Preds Offseason 2012: A Midsummer Night’s Dream…Or Nightmare? (Part I)

Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile has a longstanding reputation as a cool customer. However, as this summer of record-breaking heat in Music City wears on, the cards he’s being dealt are making it tough for the Preds venerable front office boss to maintain his poker face. (Photo: The Tennessean)

Hot, Bothered, and Behind the 8-Ball.
Consider my summer vacay officially concluded. And yeah, I’ve been away for awhile (to say the least), but happily I’m back in the saddle again. Now if I could just take a vacation from this miserable heat! I have to admit that I typically loathe the hellish months of July and August here in Middle Tennessee. It’s the only — and I mean only — thing that I don’t totally love about living here.

Nashville’s oppressive summer heat (particularly with this year’s record-breaking temps) generally puts me in an ill mood; however, the hit parade of misfortune that has visited upon the Nashville Predators over the past two months is making me downright surly.

Naturally, everyone else in the Preds blogging community has already weighed in; the local mainstream and national hockey media have been massaging the details for weeks, and the Tweeting Heads continue to chirp out daily reports, rumors and wishful innuendos regarding the team’s various storylines.

All have long since offered their final analysis and opinion on the Preds’ surprising five-game exodus from the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup PlayoffsWestern Conference Semifinal Series, courtesy of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Most everyone has also gotten their word in regarding the formerly-impending-and-now-realized unrestricted free agent departure of defenseman Ryan Suter, and now busily sharpen their pencils in anticipation of the next cowboy boot waiting to hit the floor: the widely-assumed trade of Nashville’s other All-Star blueliner, Team Captain Shea Weber, whom if not re-signed soon (as in the next week to 10 days) could be moved even sooner.

So now it’s my turn; and as usual, I’m bringing up the rear.

But let’s face it; I’m just about never the first one out of the gate with a story, right? However, there’s more to the reason of why I’m just now getting to my Predators postseason postmortem/free agent casualty report/Chicken Little death-match debate a full nine weeks after the fact…that is, more than simply my natural sloth-like tendencies, anyway.

Aside from a few of the same life issues that millions of other Americans continue to deal with in this current economy, there was a certain amount of intention involved in the length of time I’ve taken to collect my thoughts. For the most part, there was a cause for my pause; a modus for my slowness; a legit need for my tortoiselike speed.

While I certainly hadn’t planned on waiting quite this long, I really didn’t believe that I’d need to in order to develop the point I was intending to make. And yes, I was as surprised as anyone that things took so long to finally shake out with Suter, which resulted in a chain reaction of badness for the local team. It created a backlog of free agency moves, and even greater constipation on the NHL trade front; all of which were vital aspects of the Predators’ offseason plans.

I was obviously anxious to see what the July 1st NHL free agent frenzy would bring and what would ultimately be the true aftereffect of Nashville’s unanticipated playoff collapse. Would the team move forward, continuing to build on the considerable promise of 2011-12, despite its disappointingly premature conclusion? Or would everyone’s mood ring suddenly seem to transition from blue, to amber, to gray, to black?

In all honesty, I was neither surprised nor tremendously bothered to see Suter go; my only distress was in realizing how apparently unprepared Preds General Manager David Poile was for such a possibility. Despite the suddenly increased financial wherewithal of the Predators’ ownership group from last season to now, Suter’s departure was something that I’ve expected yet hoped I was wrong about for nearly a year.

On the other hand, I was both shocked and saddened by the news that the Tootoo Train had left the station, giving Nashville’s faithful a whole new reason to hate the Detroit Red Wings, while ironically offering them the opportunity to walk in the shoes of a Wings fan for once. It will indeed be as interesting as it will be surreal when on opening night, October 12th at The Joe in Detroit, the Predators meet the new Team Tootoo.

In retrospect, I know that I should have, but I’ve gotta say, I really didn’t see that train coming. I’ll have a lot more to say about Jordin later in this series.

That blindside aside, it was obvious there would be repercussions from an early exit at the hands of a team such as the Coyotes, against whom Nashville was favored (even heavily so in some circles). However, I seriously doubt that anyone really expected the near-Hiroshima moment that it now appears to have gripped PredsNation as a result.

In this long overdue series of posts, I’ll try my best to provide an alternative point of view.

But first, I’m persuaded that a little honesty is in order.

The Truth Comes Out
Not all sports blogs are ‘fan’ blogs. Some online media hockey sites take great pains in proving to you just how nonpartisan they are. Publication-based websites, blogs and Twitter accounts covering local teams have to appear impartial. They have absolutely no business being ‘homers’ or showing any particular fan deference to the teams they cover. Their job is to report and opine on the franchise responsibly and impartially, as per the code of good journalism. And while some do a much better job of that than others, I can certainly respect their efforts, for it is the right thing to do as a participant of a public trust like a professional news organization.

Nevertheless, despite their attempts to at least appear unaffected by the fortunes of the local team — either good or bad — writers sometimes tip their hand as to their own personal beliefs and biases. Other times editors may add their own spin to a story subject, via a subtly (or not) crafted headline that conveys an opinion even the story’s author didn’t necessarily intend to infer.

As for Predators AJenda, I have never hidden the reason that I started writing it, nor its intended purpose and/or place within the Preds blogging community. And while I am certainly bound by the responsibility of accuracy and professionalism in what I espouse and what I report, there is no way in heck I’m impartial. To imply otherwise would be a blatant fallacy.

This IS a ‘fan’ blog, and I AM a fan. I make no bones about either statement. I am likely the LEAST unaffected Preds blogger you’re gonna read. I admit it; I’m an emotional guy. To suppress those emotions just for the appearance of being ‘journalistic’ would be in direct opposition to why I write in the first place. But as I just mentioned, I know that my stance on the subject wouldn’t work for most writers if they wish to be taken seriously.

However, it doesn’t bother me in the least, because I know I’m being honest, and that’s all the validation I need.

So this point I really don’t care how unprofessional might look for me to say it, but there is another reason I hesitated to post anything in the weeks since the predators’ season came to an end. Beyond the aforementioned ‘wait and see’ of free agency and the shake-out of the respective Suter/Weber situations, something else has kept me all but completely paralyzed.

With all the angst and acrimony that has gone on with the team these past two months, I feel as though I’m being gut-punched every time I log onto the Internet.

When Nashville bowed out to Phoenix in early May, I was in shock, just like every other Preds fan.

I wasn’t angry with the team; that’s not how I operate. I didn’t shake my fist at the sky and swear to never again allow them to capture my heart and then drop it. Nope, when I fall in love, I fall hard, folks. The Predators will have to do a lot worse than fail to meet expectations in order to get rid of me.

Nevertheless, I was frustrated and not exactly all that anxious to try and convince you (or myself) that it didn’t hurt — badly. By the same token, I saw no reason to engage in a pissing match with those insisting that the series loss was all Head Coach Barry Trotz’s fault for the way he handled the disposition of his players.

And by now you well know from making the blog rounds, from PuckDaddy to USAToday to Preds on the Glass, we’ve already been drowned in an sea of opinions; many emanating from the same set of scenarios, based on the same assumptions, each asking the same questions, most of which will always be unanswerable.

Chances are, like me you’ve had it-up-to-here with the hype and conjecture over what really torpedoed the Predators’ chances in the Phoenix series; how much of a distraction Alex Radulov and Andre Kostitsyns ill-conceived curfew violation prior to Game 2 actually were; and whether or not the series would have turned out differently had their alleged desert boondoggle never occurred; and, just for fun, whether Rads would possibly have remained with the team for this coming season, as opposed to returning to Russian exile — this time, likely for good —after signing a reported four-year deal with traditional KHL power CSKA Moscow (the former ‘Red Army Team’) for a  Suteresque sum, estimated to be in excess of $9 million per.

But just in case you’re assuming that I’m now poised to reenter the fray and take someone to task for their opinions on those now-over-digested chunks of conjecture, please understand that’s not at all the course I’m choosing here. It is supremely legitimate to wonder how much this circumstance, this loss, has cost the Predators organization in emotional capital, in organizational confidence, in reputation as a destination for future free agents, and — oh yeah — in the ability to keep their own players from flying the coop.

But here’s the question: would Suter still be a Nashville Predator today if the team had advanced to the Western Conference-or-Stanley Cup Final? What if they’d won the Cup — what then? Would the seeds of disquiet that now so obviously had sprung to full bloom well before July 1st have grown so rapidly within Suter if not for the frustration of yet another early postseason exit? Or had they matured a long time ago and he just never let on?

These are all worthy points of discussion, and buddy, they have been discussed — and they’ll certainly continue to be over the balance of this hellish summer. In my next post, however, I’ll offer up perhaps a different way of looking at the playoff loss to Phoenix that may help to remove a little bit of the sting for some fans, while at the same time providing an object lesson that hopefully the Preds will never again allow themselves to forget.

I’ve taken a lot of time to think and I have a lot to say. I’ve read, I’ve listened; now I write.

As indicated earlier, this will be a multi-part series. Following my attempt to make sense (if for no one else but myself) of the 2012 playoffs, I’ll offer my take on the Suter fiasco, #WeberWatchRevisited, and the upcoming 2012-13 NHL season, along with a few other miscellaneous thoughts.

In this summer of record heat, can PredsNation keep its confidence from melting?

In coming weeks and months, when we look back on the events of 2012’s proverbial midsummer’s night of frustration, hurt feelings, and uncertainty, will the whipped-up absurdity of it all just seem like a weird dream we’re finally relieved to have awakened from…or a nightmare the effects of which the Predators will have to live with for a considerable time to come?


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Next: They came. They saw. They squandered…or did they?

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One Response to “Preds Offseason 2012: A Midsummer Night’s Dream…Or Nightmare? (Part I)”

  1. Cisat July 10, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    Good one, AJ. Quit being a tease, though, GIVE US THE NEXT COLUMN!!!

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