Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2011/12 Nashville Predators R.I.P

The Nashville Predators have been slain by the Phoenix Coyotes, an upset that took many by surprise. Preds GM David Poile added the most talent before the trade deadline, acquiring Paul Gaustad, Hall Gill, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Alex Radulov coming down the stretch. With hindsight being 20/20 perhaps they added too much too late in the season, and team chemistry was never able to catch up. Radulov and Kostitsyn breaking curfew for a night on the town before game 2 and their subsequent suspensions might have killed their season, and it's unlikely either player will be back in the fall. A lack of commitment to defense and the partying incident have reduced Radulov's North American value, so he'll probably stand to make more money by returning to the KHL than he'd make on this side of the pond.

Legwand and Radulov led the team in scoring with 6 PTS each, Gabriel Bourque scored 5 PTS in 10 GP and Andrei Kostitsyn chipped in with 4 PTS in 8 GP. Mike Smith outplayed Pekka Rinne in round 2 in a series that saw the Preds offense completely dry up when it mattered the most. Clearly a 1st round pick was too much to give up for Gaustad. Yes he won 60% of his faceoffs, but he also scored just 2 PTS in 10 GP and only averaged 11:35 per game of ice time. That's not the kind of production you need to get in return for a #1 pick. Then they traded two 2nd round picks and Blake Geoffrion to Montreal for Gill and Kostitsyn, which didn't exactly pay off, but at least came at a better price. The 2010 Montreal Canadiens advanced to the conference finals with Gill and both Kotitsyn brothers, so it's not like the Belarussian brothers have no history of winning playoff games.

This will be a difficult offseason for Poile, as he must resign 8 UFAs (A.Kostitsyn, Gaustad, Suter, Tootoo, Yip, McGrattan, Gill, Bouillon) and 7 RFAs (Weber, Radulov, S.Kostitsyn, Wilson, MacLellan, Hillen). Next year Pekka Rinne's salary bumps up to $7M. It is unclear if Poile will be given the green light to spend more money next season, now that the team flamed out in the 2nd round. Were their 5 home playoff games enough to raise the necessary money to make the necessary expenditures to keep this roster together? We'll find out this summer. We'll see how much they offer Shea Weber, but the qualifying offer will have to be at least $7.5M. I know a few absurdly optimistic Canucks fans here in Vancouver who are convinced that Weber wants nothing more than to play in British Columbia. Ryan Suter is all but gone.

It's unlikely that Nashville will be a better team next season. By the summer of 2013 they could find themselves without Suter or Weber, which would pretty much destroy any chance this team has of winning a championship anytime soon. They may have one of the best goaltenders in the league locked in to a long term contract, but look for Rinne's numbers to take a serious hit if he does not have Weber and/or Suter in front of him. The stunning sudden collapse of the Predators also helps prove that multiple players on the same team shaving Mohawk hair cuts onto their heads is never a recipe for success. Shave your head if you'd like, but with Mohawks, nobody wins.

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