With Wednesday’s announcement that that there is an agreement in place to remove the “Boots” Del Biaggio black cloud from the Predators horizon, the team my be in the best position on all fronts that it has seen since the franchise was conceived. Once the final paperwork is completed next month, giving the current owners 100% interest in the team, the Preds ownership group will have much more leeway to plan their own destiny without having to wait for the other shoe to fall from an outside entity that they can’t control.
With a good base of strong local ownership that is committed to bringing the Cup to Nashville, they will be in a much better position to sell the game, grow the sport, and attract additional capital. A new naming rights deal with Bridgestone at the end of last season will be a springboard to additional corporate support as the economy improves.
The hockey operations staff is one of the best in the NHL with GM David Poile and Coach Barry Trotz both in the top three for awards in their positions last season. The two together have exceeded expectations consistently and have defied the hockey pundits by making the playoffs five of the last six seasons.
By drafting and acquiring players that fit the mold of “The Predator’s Way,” they have created a special brand of teamwork where all 20 players have to be “all in” giving 100% every time they hit the ice. There is no “star” system. As a group, the team is far better than the sum of individual players.
On the ice, the Predators will start training camp in September with an abundance of riches and probably lose a few good players through the waiver wire because they can’t find enough slots on the roster to keep them around. With the ownership on more solid ground, the Preds will be in a better position to sign keep homegrown players like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Patrick Hornqvist before they gain free agent status.
The future is even brighter with Hockey’s Future ranking the Predator’s prospects as being number one in the entire league. Players like Colin Wilson and Cody Franson debuted last year and should have breakout years in the coming season. For others like Brentwood native, Blake Geoffrion, Jon Blum, and Ryan Ellis, it is just a matter of time before they will become impact players at the NHL level.
Attendance has held firm, even in a poor economy with high local unemployment. The Predators are one deep run into the playoffs away from adding the 2500 fans per game that will make a ticket to a Preds game tough to come by. While some have labeled Nashville a “non-traditional” hockey market, as each year passes, and hurdles have been overcome, it’s looking more and more like the Predator brand of hockey is becoming a mainstay on the NHL scene.
Opening night is Saturday, October 9. This will be the year that much of the past “potential” will blossom and should provide Predator fans with the best season yet.