Okay, I've read through all the articles and all the comments, now here's my weigh-in on The Great Radu-dini's disappearing act from Nashville.
It may all be smoke and mirrors, but even if so, the smoke stinks and the mirrors reflect very badly for both the Nashville Predators and especially for one whose promise as a bright star in the NHL has now been all but permanently tarnished: Alexander Radulov.
Unlike those who IMO naively believe that 'any media exposure is good media exposure' for a team that has had trouble staying OUT of the headlines for the past 15 months, I for one believe that this is certainly NOT a welcome circumstance, despite the fact that Nashville may be losing one of their most talented players. It may take a few days, but you can bet that there are some hockey pundits who are sharpening their pencils even as we speak, preparing to pounce once the humanistic wave of outrage and faux-sympathy for the Predators' heretofore inexplicable loss subsides.
You can be sure that someone will eventually spin this as one more reason there shouldn't be a hockey team in Nashville; that if Radulov had any faith of the Predators' imminent success as a franchise he wouldn't have bolted; that this confirms what everyone else already suspects, that all is STILL not well in Music City, that the players aren't convinced that the team will stay put.
Over-reaction? Maybe. Persecution complex? I doubt it.
Try being the fan of a team who has been dumped on at every turn in NHL circles since the Balsille hostile takeover attempt of a little more than a year ago. Try reading article upon article spouting smug assertions that Nashville is a city of hockey-hicks, that Gary Bettman is an idiot, and that the Predators' difficulties are proof of it.
Your skin would grow a little thinner too, I assure you.
So forgive my preemptive strike here folks, but I'm tired of standing, waiting for the sucker punch. I'm here to say, screw the hockey establishment if they think this is anyone's fault other than Radulov's. And screw Alex Radulov if indeed this wreck-of-a-contract ploy is the steaming pile of crap that it appears to be.
This doesn't prove anything other than what Paul stated from the outset, that Rads is an immature kid; one who is obviously both homesick and willing to be led by the nose by an unscrupulous agent.
This doesn't prove anything except for Radulov's greed and woeful lack of hockey wherewithall; to forego his reputation as a player, almost on a whim just because he can't wait his turn to cash in on what would be rightfully his windfall next off-season...
...or perhaps he's never heard of Alexi Yashin.
And this CERTAINLY doesn't prove that the Predators will be irreparably damaged by his departure, whenever that comes. This team eats adversity for breakfast and craps it out at noon.
The Preds will survive, but will Rads?
He was a welcome addition to this team, but to this point had never, EVER defined it (we've all been anxiously waiting for that time to come).
Coach Barry Trotz has been working hard to mould Radulov into a solid 2-way player, not just a run-and-gun scoring machine. Trotz has tried to force him to be more patient; more responsible. And perhaps that's really the point to all this. Alex Radulov has always been extremely impatient, and perhaps a little impractical as well.
His good friend and Russian colleague Evgeni Malkin was a star in the league from Day One. Radulov, while distinguishing himself with an incredible Juniors 'career' in Quebec for one season, was held back, so to speak, more so than Malkin, who wasn't required to spend any time in the Minors to speak of.
One has to wonder if Rads figures he should be treated as Malkin's equal. And if that's really the root of this deal, I've got news for 'Sasha' -- you are no Evgeni Malkin...not yet at least.
In the initial news release detailing this story, He makes allusions to the fact that Malkin's entry-level contract was extended before the third year, and indicated he thought the Preds should have offered to do the same for him.
He "warned them." Nice.
But now, whether or not Radulov is as good as Malkin may never be known, because Rads may have punched his own ticket on the Siberian Exile Express. And even if he does come back, he's severely diminished himself in the eyes of many, for probably no other reason than vanity -- and that is sad indeed.
Nevertheless, I suspect that the contract will at worst be voided altogether and at best be postponed until Radulov finishes out his remaining final season on his valid contract still in place with the Preds.
I still look forward to Rads being in a Predators sweater this season.
I look forward to what I always have with this kid: his unabashed enthusiasm for the game (and please, to blame him for Arnott's concussion is simply ludicrous -- it was an accident, people...get over it).
I look forward to what he brings in dangerous, unpredictable scoring ability -- something the Predators are in short supply of these days.
What I don't look forward to is the inevitable reality of a fan base scorned. He will be unmercifully booed -- at least at first -- by the home crowd, and probably by a lot of hockey purists on the road as well. And there's no telling what that might do to his game, as well as his self-confidence, not to mention the atmosphere in the Nashville dressing room.
But most of all I dread the reaction of the band-wagoning detractors who will somehow find a way to point to the NHL being in Nashville as the root of all this. I dread feeling like the punchline at the end of another hockey snob's joke -- again.
Perhaps I AM over-reacting here, but I can't help it. One can only beat a dog so many times before he begins to flinch at the sight of the hand being raised.