Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nashville: A Solid Playoff Team

Last summer was a pessimistic time to be a Nashville Predator fan. The team lost Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Tomas Vokoun, Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg to trades and free agency. The ownership situation was very uncertain and it looked like a matter of time before the Predators moved from Nashville.

Things have turned around somewhat. The Predators have been sold to a local ownership group and have been playing good hockey. Since the start of 2008, no team has more points than the Predators. They are tied with the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins with 34 points so far this year. Nashville looks like a team that should capture a playoff berth. Though they currently sit in eighth place in the West Conference, they are four points ahead of ninth place Colorado.

The team's success has come from some unexpectedly high scoring forwards. JP Dumont has 33 points since the start of the year and is tied for second in the league with that mark. I am sure nobody would have predicted that a few months ago. Jason Arnott has 28 points in that time frame. This ties him for sixth place in the league. Again, I am sure nobody would have predicted that a few months ago. Alexander Radulov has 24 points in that time frame. Again, he is likely well above expectation from a few months ago. Can these players keep up their high scoring ways? To a degree, the answer is likely yes, though it's unlikely they will score at this high a level for a sustained period of time. They clearly provide the offensive depth that many thought Nashville was lacking after all the players they lost last summer.

All is not rosy in Nashville. The Predators have outs in their lease in three years (end of the 2009/10 season) if the team does not average 14,000 fans in attendance or lose $20 million in that time. This would in all likelihood move the Predators out of Nashville. Given that the "local" ownership group's biggest investor is William "Boots" Del Biaggio, who was trying to move the team to Kansas City; this may still have been the longterm plan. It seems quite likely that both triggers to re-open the lease could be available for Predators owners. The current attendance is low and they are likely losing money.

The good news for the Predator fans is this is not a dead franchise that is just waiting to be moved. They are trying. They are putting together a team that will most likely make playoffs. The fans do not have awful hockey to watch until the move occurs.

The problem is that something huge must happen to change the Predators fortunes. It would take more than a Nashville team that is solid enough to make playoffs for this market to be financially successful. Over the short term, perhaps a Stanley Cup run is the only antidote and that is highly unlikely.

The Nashville Predators are a well-built franchise that is playing good hockey. They should make playoffs this year; to the surprise of many pundits. The process of slowly building the franchise to success is a good one and would help build a fledgling hockey market. The problem is financial circumstances won't allow the many years that this requires. Nashville will likely move before this process can be completed. It is the NHL's mistake for allowing a franchise in a place like Nashville where building things properly with good management could not build a big enough fanbase for an NHL franchise in time to save it. Nashville was not a hockey market at all in 1998 when the team expanded. They have created a good number of hockey fans in Nashville since then, but not enough to make a fanbase for an NHL franchise. It is a good thing for the NHL and for those fans that the Predators are still playing good hockey despite their problems. The fans will get to see playoffs this year. They likely won't get to see this franchise stay in their city over the longterm.

Your full of it. My Preds are not going anywhere. The average attendence is only a few hundred under fourteen thousand and now with the great decision to stop making rivalry games more expensive the games will always be sold out against the Red Wings and the Blues. The Preds will be in Nashville for at least another twelve years.
This is really making me angry that the Predators, who are fighting for their play off lives, are NOT being shown on TV on a road trip! They are playing darn good hockey! This is VERY exciting! Someone is really missing the BOAT! The only way to see the Predators games is to buy a Center Ice package, which is $119 and ends on the 3/7 or find a bar that carries the package. Four games away and NO ONE picked them up??? I understand if a home game isn't on, you can buy a ticket and go. BUT away games should all be on TV. For goodness sake Erat had a hat trick this last game and most Preds fans only heard it on the radio... FSN really blew it as far as I'm concerned and so has NBC.


Kate Childers
The Predators aren't going any where but Nashville. By the end of the season the adverages will go up to the the needed number of 14,000. The games are selling out now. Get current!
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