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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    Flyers staff give Gudas a talking to as questionable hits pile up

    Toronto Maple Leafs v Philadelphia Flyers
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    The list of questionable Radko Gudas hits — some of which he’s been suspended for and others he has escaped discipline — has grown again, prompting Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol to apparently have a chat with the 25-year-old defenseman.

    There was no hearing for Gudas from his latest infraction, a major penalty for charging called against him for a hit on Buffalo Sabres rookie Daniel Catenacci on Thursday.

    Catenacci has since been put on injured reserve, after he went through concussion protocol, as per John Vogl of the Buffalo News.

    The NHL didn’t hand out supplemental discipline in this case, but the Flyers brass held a meeting of their own with Gudas, because hits like this could end costing Philadelphia results and precious points in the Eastern Conference standings.

    The Flyers are four points out of a playoff spot.

    “There’s a big picture to all of it in terms of our main concern,” Hakstol told CSN Philadelphia. “Our main goal right now is to do all the little things necessary to win hockey games.

    “In keeping with that, how individually does everybody do their part to help us win games. That’s the basis of my conversation with Radko.”

    In December, Gudas was suspended three games for a head shot on Mika Zibanejad. Earlier this month, he was given a major penalty and game misconduct for clipping in a game against the Habs, but escaped discipline for that, as well.

    Gudas, who didn’t want to comment on the hit on Catenacci, also spoke with Flyers GM Ron Hextall about this latest incident.

    Asked about that conversation, Gudas told reporters, “Just making sure I pay attention and not get suspended again and make a good hockey play or make a good hit.”

    After 11-game absence, Savard (oblique) back for Columbus

    David Savard
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    These are pretty decent times for the Blue Jackets.

    The team is 7-3-2 in its last 12, recently re-upped with Ryan Murray on a two-year deal and, on Friday, announced that blueliner David Savard has been activated from IR after missing the last 11 games to an oblique strain.

    Savard, 25, was a pretty integral part of John Tortorella’s defense when healthy. He averaged over 24 minutes per night and had 15 points through 39 games prior to being sidelined by the ailment.

    He’ll presumably draw back into the lineup when the Jackets take on Ottawa on Saturday. No word yet on a corresponding roster move.

    Who’s got the best/worst combined special teams?

    The Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin, (8), of Russia, leaps in the air in celebration after scoring his 500th career NHL goal during the second period of a hockey game against the Ottawa Senators in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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    Recently, the Washington Capitals went five whole games without scoring a power-play goal.

    It was a real nightmare for those guys.

    Despite the fact Washington went 3-1-1 over those five games, one headline called it a “troubling power-play drought” — which tells you how few “troubling” things the Caps have had to deal with this season.

    Overall, special teams have been a boon for Washington, which ranks first on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill.

    Compare that to, say, Calgary, which ranks 29th and 29th, respectively. Now that’s troubling.

    Anyway, here’s how all 30 teams rank when their special teams are combined:

    Rankings

    Not surprisingly, there’s a strong correlation between good special teams and winning hockey games.

    In the left column, 12 of the 15 teams are currently in a playoff spot. New Jersey, Buffalo, and Montreal are the exceptions.

    On the right, only four teams — Colorado, Detroit, Nashville and the Rangers — are in a playoff spot.

    John Scott to return to Habs’ AHL team this weekend

    Pacific Division forward John Scott (28) is lifted up by teammates Mark Giordano (5), of the Calgary Flames, Joe Pavelski (8), and Brent Burns (88), of the San Jose Sharks after they defeated the Atlantic Division team 1-0 at an NHL hockey All-Star championship game, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Pacific Division won 1-0. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
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    John Scott’s had enough time off following his All-Star Game MVP award.

    Now, he wants to get back to work.

    Scott, who made major headlines at the end of January thanks to his unforgettable All-Star performance in Nashville, will return to Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s this weekend, as the IceCaps play a pair of games against the Toronto Marlies.

    “It’ll be nice to [be] back playing hockey and doing my thing. I’m actually really excited for it,” Scott said, per ESPN. “This has been the longest break I’ve had, ever. But I play like 7-8 minutes, I won’t be too out of shape, I’ll be able to keep up.”

    Scott, 33, hasn’t played since his Pacific Division team won the annual ASG 3-on-3 tournament on Jan. 31. Following that whirlwind weekend, the Montreal organization allowed him to take a leave to be with his wife, Danielle, who gave birth to twin girls on Feb. 5.

    Scott only appeared in four games for St. John’s prior to the All-Star Game, going pointless with six penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating.

    Related:

    The John Scott story, coming to a theater near you?

    Therrien on Habs recalling Scott: ‘You never know’