Minnesota Wild v Nashville Predators

Columnist wonders why players snub Preds


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: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks

We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per NHL.com. “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault

Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).

Benn, Holtby and Galchenyuk are NHL’s three stars of the week

Cory Schneider, Alex Galchenyuk ,
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Stars winger Jamie Benn, Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From NHL.com:

Benn shared the League lead in goals (4) and points (6) as the Stars (19-5-0, 38 points) won two of three games to continue their best start to a season in the franchise’s 48-year history.

Holtby posted a 4-0-0 record with a 1.75 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout to backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings.

Galchenyuk tied for first in the NHL with four goals and added one assist to help the Canadiens (18-4-3, 39 points) earn five of a possible six points and reclaim first place in the League standings.

As much as the injuries to Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher have been frustrating for the Canadiens, those are short-term issues that should be forgotten soon enough. Galchenyuk’s play, in contrast, is reason for long-term optimism. The 21-year-old is trending towards becoming the elite No. 1 center the Habs have needed so badly. He’s not there yet, but when’s all said and done, he could turn out to be the best forward (or player, period) taken in the 2012 draft.