And Then A Step to the Right

With the impending move of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg chatter has renewed as to what team will replace the Thrashers in the East.  There are two popular theories: the first is that one of the Detroit or Columbus would go East since those cities are in the eastern time zone, while the second is that Nashville will move to the East since it is in position to slip into the Southeast division.  The major conversation among my fellow Predators fans is whether the conference move would be a boon or a curse on the team.  My own viewpoint is that I would much rather the team remains in the Western Conference, and so I shall explain.

The first thing is time zones.  Nashville would be the first and only team in the EC that will be in the central time zone.  It is guaranteed that most of our road games will now have a 6:00cst start, rolling everything back an hour and making it variably difficult for people to get home and settle in before the game starts.  In some cases commuters will probably go from the door to couch without much choice if they want to catch the game.  I cannot help but wonder what sort of impact could this have on viewership and ratings?  An hour can make quite a difference.  Of course the advantage here is that fans will no longer have to contend with nearly as many 8 and 9 cst starts.

The other problem is the level of competition in the EC.  The widely held opinion is that even the weaker teams in the West would compete for playoff berths if they were located in the East.  Playing the Panthers and Senators and Hurricanes more times every year will certainly be far less exciting than playing the Sharks, Ducks, Stars, or even the Oilers.  That competition makes the Predators a better team and put a better entertainment product on the ice.  So, the team might not only lose viewers due to a time shift, but also due to a fewer number of engaging hockey games.

But someone has to move to the Eastern Conference: does the NHL send one of the two WC, but eastern time zone, teams of the Detroit Red Wings or the Columbus Blue Jackets?  Traditionalists would likely favor sending the Red Wings back into the East, but that doesn't make a lot of sense for the league.  Moving Detroit away leaves the West with a single Original 6 team in the Blackhawks and removes an iconic and constantly competitive team from the WC.  Further the Red Wings have maintained a number of rivalries in the West; it would be a minus to the league to strip away those rivalries.  Then there are the Blue Jackets.  Columbus is a team with some talent that has continued to struggle in the competitive WC and the ultra-competitive Central Division.  A move to the East would likely give the Jackets the ability to compete at a higher level and bring success to the struggling franchise.  It further helps the teams by easing their travel schedule and placing them back into their natural time zone.

If Gary Bettman and the league are interested in making money and making Sunbelt hockey success Nashville needs to remain locked in the Western Conference.

Also, don't forget to check out my continued parody of Stanley Cup Playoff predictions


Stanley Cup Final Prediction: According to My Notes: You Like Baseball, I Like Ghosts edition

It seems like just a little bit ago that the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs took off with multiple teams player games seven days a week. Now it is… wow… the finals start in June? I feel like we should just ahead and spread the season out over the entire twelve months, or at least ten or eleven. Could you imagine how much football players would whine if the NFL season ran from October to June? Ok, but we’ve got a recap to do!

I think that this was one of my stronger rounds for predictions. Not only did I nail the Vancouver in 5 predictions, but the only thing that I got wrong fro the TB/Bos series was the winner! If we’re issuing partial credit on a sliding scale with +/- for the number of games, then my performance was downright dominating.


Friday Music and Hockey Talk

We're coming up to another weekend and that means me sitting down and putting together another couple of album reviews.  As always my goal is to provide a flavor of an album rather than break the album down into pieces and analyze the life out of and every song.  It feels like respecting the music as art, but it could also just an excuse for a little bit of laziness.

After tonight we'll finally know which two teams will be meeting in this years Stanley Cup Finals, and that means I'll have to right my last round of predictions for the summer.  Still, I think that the safe pick is Vancouver in any number of games.  Over the past few days I've been going back and forth between the pair of Eastern teams that will battle tonight for the Prince of Wales trophy.  Neither of them seems entirely well suited towards beating the Canucks.  On one side you have Tampa Bay with questions in goaltending and questions in the defensive zone.  Their 1-3-1 system that got them to the Finals isn't standing up to hard forechecking of the Bruins, and their goaltending is not bailing them out of the bad situations.  As for the Boston Bruins, it is amazing that they have made it this deep into the playoffs with such a terrible powerplay.  They have been so solid defensively and play well five on five and they have Tim Thomas in net.  While he hasn't been spectacular in this round, it doesn't mean he won't be if he is in the finals.  Which of the two teams have a better chance against the Canucks?  I'm leaning towards Boston even with their anemic powerplay.

Now that the hockey talk is done let us move on to the music for today.


New Releases from Have Nots and Face to Face, Thursday might as well be Friday

I have a couple of new album reviews for you today.  Both of these are some of my favorites so far, and I am excited to be able to share them with folks.

Have Nots – Proud (CD and MP3 iTunes Link)

When I reviewed Have Nots first album Serf City USA I already knew several things. The band consisted of members of two Boston bands, ska punk outfit Stray Bullets and the pure punk rock of Chicago Typewriter. I praised Serf City for it’s fusion of the speed and catchy ska riffs from the Stray Bullets with the melodic sensibilities of Chicago Typewriter. On the Have Nots second album Proud we find the same fusion but augmented with all new sounds that go further to showcase the bands that influence the band. If I picked a single band that Serf City reminded me of I would easy say the Suicide Machines, but the new album mixes in the feel from bands such as Rancid and The Clash. The blend of new styles certainly breaks the album up and means that the best tracks really stand out. One of the big things is that instead of blasting through at all 14 tracks at various breakneck speeds, there is a lot more variation in tempo. I was thinking about picking out a few tracks that stood out as the absolute best, but that is a tall order. What I can easily say is that the songs sit on hill with Dead Man sitting right at the top.

Dead Man - Link to the song, really worth a listen

And for the truly lazy and/or interested:

Face to Face – Laugh Now, Laugh Later (the store should be somewhere... iTunes Link)

It has been a long time since a new Face to Face album was released upon this Earth. It also just so happens that Face to Face was one of the bands that introduced me to the world of punk rock all those years ago, so I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the band and front man Trever Keith. I was nervous about this release because the band has tended to release a good album followed by a weaker effort, and 2002 found us listening to the enjoyable How To Ruin Everything. Fortunately eleven years seems to have been long enough to avoid that particular cycle. Throughout these eleven tracks the listener is treated to some classic 90s melodic punk rock, which means this is a great summer soundtrack (something sorely needed in the absence of new material from The Gaslight Anthem). In a world were reunions of seminal punk bands coincide with banal sounding music, Face to Face instead delivered an album packed with quality tunes just chock full of the band’s signature sound.


Stop Trying To Steal Our Cake Simmons!

Via twitter Steve Simmons, a spots columnist for the Toronto Sun, expressed that in his perfect world Nashville, Florida, Atlanta, Columbus, New York Islanders, and Phoenix would be eliminated, leaving with 24 teams. Clearly this list includes several troubled franchises that have suffered from finance and attendance issues of late. Several of these teams have also been incredibly bad for an extended period of time. One of these teams has not been bad for some time and has only seen rises in attendance since the lockout.

Us Nashville Predators fans are an understandably sensitive lot when it comes to media and other fans attack the existence of our team. During the recent playoff run we were treated to a nice period where the NHL go to see what hockey is like in Nashville, and everyone was shown that the team was set in a hockey city. Still, we’ve dealt with comments like Simmons’ before, so it’s nothing to get worked up about. At least, that is until he asks one of the questions that drives me crazy:
“If the Preds had six straight years out of the playoffs, would they still sell tickets?”
That is a deceptive and just plain silly thing to ask. A popular saying in the NHL fan circles is, “if you put a good team on the ice, then people will buy tickets.” Simmons is basically asking Predators fans what would happen if Poile stopped doing what he’s done so well and then went about signing players like he were running the New York Rangers. To put it another way, if any service or product is proven subpar, then no one is going to buy it. In the world of professional sports, the only reason that certain franchises succeed in spite of their failure to produce on the ice/field/court is due to allegiance and fanaticism.

Most Canadian teams have not had to deal with such issues because hockey is part of the culture as it has been for well over a hundred years. The same applies, to a lesser extent, to many other northern cities were hockey was already being played. Starting those franchises in these places was like opening a new church in Chattanooga’s Hamilton County. If you remove the fanaticism from the equation, teams have to provide a product that people want to consume. In successful “non-traditional” markets there is the opportunity to build such a following by doing what the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars have done, which is bringing hockey to the community. You combine a front office whose goal is long-term stability through quality of product and service as well as strong brand awareness and connection with the consumers and you start to reach towards consumer devotion. At that point you can hold onto the fan base during non-playoff years.

So, would ticket sales decline if the Preds were struggling to win on the ice? Yes, and that is just as true on Long Island as it is in Colorado and Detroit.

Ok, here is my qualifier: Yeah, Simmons was just saying in his fantasy world this is how it would be, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the right to respond, especially if he issues a challenge to Preds fans like he did.

Also, the Predators had better regular season attendance numbers than a Sunbelt team that didn’t make the list, the Tampa Bay Lightning. What is up with that?


Playoff Predictions 3: Sycophants and Hypocrites, how we learned to love green tea edition

If you want to catch up on my pointless and misguided Playoff Predictions check out the First and Second round.

Did I do poorly with my second round predictions or what? I guess those magic dice weren’t all that magical, for this they will be disciplined. You could probably say that I am a tad upset over the Predators losing to the Canucks, especially since the team managed to win a grand total of zero games on home ice in the second round. Still, the team reached far this season, and I can now look forward with anticipation for a more mature and healthy team next year.

Now, back to my second round predictions. The only prediction that I got anywhere near correct was calling the Sharks in 6. It took them seven games because the entire team momentarily confused Niemi for Nabakov and promptly stopped giving a shit. Fortunately for everyone cheering against the Red Wings—because seriously who cheers for the San Jose—the boys in teal black managed to stop trying to reenact their favorite scenes from The Cutting Edge 2. All my other predictions were unmitigated disasters as the Flyers and Capitals managed to reinforce the stereotype that all Eastern Conference teams suck.

Well then, let’s move on to my predictions for the Eastern and Western Conference Finals!


Some End of Season Thoughts

Today marks the first day since September 24, 2010 that I can wake up in the morning and not look forward to more Nashville Predators hockey.  As anyone reading this probably knows, the reason for the absence of anticipation is the victory of the Vancouver Canucks.  In all honesty the better team won the game and took the series.  I am proud that our boys broke past the first round and pushed the Canucks as hard as they could, though maybe not as hard as they would have liked.  Ultimately there is quite a bit to celebrate about this season, and I wanted to take note of some of things that stood out to me.

  • Several late season call-ups stole spots on the rosters and allowed for guys like Colin Wilson and JP Dumont to be benched.  Jonathan Blum in particular was a revelation, as I had to remind myself that this guy was living in Milwaukee until the end of February.  Having only played 23 regular season games, if he makes the team next fall maybe he will compete for the Calder.  Matt Halischuk certainly has some fire and played solid Predators hockey.  Hustlechuk also has support scorer written all over him, and I can tell he's the kind of guy Trotz likes having around.  Finally we've Blake Geoffrion, the kid that we've all been waiting for.  Blake has shown that he can use his body and that he's willing to go in the nasty areas to score the dirty goals, two big things that will make him successful in the NHL.  It has been casually noted that Bam Bam always has an adjustment period before he is effective at each level of hockey.  Well, if we're just seeing his adjustment period I am ecstatic about the future.
  • And then we have Colin Wilson.  Wilson impressed during his call-ups in the '09-10 season.  The kid had fire in his stride, drove to the net, and had some real finesse with his stick.  To start this season it looked like we were getting the Colin Wilson we were excited about, sadly that euphoria did not last.  Most of the season his play was uninspired and #33 might as well have been invisible.  I'd like to chalk it all up to a sophomore slump.  In the final game of the playoffs he seemed to have found his fire, let's all hope that he can bring it back next year.
  • Kevin Klein continues to be awful.  Seriously awful.  As I've been found of saying all year, the guy is a very talented hockey player that lacks hockey smarts.  He improved playing next to Blum since I imagine Blum was more qualified to order Mr. Squinty McDevil Beard around the ice.  He's signed on through the 2014 season, so here is hoping that between Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Charles-Olivier Roussel one of them can bury him as the 6th or 7th defenseman.
  • Hornqvist had a rough year, everyone was expecting him and made his life hellish in front of the net.  I wanted 25 goals out of him this season and he managed 21, not too far off.  Let's hope he keeps strengthening his legs and core, because that will only make him more effective.
  • I originally bemoaned the acquisition of Sergei Kostitsyn, and I was wrong.  Tits made his presence known, although he could tand to shoot more and make drop passes at the blue line less. The big question is how much it will cost to keep the Belarusian on the team.
  • I also have to wonder who we lose in the off season.  Sullivan and O'Brien are the easy picks for players that won't get new contracts, but then you've got UFAs Goc and Ward and then RFAs Spaling, Halischuk, Kostitsyn and O'Reilly.  With Wilson, Geoffrion, Legwand, Fisher, Lombardi, and Smithson all under contract, how much room is there for O'Reilly and Goc?  All the RFAs except O'Reilly have a spot, and Ward fought past a poor regular season with a stellar postseason, but we'll have to see if it was enough to earn him a new contract.
  • I don't think that Ward will continue his playoff level production, but it was nice to seem him come alive in the playoffs.  He's certainly proved that he can be an effective hockey player in a myriad of situations.
  • One thing that I made a note of is that with new uniform coming next year, Game 6 may very well have been the final appearance of the Predators' classic uniforms.  I say classic since the only major change to the uniforms was some minor aesthetic changes when the NHL switched to Reebok Edge jerseys.  As a jersey enthusiast I feel sad to seem them go, but excited that we're experiencing our first team re-branding, which means we're only a dozen jerseys changes behind the Canucks.
  • What about Bouillon and Lombardi?  Both of them have been suffering from concussion symptoms for extended periods of time, and the team has given no indication of a timeline.  Concussions are tricky and dangerous, so it's far better to have no expectations than risk the health of the player.  Lombardi is signed for another two seasons and his contributions are a mystery, while Bouillon is only contracted through next season.  Bouillon has a family and will turne 36 early into next season, if he can't shake the concussion symptoms we may see him retire.  Matthew Lombardi is a mystery.  Preds fans aren't even sure that the guy still exists, and sitings of the player are greeted with mock excitement.  If he's ready to go next season then he has the potential to be a game changer.
  • UPDATE: I forgot to mention one thing about the playoffs.  You can't expect to make a deep playoff run when you're power play and your penalty kill units are not clicking.  The Preds struggled to be consistent on both fronts for both rounds of the playoffs.  They've got another summer and preseason to try and get the power play back on track.  I'll remain overly optimistic and believe in a middle of the pack power play.
All things considered it was an excellent season that exceeded fan and media expectations.  Average attendance was up, the new management showed a willingness to spend money, and the talent is on the rise.  Beyond the draft there is a lot to look forward to next season.  One big thing is that we no longer live for the opportunity to crack the second round of the playoffs.  The team will have new expectations and a new image entering into the 2011-2012 season, and it should be an incredibly exciting season.