Reflection after the emotion of a playoff series can be an insightful process. Like Shane Doan in the handshake line after a crushing defeat in OT to end the season, making sense of disaster right after the disaster is a fool’s journey. So, with multiple weeks to think on our exit from the playoffs, I’ve settled on the tipping point, the game-changer, the precise moment the worm turned, the I-wish-I-had-a-mulligan point in time.
Prior to “Game 2”, the most gut wrenching point in Pred history had been “Game 5”. The infamous Martin Erat brain-fart. We remember it well. Storms had hit Nashville. Channel 4 switched to storm coverage, relegating Game 5 between the Preds and the Hawks to a multi-inch box in the top corner of the screen. Then even the box disappeared and we were sent frantically looking thru the Comcast guide for the Telemundo channel. All this happening while we protecting a one-goal lead and draw a penalty within the final 2 minutes. We are gonna win this game and go up 3-2 in the series. All we have to do is kill off our own power play. Predheads know what followed. Erat tries to pass to Arnott from the backboards to the slot, it misses and initiates an odd-man rush for the Hawks, who convert, tie the game short-handed, and go on to win in OT. We lose Game 6 and we’re one-and-done again.
Game 5 was devastating in its suddenness and bone headedness. The piercing pain was abrupt, deep, and agonizing. Nothing could be worse.
…. Or so we thought.
Fast forward to April, 2012. We have a very good team with confidence that the one-and-done days are over. This is not your father’s Preds. We load up at the deadline, and then bring the Conquering, Prodigal Russian home for the stretch run and the playoffs. We are now loaded. We’re healthy-scratching players who played top 6 minutes earlier in the year. We’re getting respect past the small-market-team-that-could model we’ve ridden for 13 years. This team has Cup potential. We draw Detroit in the 1st round. No luck at all. We have our best team in years and now we have to beat our Big Brother just to make the 2nd round. Pred Nation is nervous, until the series starts. We knock them out in 5, and in convincing fashion. The Pred Engine is running on all cylinders. Even without Gill, Goose is winning face-offs, AK46 is a force, and Rads leads the team in points. Our new additions have helped make us a force.
We enjoy a week off between rounds, waiting for our next opponent. Best week of our Pred lives. Boards are full of accolades and anticipation for a deep run. Yotes finally knock off the Hawks and the talking heads are picking us. The only thing that stands between us and the Conference Finals is the freakin’ Phoenix Coyotes. Only down side is we don’t get home ice. No problem.
Freeze-Frame: Snapshot of the SOTP “State of the Preds”:
Rads is the O-star we’ve craved. Game-changer. Get him signed. $6mm … $7mm … whatever it takes. Our home-grown prodigal son has returned: Bigger, Stronger, more mature, a team-player, and another piece we need to convince Webs-Suts to sign onto the long term Pred train.
AK46 is another DP find. Misunderstood in Montreal. Big, strong, fast and an O-threat. Top 6 player reunited with his Bro. Both proven they’re different people than the cartoon characters portrayed by the press north of the border. Sign him long term, with his brother and Rads. Belarus, Russia, and Nashville, the UN would be proud. It’s a small world after all.
Goose cost us a 1st rounder but man this guy can win face-offs. He’s Smithson without the damning pictures of Trotz with farm animals. He’s tough, seasoned, and exactly what we needed in a 4th line center and face-off specialist. Sign him too. What a future we have.
Hal (don’t call me Vince) Gill. 6’7” with a wingspan from Broadway to Church street. Yeah, has Bill Houlder speed but he rarely crosses center red anyway. Plus is bringing Josi along as a mentor. Kills penalties like a mofo and he’s great in-the-room. We’d like him for a whole season next year too.
DP and Trotz are again hailed as the most-bestest GM/Coach tandem in the league. DP is up for GM of the Year. Trotz isn’t but should be. After beating Detroit, the NHL –brass swing open their arms and welcome the Preds as a real NHL team for maybe the first time. The longevity of our management team is the envy of the league. Nashville always does it right and now it’s paying off big time. They will be here for life because they’ve shown a league that disposes of management like tissue paper, that there’s a different way. The Pred Way. God, it gives me the tingly feeling all over.
Financially, despite the Tennessean running a “Preds are still not profitable Nana-nana-poo-poo” front page story during the successful playoff run, Pred Inc never looked better. 25 sellouts, corp sponsors for bathroom breaks at whistles, and a pledge to spend to the Cap, this is The Promised Land for the Old Testament Pred faithful. Moses Leipold led us thru the desert, pledging to take us to The Promised Land, but like Moses, was never meant to get there with us.
And finally, the litmus test of all-that-is-Pred, the eternal, defining question that will shape this franchises very existence, the final nail in the we’re-not-good-enough coffin: Will Suter and Weber sign long term? Well, coming off the dismantling of the FRIGGIN’ DETROIT RED WINGS, the epitome of the place players like Sutes and Webs dream of playing, we’re feeling confident. The story goes, Suter (first indication of how this will play out since he’ll be a UFA) demanded DP prove he’ll “add the pieces” to make the Preds a true contender. A variant of “Show Me The Money”, Ryan threw the gauntlet down. DP responded with Gill/AK46/Goose/Rads. Like the proud outside cat bringing the dead mouse in its mouth to the front door to show Mom and Dad, DP dropped Gill/AK46/Goose/Rads in front of Ryan and said, “See. Didn’t I do good?”. And he did. The 6 cylinder Regular Season Pred Engine had been replaced with a V-8 to die for. And we used it to run right over the Wings. The little brother finally grew big enough to beat up the older, bigger brother.
Prior to the puck dropping for Game 1 of the Yotes Series, the Pred IPO achieved Facebook IPO status just before shares were tendered to retail buyers. Stealing the Dores lie and turning it into the truth, in Nashville it was finally “Good to be Gold”.
Game 1 starts predictably. We’re rusty and they’re not. We fall behind but keep tying it up. As the game hits the midpoint, we begin to dominate. Smith plays out-his-ass but we’re pressing. We’re young, strong George Foreman pounding away at Ali on the ropes. However, unlike the Thrilla, we’re gonna win. How can we not. We’re clearly better.
Game 1 goes to OT. Fertile ground for the OT-happy-Yotes as nearly every one of the Hawk games eventually paid time-and-a-half. New ground for our Gold Guys. Geez, we’ve been so good, we’re the only team still in the playoffs who didn’t need to go to OT to win. Mere bag of shells. OT begins as the 3rd period ended. We’re all over them. Only a matter of time ….. until a weird thing happened. They scored. Lucky fools. Look at them jumping up and down. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Oh well. We lost. But we proved we’re better. They know we’re better. Now that the rust is off, we’ll play the entire Game 2 like we played the 2nd half of Game 1, and we’ll smoke ‘em. Bring a split back to The Bridge, and we’re on our way to a 5 game series. All is still good in Pred Nation. Can’t wait until Sunday. NBC telecast. National stage. Redemption. Drop the dang puck.
Ever have that feeling right after something really bad happens (like a car accident), that you wish you could rewind time back to just before it happened, and change the outcome? Pre-game time before “Game 2” was that time. While Pred Nation settled into their favorite lucky chair, couch, bar stool, viewing location, and assumed the game-face, unbeknownst to any of us, cancer cells had entered the Body-Pred and begun to spread. On the outside, we looked like the same golden warriors reading to put a whuppin’ on the Yotes by playing Pred-hockey. On the inside, in the private dark places we rarely see, the seeds of our demise had been planted. The sleeper cell. The Trojan horse. The virus. As the puck was about to drop, little did we know the Head Gamemaker had constructed a plot to undo the” Tributes from District 17,113” in the NHL Hunger Games.
I won’t cause additional pain by reliving the thrashing we took in “Game 2”. Almost as if we were under a spell, we forgot how to play defense, played opportunistic offense and actually kept it within reach until it wasn’t. We got completely outplayed by a skill-less team of pred-wanna-bes. To add insult to upper-body-injury, Mike Jones viciously unveils a public-video-undressing of Rads between periods in front of a national hockey audience. When done, Rads was reduced to Russian Rubble. Our star had been dissected in front of our eyes. Little did we know the story-behind-the-story.
After the game, “The Scandal” emerges. Our two Russian wild-and-crazy-guys, Rads and AK46, “violated team rules” and were suspended for one game. What? What was it? Drugs? Crime? Political espionage? Sex? Nope. As the details emerge, they missed curfew BEFORE “Game 2”. What? No wonder Rads played like Sergei Krivokrasov after being exhausted from his latest night of domestic violence. Details. I need details!!! They start to tweet out. 4:00am. Partying in Scottsboro. Arguments over exactly how many miles away from the team hotel erupted. Who do these guys think they are, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle? Stories about playing big games wasted should only surface in retirement while BSing with Crispy between periods of a Pred-Oiler game in November when you’re 50.
Our Pope and Cardinal (DP and Trotz) huddle and immediately suspend them on moral team rules grounds. This kind of stuff may get swept under the ice in NY or Philly, but not Smashville. Our values trump our ambitions.
The hockey world and Pred Nation are first shocked, and then applaud The Right Reverend Dr. Billy Sol Trotz. Down 2-0, this fine upstanding organization will risk it’s playoff life to stand by its principles. Wow. More tingles. It’s not only “Good to be Gold”, it’s Right to be Gold. Tough love, Pred style.
We bring back the ol’ familiar names: Wilson and Toots. Less skill, more grit. We’re gonna get back into this series the way we got in it: PLAYING PREDATOR HOCKEY. And we did. Two turnover goals, a great Pekka performance, and faster than you can say: “we got more detail in our game, went to the hard places, and played a full 60 minutes”, we’re back in the series, 2 games to 1.
But wait, it gets better. WE DID IT THE RIGHT WAY. OUR WAY. THE PRED WAY. Usually, when you stand by your principles and issue tough love, there’s a short term price to pay. Not in Smashville!!!! We did it right AND WON. We’re back. We’re gonna roll ‘em now. And now that Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd have learned their lesson, they can come back redeemed, remorseful, and eager to make up for their indiscretions. How great is this!!!
But wait, The Right Reverend Dr. Billy Sol Trotz has been to the Mountain Top, consulted privately with The Hockey Gods, and returned with the remains of the original broken tablet and found the long lost 11th Commandment! OMG!!! It’s really hard to make out but it appears to say: Thou Shalt Not Change the Line-up After a Win. Praise be to Colin Campbell. Amen.
The Nashville Predators will intentionally not put their best team on the ice for Game 4.
And they didn’t.
And we lost.
Now free from the 11th Commandment, Cowboy Trotz proceeds to close the barn door AFTER all the horses have fled, and reinserts our dynamic duo, and we lose Game 5, the series, our hopes, our dreams, our dignity, our new-found standing in the NHL Cool Kids table, and potentially our future.
All of a sudden, the new rebuilt V-8 Pred Engine stalls. The “pieces” fall to pieces. AK46 – selfish nickname for Richard. Don’t resign him. SK46 – openly questions management’s harsh reaction to the boys-being-boys thing and defends his bro. Yer out for insubordination. Rads – 1st time betrayed, shame on you; 2nd time, shame on us. Go back to Mother Russia. You’re not that good!! Gill/Goose – you’re both old and we don’t re-sign old people even thou we give up 1st and 2nd’s to get you here. Bye.
Ryan Suter. The “Ken Doll” in Smashville’s on-going Mystery Date board game. You pressured us to “put out” to show our undying love for you. Against our conservative values, we gave in to you at the trade deadline. It all felt so right in the heat of the playoff-night. Now somehow the “next morning” doesn’t feel so good. You appear distant. Rushing out and saying you need a few weeks to “clear your head”. My head is telling me you’re like all the others. A User. Only out for yourself. But my heart says, no, you’re different. We’ve been together since grade school. I know your heart. Or at least I thought I did. Your two weeks is up. It sounds like you’re needing to “see other people” before you can re-commit. We know what that means. Go on, get out. You’re dead to me.
Shea. Will he be the last domino to fall? So far he’s saying the right things but nothing feels right anymore. If he doesn’t sign a long term deal and does the one year then we’ll reassess, TRADE HIM. We will not be played again by another star defenseman we created from nothing.
DP & Trotz. The Game 4 decision was roundly panned by nearly everyone in hockey, even before the outcome. The lousy outcome just confirmed it. Our flawless duo is now being buried with second-guessing and the worst sin imaginable in Smashville:
Innocence Lost. A fighter beaten. The Kid from Smashville coulda had a shot at the title. The kid trusted his coach. Barry let The Kid down. The Kid could have been somebody …….
From On The Waterfront: (Cumberland addition)
Marlon (Pred) Brando: It wasn’t him, Barry, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, “Kid, this ain’t your night. We’re going for the price on the Coyotes.” You remember that? “This ain’t your night”! My night! I coulda taken the Coyotes apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my coach, Barry, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn’t have to take them dives for the short-end money. You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Barry.
Great story. You have a bright future in creative writing you could make millions. I agree the 2 newest additions were truly your downfall at the deadline and just prior to it. The Apparent me before we attitude screwed your locker room and that sucks huge for you the fans and the rest of the guys pulling their weight within your organization.
Last edited by 29dryden29: 05-25-2012 at 03:37 PM.
Like Nichols' spear to a Sharks' nuts, and Erat's, we'll Erat's pass, I feel these are just dues being paid. Sometimes you gotta get booed off the stage to before you are able to fully reach your goal.
I thought the Yotes would fold after we won the 3rd game, I though Radulov would come out in game 4 and redeem himself. Can't say I fault the staff for sitting them the second game, but at that point, they were in a no-win situation.
I don't feel a tinge of sorrow for PHO, I felt the attitude that Smith had in our series was the same he has shown after the Kings destroyed him. Difference was he didn't have to whine about a loss, just played the martyr a little too much for my taste.
Isn't it interesting how by the end of the Cup Finals, almost all fan bases who made the playoffs and won a round end up feeling the same, except for the Cup winner.
If ur are a Yote or Ranger fan this morning, does the fact that you won Round 2 make you feel any different than we felt when we lost? Winning feels great, and losing sucks.
I think there a 3 levels of success in pro sports:
Making the playoffs - clearly the goal of all teams and the consisent measure of success for the fan base.
Winning one or more rounds in the playoffs - Its the satisfaction of winning a series coupled with the anticipation that you could win it all.
Winning the championship - The Holy Grail of sports. Its extremely rare, even for the most consistently good teams, and when it happens, its cherished for life.
Since only one team wins it all, and it'll happen once every 10 years for the real good teams, once every 25 years for the average teams, and never for the bottom tier, winning it all can't be the ultimate measure of success. Its too rare.
Making the playoffs and winning one or more rounds is therefore THE consistent measure of success. You're good enough to make the playoffs, and you win one ore more rounds so you are good enough to win it all. Its the rational anticipation of winning it all that makes sports fun. Being "in it".
We're "in it". Until we win a Cup, we're an average team, however we've moved from Tier 0 - no playoffs, to Tier 1 - consistently making the playoffs, to Tier 2 - consisently winning rounds.
Experiencing the failure that began with "Game 2" is a privledge earning by achievingi Tier 2 status.