Nashville Predators ownership group gives William 'Boots' Del Biaggio the boot

predatorslogo.gifThe history of sports is littered with swaggering, more-talk-than-walk owners, especially in the not-always-financially-stable NHL. Old money guys might not be the most PR-savvy or exciting, but aside from the occasional breakthrough in the form of Mark Cuban, most of the attention-seekers tend to fall on their faces (see: the Tampa Bay Lightning’s former owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie).

So it must come as quite a relief to the Nashville Predators (and their fans) to rid their franchise of William “Boots” Del  Baggio. The team released word that their former partial owner is now completely out of the picture.

Nashville Predators Chairman Tom Cigarran announced today that the Predators ownership group has completed the purchase of the franchise ownership shares previously held by Forecheck Investments, LLC (William “Boots” Del Biaggio previously owned 83% of Forecheck Investments).

The transaction has been approved by all the necessary parties, including the National Hockey League and the Metro Nashville Sports Authority. As a result of the transaction, the local ownership group now owns more than 95% of the franchise ownership shares.

“This is a significant step for the Predators franchise on several levels,” Cigarran said. “First and foremost, it strengthens our franchise’s financial position and eliminates a significant future liability. In doing so, it closes the book on a distraction and allows the Predators and fans to move forward, focusing on what matters most – putting the best possible team on the ice and creating the best possible in-arena atmosphere and entertainment experience. Also, while the franchise was initially known as Nashville’s team because it was created here in Music City, this transaction reinforces that theme as more than 95% of the ownership shares are now held by local residents.”

Considering the team’s need to lay down local roots, it’s great to hear that the team is now 95 percent locally owned. While they are years away from being one of the league’s biggest spending teams (if they ever get to the level), you have to imagine that stable ownership could help the team go from scrappy, defensive-minded overachievers to a club that might actually be able to get past the first round of the playoffs.

The timing is right, too, when you look at the fact that their one true star Shea Weber will be a restricted free agent after next season. Sometimes blue chip players want a stable organization – not just gobs of money – to stay with a team, so this could make a big impact on Weber’s opinion of the club.

And who knows, they might be able to land promising free agents in the future, too.

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    Kyle Connor expected to be healthy scratch for Jets

    WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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    Jets rookie Kyle Connor played just 10:09 in Sunday’s outdoor loss to the Oilers, and tonight in Dallas it appears he’ll be a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career.

    Connor was not among the 12 Winnipeg forwards taking line rushes this morning. The 19-year-old has just one assist in his first five games as a Jet. He’s a minus-5 and has also struggled in terms of possession, as evidenced by his 38 percent Corsi.

    The 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Connor spent one year at the University of Michigan before leaving school to turn pro. He’s eligible to be sent to the AHL this season, something the Jets are no doubt considering.

    Winnipeg has a number of potential call-ups on its farm club, including Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Andrew Copp, Nicolas Petan, and Jack Roslovic.

    Babcock’s had his fill of goalie questions, thanks

    SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on prior to the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Mike Babcock is aware Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good this season.

    He’s also aware that Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good the last few seasons.

    Thing is, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

    “It’s five games in, isn’t it?” Babcock replied on Tuesday, when asked about the Leafs’ shaky netminding so far, specifically the play of Frederik Andersen. “Let’s just take a deep breath here.”

    And here’s a transcript of what followed (courtesy Sportsnet)!

    Reporter: The guy on Saturday night said the Leafs goaltending has been lousy this year.

    Babcock: Who did?

    Reporter: The guy on Saturday night — Don Cherry.

    Babcock: Oh, OK. Well now that I know where I’m getting my facts from, here we go. Come on. Let’s move on. What’s next here? Holy [expletive].

    Reporter: No, but seriously, it’s been an issue for this market probably since Ed Belfour left, and I’m wondering if there’s anything to that.

    Babcock: But I’m not dealing with that. This is what I would tell you. We think we have a really good goaltender. At the World Cup I had three outstanding goaltenders, and they all talked about how much time it usually takes to get ready.

    Our guy didn’t have that opportunity because of his injury. We’re real comfortable with him. Do we think he’s played as good as he’s capable of playing? No. Do we think he’s going to? Yes.

    Babcock’s right to suggest it’s too early to start grading Andersen. First, there’s the adjustment from playing behind a good team in a small market (Anaheim) to playing behind a “growing team” in a massive, pressure-packed market like Toronto.

    There’s also the additional pressure that came with Andersen’s acquisition price (a first- and second-round pick) and his subsequent contract extension (five years, $25 million).

    The injury suffered playing for Denmark in Olympic qualifying was definitely a setback, as there’s no doubt some games for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey would’ve better prepared Andersen for the season.

    Still, it’s hard to look at his numbers — 1-0-3, .879 save percentage, 3.63 GAA — and not be at least a little concerned.

    Unless you’re Mike Babcock, that is.

    Related: The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the year

    Elliott gets the start in return to St. Louis

    CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    Brian Elliott will be in Calgary’s crease against his old team tonight in St. Louis.

    Even though Elliott played last night in Chicago, it was an easy decision for Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan. Elliott had easily his best game of the season against the Blackhawks, stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory. The 31-year-old turned away all seven Chicago shooters in the breakaway competition, helping the Flames to just their second win of the young season.

    “I definitely wanted that one,” Elliott told reporters afterwards. “We haven’t been playing like we wanted to and the guys came out and had a heck of an effort.”

    Elliott started 164 games for the Blues during his five years in St. Louis. Last season, he backstopped them to their first conference final since 2001. He was then traded to Calgary in June, paving the way for Jake Allen to become the full-time starter in St. Louis.

    Related: The list of struggling goalies is a long one

    Crosby on track to make season debut tonight

    NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waits for a face-off against the 
New Jersey Devils during the third period at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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    Yesterday, Sidney Crosby participated in a full-contact practice.

    Today, it appears he’ll make his season debut when the Penguins host the Panthers tonight in Pittsburgh.

    “He had a strong practice this morning,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club. “Everything is pointing in the right direction. If he’s comfortable, he could play.”

    Crosby has missed just six games due to the concussion he sustained during practice on Oct. 7. Given his history with concussions, if he plays tonight, it has to be considered a best-case scenario. Certainly, there had been fear he could be out much longer.

    For the record, Crosby told reporters he’ll be a game-time decision.