Columnist wonders why players snub Preds

54 Comments

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.