Columnist wonders why players snub Preds

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Nashville Predators GM David Poile is going to great lengths to remodel his team in new head coach Peter Laviolette’s image. Unfortunately, in pursuing attractive targets, they opened the door for some high-profile rejections.

Jason Spezza nixed one (if not two) chances to relocate to Nashville. Ryan Kesler placed the Predators on his no-trade list, too.

So, what’s the deal? The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper provided three interesting hypotheses that we’ll break down a little bit further:

1. They give off the  “feel of an expansion team” to some.

Cooper provides an anecdote that would probably be unsettling to Poile & Co. after years of building things up in the Nashville market:

A former player joked with me on the phone during a recent interview, “Are the Predators still rebuilding?” It was said in jest, but players talk, and if that’s the vibe about here from other players, then that’s not good.

To be fair, the Predators are rebuilding, or at least retooling. After years of being a grind-it-out, defense-first-second-and-last team, Poile acquired James Neal and hired Laviolette to change to a more offensive-minded setup.

So far, it looks like they’re off to a good start, but there’s still clearly plenty of work to be done.

2. The Shea Weber situation

For better or worse, the Predators matched the big offer sheet the Philadelphia Flyers sent Weber’s way.

This might be an overrated situation in some ways, yet it’s not a great sign when your biggest homegrown star wants out. What really might be the egg-on-face moment could be Ryan Suter walking; beyond his departure to an eventual division rival, there was some drama between Suter and Poile after he left.

(It’s probably not fair to pin all of the blame on the Predators for the Alex Radulov fiasco, yet that’s another moment the franchise would like to forget. It can’t make star players feel too optimistic that things have worked out so poorly with Nashville’s rare “high-end” guys.)

3. A lack of recent success

Bad luck or not, the Predators have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons. The franchise also hasn’t ever advanced to a conference final series, bowing out in the second round twice.

In these trade situations, you’re talking about guys whose contracts are covered for the 2014-15 campaign (if not longer), so getting on a winning team is the top priority. Aside from maybe Poile himself, few would point to the Predators as an elite team heading into next season. There’s no doubt that such a thought must have occurred to Spezza and Kesler.

***

As Cooper mentions, the Predators are building a nice following in Nashville and the city has its perks: delicious barbecue, no state income tax and warmer weather.

Ultimately, they best drawing card is still winning. The Predators need to do more of that if they expect to land big fish in the future.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.