No, this isn't a PSA for the American Red Cross; it's a statement of fact for a hockey team. The Nashville Predators need a transfusion -- fast.
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As well as Barry Trotz' crew has played at times this season, there seems to be a fragility to this edition of Nashville's team that must be addressed soon, or there may not BE a team in Nashville in the not-too-distant future.
The Preds have been dealing with a power shortage for close to a season and a half, with the departures of Paul Kariya, Peter Foresberg, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen to trades and free agent defection. And while Coach Trotz and GM David Poille were able to keep their team from falling apart last season, guiding them to the playoffs for a fourth straight season, it was largely a paper victory, despite the fact that they extended Cup-Champion-to-be Detroit to an exciting six game series.
The fallout burns inflicted by Craig Leipold's sale of the team and the subsequent drama over a potential move out of Nashville continued to consume the flesh of this once up-and-coming NHL franchise into the offseason.
Then, as if to toss a Molotov Cocktail onto the bonfire, top prospect Alexander Radulov decided to chase the money (or was it that the money was chasing him?) back to Mother Russia, leaving an already depleted Predators offense without one of its few top scoring threats.
Needless to say it's been an iffy proposition for the Preds faithful to remain so in this trying 2008-09 season. But while the team remains clinging near the cutline to potentially make the playoffs for a fifth straight time, it appears that luck is quickly running out.
The Predators began 2008-09 scoring goals with surprising ease. That trend has unfortunately ceased to continue as we near the quarter pole of the season. Additionally, the defense, formerly the heart of the franchise's success and competitiveness has become as inconsistent as Britney Spears parenting skills.
When the Preds do score more than one or two goals, they seem to give up three or more. This can be partially attributed to the greater role being given to Nashville's two young franchise pillars on the blue line: Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. Inconsistency by young players is to be expected once in awhile, however to date the greatest inconsistency has been the forwards' often careless defensive play, missing assignments and giving up turnovers in the neutral zone, forcing Goalie Dan Ellis to defend far too many unnecessarily easy scoring chances for the opposition.
So what's the solution? The time has come to either fish or cut bate. There are numerous prospects both in the Preds' AHL affiliate as well as on the current NHL club that could possibly be moved in a trade. Even if it's a lateral move, the Preds need some new blood. The personnel they've put out on the ice thus far just isn't getting it done.
In the near offing, Jed Ortmeyer will be returning soon from offseason surgery, but while he's a better-than-average defensive forward, he alone isn't the answer. The Preds need scoring and need to acquire at least one more proven goal-producer to jump-start the offense.
One answer could be the return of Steve Sullivan, who after being sidelined for nearly two full seasons with lower back issues, could be ready to begin making the long journey back to playing time. He recently began skating again but is nowhere near returning to serious hockey activities, and can't be expected to be ready until well after the beginning of the new year at best. I for one believe the team can't wait that long; they need to do something to show the fans they still can be competitive.
Oh, I didn't mention the fans yet? Well it should be noted that Canadian would-be carpetbagger Jim Balsille is once again attempting to gain an ownership stake in the Preds, and now all indications are that he may succeed.
Balsille's presence in the Preds boardroom wouldn't necessarily spell the end tor the team's tenure in Music City, but it certainly would add to the possibility of a potential buyout my the Blackberry billionaire if certain attendance markers aren't reached over the next two seasons.
That being said, it all comes down to how well the team is supported, and in Nashville it's all about buzz; this town lives on it. Win and and its all good; lose and they stay away in droves. And if the latter is the case, the stage will be set for Balsille to swoop in and become the hero of Canadian messageboard trolls everywhere.
This is one Preds fan who would love to see Balsille and Canada get a team -- just not MY team. The thought of the Preds being ripped away from us literally makes me ill, but at the moment I'm not the only one who's sick; the Predators are in need of new blood; I believe that whether or not they get it could largely determine their ultimate fate.
The patient isn't well at the moment, but the decision to take serious medical action has of yet been forestalled. Will the Preds organizational antibodies be enough to fend off the relocation pathogens that continue to try and knock down the cell walls? I certainly hope so, but if I were David Poille, I'd be looking into acquiring some personnel penicillin soon -- before it's too late.
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