would consider trading him for it, Gus and Saad both provide as much or more offense than they currently have for less money. Nashville can then use that additional money to re-sign Josi or sign Duchene or Ferland or whichever other good ol’ boy they think is the missing piece but obviously isn’t. Plus, Poile might be getting itchy feet, as his team hasn’t yet won the Cup all of its entitled, illiterate, hillbilly, raising-banners-for-nothing-that-matters fans have been stealing college chants about, such is the depth of that pool of cleverness. He can MAKE A MOVE and trade his misidentified scapegoat in one fell swoop.

While Saad and Gus would be good adds for Nashville in the contexts of last year; Nashville’s need for more scoring from their forwards; and their need to replace the defensive offense Subban provides; P.K. Subban is a legitimate star who can pull the receipts out of any one of his agonizingly fashionable outfits as proof. That’s where you’d hope the #43 pick pushes this offer over the top.

I had wanted to use the #3 overall pick in this peyote-driven fantasy. As much as I love Subban (fuck, I’m offering SAAD for Christ’s sake), giving up 100-plus points AND a decent lottery ticket is probably feeling my oats a tad too much. Maybe you talk #3 if it’s an either/or with Saad and Gus, but that’s gonna complicate things more than I’m willing to get into. So you offer the #43. If they say no to that, or if they said, “No, we’d rather have Boqvist,” fine, I don’t fucking care, you can have him.

Because remember, you’re getting P.K. Subban, a proven two-way D-man who can play well on special teams. Boqvist doesn’t project to do that, and even if he ever became that, the Core will be long dead by then (or retired or whatever it is hockey players do when they’re done playing). And by all indications, the goal is to make one last run at it with this Core, specifically, Kane and Toews.

So again, the point of this trade is to shore up the defense and improve the PK, with the overarching goal of making one more run at a Cup with the Core. If the price is right, Subban might be the missing piece.

I’ve Made It This Far. What’s It Look Like?

What do the Hawks look like if something like this goes through? Let’s start by using the current roster after the trade.

DeBrincat–Strome–Kane

Kabulik–Toews–Kahun

Perlini–Kampf–Sikura

Caggiula–Anisimov–Wedin

Hayden

Murphy–Subban

Keith–Jokiharju

Boqvist/Beaudin–Koekkoek/Seabrook (Kill me)

Crow

Delia

That top four on the backend starts looking a lot better. Subban also gets Seabrook off the PK, which is an absolute must after last year’s trainwreck. You can mix and match Murphy and Harju, Subban and Keith. Having Subban back there solves a lot of defensive and PK problems. Subban also knows how to move the puck, which the Hawks have missed as Keith has aged.

This line up as you see it makes a few assumptions. First, I’m assuming that the Hawks re-sign the entire third line at $1 million per: Each of Perlini, Kampf, and Sikura is an RFA this year. This is purely a guess at what they’ll get. I’m also guessing that Kabulik brings a $2 million cap hit, because I don’t know what his contract actually looks like.

With these assumptions, the Hawks still have $11–12 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly. That’s probably not enough to both sign a top-six forward this year AND re-sign DeBrincat/Strome next year, unless you find someone willing to take Anisimov’s contract. This also asks a lot of Dominik Kabulik, but slotting him with someone he knows (Kahun) and someone he can probably trust (Toews) is about as soft a landing as you can get. It ALSO doesn’t consider what the Hawks will do about Crawford, who is a UFA after next year.

P.K. Subban would solve a ton of problems the Hawks have. He’d give them the second-best shot (after Karlsson) of shoring up the Hawks’s woeful blue line (and he might be a safer bet than Karlsson anyway). He’d keep this Core’s window open just a little bit longer.

If the Hawks could get him for Saad, Gus, and the #43 or a prospect like Boqvist, I’m pulling the trigger on that every day. For P.K. Subban, the whole package is more than worth it.

If the goal is to make one more run at a Cup with the Core, Subban can help. We’d just need Dave Poile—the winningest GM in NHL history, except in the one game that matters—to prove what a huge fucking genius he is one more time.

Stats from hockey-reference.com and NaturalStatTrick. Cap shit from CapFriendly’s Armchair GM tool.

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

The year was 2012. The Predators had finally won their first playoff series the year before, and in 2012 were looking to make some serious noise for once. They were in a four-way battle for the Central Division with the Red Wings, Blues, and Hawks. They were poised as anyone to make some noise, and as it played out they really had a chance when they got a sweetheart second-round matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes, after they easily dispatched the Red Wings.

And part of the reason they coughed up their honey bunches of oats all over themselves in the second round, and part of the reason they did that was David Poile’s idea to boost that team was to give up a FIRST ROUND PICK for Paul Gaustad. Heavy-breathing hockey journalists couldn’t wait to proclaim what a genius move this was, because Gaustad would do VERY IMPORTANT HOCKEY THINGS like win draws and be big and smell bad.

Gaustad provided all of four assists in 14 games, and another two points in the playoffs, and spent the rest of the time getting utterly clocked in possession. Turns out winning draws and being “a big body” doesn’t do as much as, get this, scoring.

Fast forward to this year. The Preds are in their third year of being Cup contenders, and the ticks from the clock are getting louder. They appear to only have one line, and could really use some secondary scoring. What did Poile do? Gave up a SECOND ROUND PICK for Brian Fucking Boyle.

Brian Boyle sucks. He’s sucked for years. He’s somehow made a name for himself by winning faceoffs and being a big, dumb goofus. He’s ultra-slow in a league that’s getting ultra-fast. He’s a nice story in being a cancer-survivor, but that doesn’t make him a must have. It’s Gaustad all over again.

To boot, Poile paid less for Wayne Simmonds, who’s less of a goofus than Boyle but even dumber, and quite possibly even slower. He’s provided exactly one goal since coming over, and shows no sign of being able to keep up when the Preds come up against the Jets or Avalanche or Flames or Sharks or Knights. David Poile gave up two draft picks and at least a useful bottom-sixer in Ryan Hartman for two-thirds of a fourth line.

But they’ll keep throwing bouquets at Poile, because hockey writers don’t want to jeopardize their free dinner at Jack’s or whatever.

Poile also sought to bolster his top-six with the pick-up for Mikael Granlund for the never-impressive Kevin Fiala. And that looked a good trade when it happened. Granlund has contributed one goal since showing up. Maybe Poile can’t help that, but here you are.

The question for Poile, or at least it should be, is how much longer does he get? In his tenure, the Predators have seen one conference final and beyond, and that seems to be enough for everyone. And while this team looks poised to take a few more cracks at it, this might be their best chance. The Jets can’t play defense. The Flames and Sharks don’t have goalies, and the Knights might not have the magic again. It’s all there for them.

Because next year, it won’t be as clear. If the Flames ever get a goalie, they’ll be West favorites. The Avalanche look set to be a real beast with the addition of Cale Makar and Jack Hughes/Kaapo Kakko next season. The Jets might sort out their defense.

And the Preds don’t have a lot of wiggle room to improve. They’ll have about $7M in space in the summer, and may require another top-six forward. That will eat up just about all of it. There won’t be a huge margin for error.

But he’s got a lifetime subscription there. He seemingly can’t be moved. Ask yourself what other GM gets 20 years on the job with only one Final appearance to show for it?

 

 

Game #82 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

You get a lot of people looking the other way on the Nashville Predators, mostly because hockey writers really like to get drunk on Broadway St. and some of them even like country music. Because of that, there’s a piousness among the Preds fanbase, even added to the general piousness of the South, about how their team is built and run.

Make no mistake, the Preds have been as much or more filled with shitbags and fuckheads than any other team. This is a squad that signed Mike Ribeiro to two contracts. It signed Harry Zolnierczyk. It’s one that has Austin Watson. and then used his wife to try and save their ass for employing him. They also have Zac Rinaldo.

While Rinaldo has at least kept his shitbaggery on the ice unlike the others, it’s a whole collection of it. Make no mistake, Rinaldo is a useless turd of a player who has racked up more games in suspensions than goals he’ll ever score. It’s true. He’s only ever been out there to try and intentionally hurt people, and in the dirtiest and cheapest ways possible.

He continues a long tradition of Predators ass-mongers like Jordin Tootoo and Cody McLeod. Somehow the Preds get to skate on having these guys even though the league is doing everything it can to move on from clods like this. What Peter Laviolette wanted with this dungheap when he went to GM David Poile, himself quite the harvester of shit in his career, is anyone’s guess. Lavvy went through this horseshit in Philadelphia with Rinaldo, and must’ve come away impressed somehow.

Especially in a division that doesn’t contain any of this tripe, it’s a real wonder why the Predators think they need this. The Jets aren’t going to beat on them in the playoffs, and if that’s why they think they lost last year they’re already fucked. the Wild aren’t. The Stars aren’t. The Avs aren’t. The Preds seem to be preparing for a fight that’s never coming.

Next time anyone tries to tell you the Preds are on the cutting edge of the NHL, you just remember all of this.

 

Game #27 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

This ran in last week’s C.I. program for the Preds’ game. 

It’s hard to fathom that for pretty much their entire existence, the Nashville Predators have never had a true #1 center. They drafted David Legwand to be that with their first ever pick. You know how that went. Their highest scoring centers over the years are names like Greg Johnson, Yanic Perrault, aging and one-footed Peter Forsberg, and Rich Peverly. The team that lost to the Hawks in 2010 was trotting out Jason Arnott at 35. Colin Wilson as a rookie was the team’s best center the first time they won a playoff round. Mike Ribeiro was as close as they came last year. So you can see what the attraction is for acquiring Ryan Johansen at this age to finally lock down that spot. When you haven’t had something in so long, you’ll drink the sand.