Offseason Report: Nashville Predators

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From July 16-Aug 16, we’ll be profiling all 30 NHL teams by recapping what they did this offseason and previewing their upcoming campaigns.

2011-12 season

48-26-8, 104 points. Second in the Central Division, fourth in the Western Conference. Lost in the Western Conference Semi-Finals to Phoenix (4-1).

Additions

Mike Moore, Chris Mason

Departures

Ryan Suter, Alexander Radulov, Jack Hillen, Tyler Sloan, Francis Bouillon, Jordin Tootoo, Kyle Wilson, Anders Lindback, maybe Shea Weber, likely Andrei Kostitsyn (who is still an UFA)

2012 Draft

Didn’t have a first-round pick. Took Pontus Aberg with the 37th overall selection and Colton Sissons with the 50th pick.

Looking back

This has been a rough summer for the Predators. After a disappointing end to their playoff run, Nashville watched a number of players go, including Ryan Suter. On top of that, Shea Weber agreed to a massively frontloaded 14-year, $110 million offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Predators GM David Poile took Suter’s decision hard. Among other things, he said that he “will never, ever” understand why Suter would choose to pass on the opportunity to spend his career playing alongside Weber.

After Suter left, Poile said, “[Weber] believes in us, sees himself as the leader of our hockey club, and I think he, a lot like us, is disappointed with the outcome with Ryan.”

Poile then turned his attention to signing Weber to a long-term contract, but obviously that hasn’t gone the way he hoped either.

Looking forward

First and foremost, the Nashville Predators need to either match Philadelphia’s offer sheet or let him play with the Flyers and accept the draft picks as compensation. If they chose the latter option, they might then trade some or all of those picks back to Philadelphia for established players or prospects.

Either way, that won’t be the last thing Nashville does this summer. Sergei Kostitsyn has an arbitration date set for Aug. 2. On top of that, Nashville is still well under the salary floor, so they’ll probably make a move to address that issue.

Their blueline will be an obvious concern next season, but for a team that just lost Ryan Suter and maybe Shea Weber, the situation isn’t quite as dire as one might suspect. They do have some promising young defensemen Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Jonathon Blum that are expected to play bigger roles next season.

Have your say

Vote in our poll and let us know what you think of the Predators’ 2012-13 outlook in the comments section.

Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

graphic via NHL
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It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

Alrighty then.

Click here for more details.

 

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.