Predators GM Poile on signing team's first Tennessee player, growing hockey in Nashville

blakegeoffrionpreds.jpgWhen the Nashville Predators signed solid college performer Blake Geoffrion, I couldn’t help but focus on the rich “Boom Boom” heritage of his hockey family. One other interesting thing to note, though, is that Geoffrion is the first Tennessee native the team ever drafted, as an NHL.com story points out.

While they lack the deep hockey roots of a traditional market and the big budget of a larger city-based team, the Predators have scratched and clawed their way to multiple playoff berths. They’ve done so thanks to deft drafting by their long-time general manager David Poile and the wise guidance of head coach Barry Trotz. As other clubs seem to fire their coaches and GMs at the drop of a hat, both Poile and Trotz have enjoyed remarkable careers that spanned nearly the entire run of the franchise.

Poile reflected on drafting Geoffrion and the uphill battle the Predators still fight in gaining the attention of the Nashville market.

Poile and the Predators are building hockey in Nashville, where football is king. Between 1971 and 1989, there was only one year of professional hockey in the area and Poile had to start from scratch. Thirteen years after the birth of the Predators, they are still building a hockey foundation.

“It is still certainly a work in progress,” Poile said. “We are doing well, but we could do better. We are still trying to promote and sell the game and that is what our job is. Maybe a player like Geoffrion will come in and help get more people interested. (It’s similar (to Washington), so maybe I am a little bit of a pioneer here in some of these areas. It is kind of neat to go into an area that hasn’t had much of a base for hockey.

“Those of us who have been in it, grew up in it (Polie’s father was an NHL player for five of the Original Six teams and was the general manager for expansion teams in Philadelphia and Vancouver), we know how great the game is. It’s kind of neat to see how it catches on and how minor hockey grows and then you get players like Blake Geoffrion who eventually plays for your team and some kids will say, ‘Maybe I won’t play baseball or football, maybe I will try hockey.’

“Football is king, that’s OK; we just want our fair share.”

Of course, for all the good feelings about the relative success of the franchise, winning is the best way to grow hockey. Just look at the Cup-winning Dallas Stars versus the just-now-competitive Phoenix Coyotes. Making the playoffs is great, but one of these days the Predators need to advance to the second round. The postseason seems to be a time in which the team’s lack of scoring punch (and budget) catches up to them, but if they can find a way past the richer teams, they could be on to something in Nashville.

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    Get to know Nolan Patrick, early favorite to go first in 2017 NHL Draft

    KELOWNA, CANADA - OCTOBER 25: Rourke Chartier #14 of Kelowna Rockets faces off against Nolan Patrick #19 of Brandon Wheat Kings during the first period on October 25, 2014 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
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    The NHL’s Central Scouting staff put out a full list of 2017 NHL Draft “futures” on Saturday, supporting the notion that it’s never too early to hype up the next wave of prospects.

    At the moment, the top pick speculation revolves around Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings, including in NHL.com’s breakdown of the biggest names among those futures.

    In vague terms, his size and willingness to go to high-danger areas distinguishes Patrick. Scoring 102 points in 72 games in the WHL with the Wheat Kings doesn’t hurt his cause, either.

    It’s only natural to seek comparables, of course, and there are plenty streaming out already.

    Craig Button compares Nolan to Jonathan Toews in this introduction for TSN:

    Nolan’s style of play is similar to that of fellow Manitoban Jonathan Toews. He’s skilled, smart and capable of playing and making a difference in all situations of the game. Like Toews, he does it without much flash, but brings significant determination and reliability every time he steps on the ice. 

    Meanwhile, his coach compared his style to that of Brayden Schenn, as Buzzing the Net noted in February.

    There’s hockey in his blood, too, as his father Steve Patrick was an NHL forward.

    Maybe that explains the notable lack of fawning from his dad in this Sportsnet article.

    “Nolan was a funny little player at eight. I certainly didn’t look at him and think he’s gonna be a special player,” Steve Patrick said in May. “But he always saw the ice well and even when he was little he could pass the puck. He was a smaller kid and he sometimes played up a year, so I thought he had to be little sneakier to hold on to the puck.

    “Plus, he had an older sister who could throw him in a snowbank, so he had to figure a way to keep the puck from her.”

    Now that is a scouting report.

    Speaking of scouting reports, NHL.com and Sportsnet both discuss other players who will jockey for top draft position with Patrick.

    Of course, plenty can change in the season, so Patrick must dodge hurdles as if they were siblings readying to “throw him in a snowbank.”

    Related: Nolan Patrick, potential No. 1 overall pick in 2017, undergoes sports hernia surgery

    There is a report about Islanders eyeing a new arena in Nassau, too

    UNIONDALE, NY - MAY 05:  A closeup of arena workers tools used to help remove the ice and the rink from the Nassau Coliseum on May 5, 2015 in Uniondale, New York. The New York Islanders have played their last game at the Nassau Coliseum and will begin to play at the Barclay's Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York City next season.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The New York Islanders’ new owners claim that Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is “our home,” yet there are all kinds of rumors going around about where they may settle.

    Things really heated up with talks of moving next to the New York Mets with a new arena in Queens, but apparently that’s not all.

    New York Newsday reports that the Islanders have met “several times” with the New York Racing Association to build a new arena in Belmont. This would mean that the Islanders would (wait for it) bring the team back to the Nassau area.

    It was emphasized that such talks were in early stages and that the ownership group is “weighing multiple options, including remaining in Brooklyn.”

    When it came to the rumors about Queens, more than a few people believed that it may have come down to leveraging Barclays for a better situation in Brooklyn. The Isles’ ownership group hasn’t discussed these rumors, so it’s difficult to gauge how seriously the team would consider moving again.

    In the grand scheme of things, it feels far too early to get too excited or bent out of shape about these murmurs. Even if something significant happens – and there have been plenty of gripes about Barclays – it sounds like it would take some time for plans to formulate.

    Coyotes’ defensive makeover continues with Luke Schenn signing

    SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 20:  Luke Schenn #52 of the Los Angeles Kings in action against the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the NHL 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on April 20, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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    While Brayden Schenn hopes to hammer out a favorable deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, his brother Luke Schenn inked a two-year contract with the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.

    Arizona didn’t confirm these details, but the cap hit looks to be $1.25 million, according to reporters including Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

    “We are very pleased to sign Luke to a two-year contract,” New Coyotes GM John Chayka said. “He’s a good, young defenseman and we feel we can optimize his performance here. He will be a solid addition to our blue line.”

    Chayka is making some significant changes to the Coyotes’ blueline, even if Oliver Ekman-Larsson is still the star of that group.

    The Coyotes traded for and then signed Alex Goligoski. They possibly grabbed a falling star in the draft, too, as they selected Jacob Chychrun. Adding Schenn might not be the last move, either.

    Schenn isn’t necessarily an analytics darling, but a two-year, $2.5 million deal is reasonable even with some flaws. This contract seems even more reasonable when you consider the five-year, $18 million deal that just expired.

    Report: Maple Leafs, Holland are about $1M apart

    TORONTO, ON - APRIL 11: Peter Holland #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates up the ice during NHL action against the Montreal Canadiens at the Air Canada Centre April 11, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
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    Peter Holland‘s submitted salary request for arbitration is reportedly more than double what the Toronto Maple Leafs proposed.

    With that in mind, Monday’s pending hearing serves as a challenging deadline.

    Holland’s asking for $2.1 million in 2016-17 while Toronto is offering $900K, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

    This comes a day after the Maple Leafs placed Holland on waivers, advancing the argument that he’d be worthy of a two-way deal. He cleared waivers today.

    Granted, the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle wonders if Holland would clear waivers under normal circumstances:

    Holland is a solid player, generating 27 points in 65 games with Toronto last season. He’s a nice enough piece, but with the Maple Leafs in rebuild mode, they’re not exactly anxious to pay supporting cast members more than necessary.

    With such a context in mind, it should be intriguing to see how much either side will budge.

    At the moment, the Maple Leafs seem to hold the advantage.