When 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.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have gone from worst to first.
The Leafs finished dead last in the NHL’s overall standings, giving them the best odds of winning Saturday’s draft lottery. And when the big show ended, Toronto had landed that top pick for the draft on June 24.
Outside of Toronto, the biggest winner Saturday had to be the Winnipeg Jets. They entered the day with the sixth best odds of getting the top pick at just 7.5 per cent. They were able to move all the way up to the second overall pick, which could certainly land them a franchise player and one that could definitely be ready to make the jump into the NHL next season.
The biggest loser? You could definitely argue it was the Vancouver Canucks. They finished 28th in the overall standings, giving them an 11.5 per cent chance of winning the No. 1 pick. But they fell all the way to fifth.
The Edmonton Oilers? Well, they didn’t win. Had they won the lottery, it would’ve given them the first overall pick for the fifth time in seven years.
Here is the 2016 draft order:
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Winnipeg Jets
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Edmonton Oilers
- Vancouver Canucks
- Calgary Flames
- Arizona Coyotes
- Buffalo Sabres
- Montreal Canadiens
- Colorado Avalanche
- New Jersey Devils
- Ottawa Senators
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Boston Bruins
Now that the order is set, who will go No. 1, 2 and 3 in that opening round?
Auston Matthews has long held the title as the top-ranked player heading into this draft. But there’s been increasing chatter that Finnish winger Patrik Laine has at least closed the gap between him and Matthews for that first overall selection, according to Bob McKenzie of TSN.
Meanwhile, fellow Finnish forward Jesse Puljujärvi likely rounds out the top three, following a sensational showing at the 2016 World Junior Championships.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will look to even up their second-round series with the Washington Capitals with a win on the road Saturday at Verizon Center. You can catch Game 2 between these rivals on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE
Here are some links for both Game 2 between the Penguins and Capitals, and the draft lottery:
Sheary’s in for Penguins in Game 2; Kunitz is a game-time decision
Wilson fined for kneeing Sheary
Everything you need to know about the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery
Gather your lucky charms, 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight
Burke: Once a team picks first overall, no more drafting first overall (for a few years at least)
Tyler Johnson began the playoffs as a game-time decision for the Tampa Bay Lightning in their series with the Detroit Red Wings. He’s now among the top point producers this post-season.
Needing a win to even the series before it shifts north to Brooklyn, the Lightning earned a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday afternoon. Series tied, 1-1. As for Johnson, the diminutive but skilled forward, he led the Bolts with a three-point night and is up to 10 points in the playoffs.
He opened the scoring versus the Islanders and finished it with an empty-netter to negate any late comeback attempt.
Still without Steven Stamkos, the Lightning got another strong game from Jonathan Drouin, who entered this series without a goal. But he changed that, giving the host team a two-goal lead in the opening period of Game 2. That goal would be the eventual winner.
After a first-round playoff loss that resulted in the firing of coach Bruce Boudreau, players were forced to answer for such a disappointing end to the Anaheim Ducks’ season.
The Ducks were last in the West at the holiday break but went flying up the standings in the second half of the season, claiming the Pacific Division. But they couldn’t close out the Nashville Predators in the opening round, despite a 3-2 series lead, and Boudreau was sent packing.
Ducks GM Bob Murray then let the players have it, blasting the core group and their performance, especially in the first two games of the series, and strongly suggesting there would be some big changes in Anaheim leading up to next season.
“I take a lot of blame for what happened,” said Corey Perry, as per the Ducks’ website. “I didn’t score a goal. I take a lot of responsibility. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform.”
In seven games, the 30-year-old Perry, who just concluded the third year of an eight-year contract with a cap hit of $8.625 million, had four assists. But, as he said, no goals.
On Boudreau’s dismissal, Perry added: “He did a lot for my game. It’s tough when you know the reason somebody got fired is because we as a team and as individuals didn’t perform to where we needed to perform, and that’s the hardest thing. You lose four Game 7s at home, and he has nothing really do with what we did on the ice. We’re performing, we’re playing and we have to hold ourselves accountable. And I think a lot of guys are doing that.”