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Preds Owners Submit Lease for Approval

A couple weeks ago, Hockey News writer Ken Campbell opined that since the Nashville Predators' ownership group hadn't completed the modifications to the Sommet Center lease after months of negotiating and legal work, that they should "forget the deal was ever reached, rip it up while it still isn't iron-clad and let's move on, for everyone's sake. Move the team to Kansas City to see how long it will take to fail there."

I didn't bother responding here at the time, because this tripe has been spewing out of Toronto for quite a while now, the only difference is which day and which medium (TV, print, online, etc.).

Well, hopefully we've moved a step closer to allowing those folks to go back to chewing bark, accosting moose and obsessing over the Maple Leafs' collection of untradeable players, as the Freeman group is indeed submitting the amended Sommet Center lease to Nashville's Metro Sports Authority this afternoon, as reported by the City Pa…

Catch The Rocket

Back in December, the good folks at Palm Pictures sent me a review copy of The Rocket, the film covering the life and career of Maurice Richard. Unfortunately I was in the middle of moving into a new house at the time, and only recently got my whole TV/DVD/Speaker setup completely in place, so this review comes a bit late; I apologize for the delay, but if you've got any kind of movie collection and are a hockey fan, The Rocket is a must-have, plain and simple.



The on-ice action is, frankly, the best I've ever seen in a movie; superior even to that in Miracle. From the outdoor game near the beginning of the film, to the hallowed rinks of the Original Six era, the hockey action has enough detail and authenticity to suck in the hockey player, while maintaining enough clarity and spacing not to lose the casual viewer in a flurry of activity. There are a number of lesser and greater parts filled with NHL players such as Mike Ricci, Mathieu Dandenault, and Sean Avery (as what else? …

The Road To The Playoffs Takes A Turn

While the web-surfing hockey fan can find reams of analysis as to which teams did or did not help themselves on the NHL's Trade Deadline Day this week, there's another question worth answering when one considers how tight the playoff races remain. To what extent has the remaining schedule for various teams gotten tougher or easier, depending on what their upcoming opponents have done to their rosters? Since the 5th-9th spots in the West are separated by a mere 4 points, and 6th-11th by just 6 in the East, strength of schedule will play a critical role in determining who makes the post-season and who's playing golf in early April.

All season long I've used a custom spreadsheet made freely available on the web to provide some detail behind the NHL schedule; it includes information such as how many days have elapsed for each team between games, how far they had to travel, their opponents' vital competitive statistics, etc. In light of Tuesday's frenetic trading,…

Preds Torched in Buffalo

Into every NHL season a lame effort or two will happen to any team, but with Wednesday's 8-4 debacle in Buffalo, the Predators have now given up 6 or more goals three times in the last two-and-a-half weeks (previously to Chicago and Dallas at home). Perhaps most disturbing, there seems to be no single cause for these repeated train wrecks; they encompass a combination of marshmallow-soft goaltending, shoddy defensive zone coverage, and a total lack of composure. A few horrid examples:

Dan Hamhuis stepping up and totally whiffing on an attempted hit on Derek Roy as the Sabres crossed into the Predators zone; instead of staying in position, his miss allows Roy to head to the net uncontested for an easy goal that made it 6-3.

Scott Nichol lost it again, sucker-punching one of the Sabres who was tied up with Vern Fiddler. Nichol dropped his glove and came at the guy from the side and cold-cocked him. I wouldn't be surprised to see a suspension come out of that. For a decent PK&…

Predators Ride Into Buffalo

Tonight the Predators return to action in Buffalo, taking on a team that's challenging for playoff position much like Nashville, but unlike them, sold off a major asset yesterday by trading away defenseman Brian Campbell for Steve "Spine of Glass" Bernier from San Jose (yes, the guy that Radulov boarded in the playoffs last year).



For an interconference game, there's some interesting history heading in; besides the fact that Bernier will obviously be cowering in fear whenever Radulov steps on the ice, there's J.P. Dumont making his first visit to Buffalo after leaving there as a free agent in the summer of 2006. He won an arbitration case as a restricted free agent, but Sabres GM Darcy Regier didn't want to pay the awarded salary ($2.9 million for one year), so Dumont was able to walk away and sign with Nashville for two years at $2.25 million per. It will be interesting to see how he's received by Sabres fans, I doubt they'll be very harsh, as Dumon…

I'm guessing David Poile slept in...

So the NHL Trading Deadline did indeed turn out to be a chaotic swap meet, just as everyone had hoped for, with 23 deals ranging from the banal to the blockbuster, including a Marian Hossa trade that has Pittsburgh pushing hard for a postseason run this spring. To many local fans' disappointment, the Nashville Predators pretty much stood pat on this manic day of flesh peddling, obtaining only Jan Hlavac, a former 2nd-round pick who hasn't had a productive NHL season since 2000-1 with the New York Rangers. Out of the 30 NHL teams, only Boston, Edmonton and Calgary abstained from making a deal.

UPDATE: It looks like the Preds also picked up Brandon Bochenksi from Anaheim for the ever-popular "future considerations."

Personally, I was disappointed to see the Philadelphia Flyers land Vinny Prospal for a defense prospect and a conditional 2009 pick (2nd or 3rd round). I thought that Prospal would make an excellent addition to the Predators' lineup, although obvious…

Just a few hours left, NHL shoppers!

Attention, NHL General Managers; just in time for all you last minute-shoppers, I've got your Penalty Plus/Minus* update through the games of February 24, 2008. With Sidney Crosby out of the lineup for so long, Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings is now your league leader with a +35 rating, followed by Sid the Kid and Alexander Ovechkin at +31.

UPDATE: I just saw that the Colorado Avalanche have acquired Ruslan Salei from Florida. Congratulations, you just snagged the very worst Penalty Plus/Minus player in the entire NHL, at -30! I wonder if they plan on playing Forsberg on the penalty kill...



Remember to consult this list before making that final pitch for that player you're seeking to obtain, so as to adjust your offer accordingly. You can go with something like this:

"Yeah, I can see why you're offering up Bobby Holik, but how's he going to help me defensively when he's got a -17 Penalty Plus/Minus? I'm going to have to pick up an extra penalty kille…

Leggy Boozes It, Preds Lose It

So I took my daughter to see the Predators tangle with the Dallas Stars tonight, with the Preds taking a 6-3 beating and basically coming unglued in the 2nd & 3rd periods. In particular, I was going to come home and rip on David Legwand, who seems to vanish as soon as he crosses center ice with the puck; often it seemed like he'd carry it into the offensive zone, and then just look for a safe path to the boards rather than actually drive to the net and create a scoring chance.

He's gone scoreless in 9 of the last 11 games now, and until tonight, hadn't taken more than 2 shots in a game since February 2nd against Phoenix. For a guy who just received a hefty contract extension, the team needs more on-ice leadership from their #2 center.

But now I see where perhaps he might have been a bit distracted; news broke tonight that Legwand was arrested on a DUI while leaving downtown Nashville last weekend.

This ain't gonna be good, folks. From the Newschannel 5 report;
Accordin…

You Gonna Window Shop All Day, Or What?

One wouldn't exactly say "the party never stops" when it comes to the NHL Trade Deadline, especially since that deadline is indeed next Tuesday, but you could just about say "the party never starts" instead.  Despite incessant rumor-mongering and speculation, we've had nothing but scraps come in lately in terms of NHL trades, with the lone exception of last week's Carolina/Ottawa four-player swap.  But just in case GM David Poile gets the urge to start shopping for his Nashville Predators this weekend while I'm not close to the keyboard, I thought I'd leave some thoughts on the matter: What the Preds need:  A serviceable Top Six forward, especially if Martin Gelinas' knee injury turns out to be a season-ender.  Rich Peverley has done fine work in a short stint, and yes, Kevin Klein has been attending Winger School in Milwaukee, but this team needs an offensive threat to help spark David Legwand and Martin Erat, who have been slum…

Swedish Twins Stink It Up, But Luongo Saves The Day

The Predators simply ran into the best goaltender in the world last night, firing 51 shots on Vancouver's net yet still coming up short in a 3-2 shootout loss.  It took a 3rd period goal by Marek Zidlicky to tie things up at 2-2 and send the game to overtime, earning Nashville at least one point for their efforts, but Roberto Luongo simply put on a show, and demonstrated why nobody will want to face the Canucks in the playoffs this spring.  Predictably, he stuffed all three Predators in the shootout to earn the victory.  Frankly, I think the NHL needs to take another look at his equipment; not about the size, but I suspect that he's using some sticky, marshmallow-like material in his leg pads, as the pucks never seems to pop back out once Luongo makes a save.    Yes, he is indeed #1 Things very nearly took an entirely different course early in the game when Dan Hamhuis fired a shot on Nashville's first power play that Luongo snagged with his glove.  The ref rul…

Pound Away For Those Rebounds

As we head into the final quarter of the NHL regular season, tension builds as playoff races intensify, and every goal seems to take on added importance. During these times, and the playoffs to follow, we often hear that the difference between winning and losing comes down to which team battles harder down close to the goal working for rebound opportunities after a shot has been stopped by an opposing goaltender.

Rebound shots* are a relatively rare commodity in the NHL, averaging roughly three per game over the course of a season. That scarcity only adds to their importance, however, because the typical rebound shot stands a greater chance of scoring than other attempts, after taking shot distance, on-ice strength and shot type into account.

So which teams are getting the job done down low, grabbing rebounds and getting off that second shot? And which ones are converting those dangerous chances into goals? Let's take a look at the following table to find out:



Perhaps what is mos…

Fab Forecheckers Flying High

Welcome to those of you coming over from Mirtle's blog, where he's posted the standings from this year's Blogger Invitational Hockey Pool. Yes, I've been fortunate enough to have a very successful season there so far, so I thought I'd point you to a piece I wrote last fall that pretty much laid out my Fantasy Hockey draft strategy. Basically, it's not about out-predicting your competitors as to who's going to have a great season, but rather doing a better job obtaining value with each particular draft pick.

I've also been lucky not to have been stricken too badly by the injury bug, although Richard Zednik is certainly out for the year, and had been doing well for me. All in all, it's been a fun run so far, with only one week out of 20 in which I've been outscored by my opponent.

You can expect a fully fleshed out, pay-per-view Fantasy Hockey guide next fall if somehow I manage to close the deal here...

Who's up for a nice, juicy contract?

In a blog post this afternoon, the Tennessean's John Glennon makes the point that with some of the Nashville Predators key players receiving contract extensions (David Legwand, J.P. Dumont, Jordin Tootoo), it's high time for David Poile to sign up the coaching staff long-term as well.  On first blush, this looks like a slam-dunk argument; despite a salary purge last summer that had most experts picking Nashville to miss the playoffs, Trotz & Co. have the Predators in prime position for a Western Conference playoff berth.  Based on points, Nashville is in 5th currently, just two points behind 4th-place Anaheim, although if one uses winning percentage (to accomodate for Games Played) the Predators sit in 6th.  Either way, they've climbed ahead of several teams that were supposed to surge past them in the NHL standings, such as St. Louis, Chicago and Colorado.  The Preds have earned 33 points since January 1st, tops in the league, so naturally optimism is …

Those Oilers Just Don't Go Away Quietly

Tonight's game against Edmonton started off looking like a ho-hum affair where the red-hot, playoff-bound Predators would sweep aside the foundering, injury-riddled Oilers. At least that's the way the first few pages of the script read, as Nashville jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, including a sweet effort by Alexander Radulov that set the crowd rocking. A-Rad picked a puck off the sideboard and peeled into the slot as the Edmonton defenders scrambled to cover everyone exceptthe shooter, giving the super soph plenty of time to pick his spot and score his 24th goal of the season.

A few minutes later, however, the Oilers realized they weren't the Washington Generals after all, and fought back gamely. Fernando Pisani (a member of the Fab Forecheckers, but, alas, not on the active roster tonight) scored late in the first to bring Edmonton within 2-1, and even though Jordin Tootoo scored five minutes into the second to widen the gap to 3-1, Edmonton kept on coming. Thr…

Jumping on the Meme Train (Book 123)

Since PB from One Fan's Perspective called me out, here's my stab at the 123 Book Meme that's running around like the Flu these days. From PB:

The meme is quite simple:

* Grab the nearest book 123 pages or more (PB: easy for me to do considering my day job) [Forechecker: me too, I work in the book biz]
* Open it to page 123
* Find the first five sentences and write them down
* Invite five others to do so the same

I was tempted to pick something off the bookshelves around me, but I think active selection defeats the purpose here, so instead I grabbed a book that's right on my desk, but unread as of yet.

So here we go, from Dissent In America:

Have we not for years had before our eyes a sample of their designs, and are they not sufficient harbingers of their future determinations? Will we not soon be driven from our respective countries and the graves of our ancestors? Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves be turned into fields? Sha…

What the NHL might learn from College Hockey

It seems like the Preds did pretty well over the weekend while I was away, earning 3 points in 2 games against St. Louis and Minnesota.  Tonight brings a home game against the banged-up Edmonton Oilers (minus Sheldon Souray and Shawn Horcoff), as J.P. Dumont is expected back in the lineup after missing two games due to illness.  With Jordin Tootoo having returned as well, the Preds are getting healthier during a critical part of their schedule.  But before resuming my focus on the NHL, it's worth reflecting for a moment on my weekend trip up to Ann Arbor... Saturday night's Michigan/Lake Superior State game reminded me of everything that's great about college hockey; you had a packed house, a hard-fought win over a tough opponent (although the biggest loss may be an injury to senior winger Chad Kolarik), and a sampling of all the great traditions that have grown up around U-M hockey over the last 15 or so years.  We had seats near the Michigan Hockey Pep Band…

Taking in the good old (college) hockey game

I guess I'm as lucky as Mr. Jibblescribbits; for Christmas, Mrs. Forechecker got me tickets to tonight's University of Michigan vs. Lake Superior State hockey game. And since we live just outside Nashville, that means a weekend getaway to the old sod, Ann Arbor, Michigan, with the Little Forecheckers staying with relatives for a couple days.

Of course, our car just barely made it to our location before petering out, so this morning I'm taking it to a local dealer to see what's up, but still we've got a day or two in a grand old college town and get to take in the action at Yost Arena tonight, which, if you've never been, is a great venue for a hockey game. Back in the 1989 when I first came to Ann Arbor you could sneak into the games for free after they started, as the program was still mediocre and Red Berenson hadn't been here very long. But we got to see the likes of Aaron Ward and Chris Tamer physically dominate their CCHA opponents, and later on of c…

Who Needs Help in the Faceoff Circle

Today's feature comes via the prompting of David, a reader of this blog who noted to me in an email that "it seems that teams on the power play seem to win face-offs most of the time. I figured it was just one of those weird perception things... that really had no merit." David then showed some numbers from selected teams that seemed to indicate a trend, so I went ahead and pulled all the data for this season up through the games of February 13, and came up with the following results for teams depending on the situation (even strength, power play, shorthanded):

Faceoff Percentages By Team & SituationTeamEV %PP %SH %Tot %Anaheim Ducks51.09%50.97%42.45%49.68%Atlanta Thrashers52.74%58.81%40.92%51.87%Boston Bruins49.14%54.99%38.19%48.33%Buffalo Sabres45.99%61.76%42.52%47.71%Calgary Flames50.33%54.57%41.96%49.71%Carolina Hurricanes50.08%58.02%46.97%50.92%Chicago Blackhawks51.74%60.68%46.41%52.41%Colorado Avalanche47.80%54.29%37.77%47.52%Columbus Blue Jackets53.04%56.76%44.…

Is there Hope for decent hockey coverage in Nashville?

EDIT: The second quote below was not from Hope Hines, I misread the article and apologize for the error. The gist of the screed that follows still reflects how I believe Hines and other prominent sports media figures in Nashville treat the Predators and the NHL, however, so I'm leaving this up.
There's an interesting article over at the Nashville City Paper this morning about last Tuesday night's dual-bill in downtown Nashville, where both the Preds and the Vanderbilt men's basketball team drew big crowds and scored huge home victories. In terms of local TV ratings, however, Vandy had a huge edge over the Predators, pulling in a 5.5 rating vs. a 0.1 for the hockey game.
Somebody get this guy a clue!

What sticks out to me, however, are quotes from Hope Hines, the sports director for the local CBS affiliate here in Nashville, WTVF, talking about why his sports broadcast that night led with the Vanderbilt story rather than the Preds win:

“After being in this business for so…

Red Wings Sleep Through 1st Period, Preds Win

Some folks may have been checking their Nashville Predators tickets in the first period tonight to make sure they said "Detroit Red Wings" as the opponent, as in the early going Detroit looked like anything but the team that's sacked & pillaged their way through the NHL. On their first shift, Jason Arnott, J.P. Dumont and Alexander Radulov out-muscled and out-hustled the Wings to put Nashville up 1-0 just 2:25 in. Dumont fed the puck off the boards to Arnott, who, while being checked, threw a shot on net. Radulov, who had just crossed in front of the crease to sneak in behind Nick Lidstrom, caught the puck before it got to Chris Osgood and pulled it over to the other side of the net before firing it home. A catfish hit the ice during the stoppage in play, and the Sommet Center crowd was on their feet.

They were barely done with their celebrating and "Osgood... Osgood... Osgood... You Suck!" chants when the Preds scored again to stretch the lead to 2-0. After…

Beware of Juggernaut

The NHL's unstoppable force comes rolling into Nashville this evening as the Detroit Red Wings bring their gaudy 41-12-5 record into the Sommet Center against the Predators (29-22-6).  But before abandoning any hope of a competitive chance for the local boys, it should be noted that when looking at Detroit's 7-2-1 record over the last ten games, the "2-1" part has come in their last three, with losses to Los Angeles, Toronto (in OT) and Anaheim in recent days.  In their three previous games this season, Nashville has a 1-1-1 record against the Central Division leaders. Mike Babcock's charges have been storming through the NHL so far The Wings are somewhat bruised and battered coming in, with 20-goal scorer Dan Cleary out due to a broken jaw, and defenseman Niklas Kronwall on the IR (again).  Dominik Hasek is having hip trouble, so you can expect to see Chris Osgood in goal tonight.  For the Predators, Chris Mason is expected to get the start; he has …

Carolina Hurricanes: 2nd in the Southeast, 1st to throw in the towel

Well, we can truly say the NHL's Trade Deadline extravaganza is now underway, as the Carolina Hurricanes have sent defenseman Mike Commodore and winger Cory Stillman to Ottawa, in exchange for Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves. While Corvo should make a nice fixture on the Carolina blue line for quite some time, Eaves, Commodore and Stillman all have contracts expiring this summer, a clear case of Ottawa loading up on short-term present value (a scorer and steady defense) at the expense of giving up a good young defenseman who's still signed for two more seasons.

"The board is set... the pieces are moving..."

The question now is whether other general managers around the league will start making deals as well, since the "Top Six Forward" market just got a little bit smaller. For someone like Nashville Predators GM David Poile, who is presumably shopping at the lower end of that market (as opposed to swinging for the home runs like Marian Hossa), Stillman would hav…

Here, Here, The Gang's All Here

Well, the Fortnight of Doom got off to a decent start over the weekend, as the Predators managed a couple points out of road games in San Jose and Phoenix. Seemingly on request, the secondary scoring appears to have returned, as Vern Fiddler scored twice and added an assist in a 4-3 loss to the Sharks (foolish me, I wasn't playing him on my fantasy hockey team that night), and several players chipped in with goals (including Legwand, Bonk, and Peverley) in last night's 6-3 victory over the Coyotes.

Next up, a Tuesday night date with the Detroit Red Wings, who, although by far the hottest team in the league this year, have lost three straight including Sunday's loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

The story around the NHL yesterday, obviously, was the horrible injury to Florida's Richard Zednik, who took a skate to the neck and bled profusely as medical staff rushed to get him to the hospital. Thankfully he's doing well after surgery, but it's odd how many similar situat…

Won't you people ever learn?

I've tried to help you people think more analytically about the game of hockey, but sometimes I wonder if the message is ever going to get through. I've laid out that fact that there's a significant lefty/righty matchup advantage to be exploited in the shootout, that indicators like Goals For & Against are perhaps a better barometer of team success than standings points, and that penalties taken & drawn are hugely important, and under-appreciated.

Yet I don't think that statistically-driven analysis has taken the NHL by storm. TV Analysts drone on with their bland, uninsightful comments and ignorant fans accept them on blind faith because they don't know any better.

Perhaps it's time to take another tack, using video instruction to drive the point home:



There, that oughta do it. I expect those job offers for Director of Quantitative Analysis will be landing on my doorstep shortly...

Tip o' the Hat to the guys at On Frozen Blog for uploading this to Y…

Sing on, brother...

Terry Frei gets it.  Late in a tie game, let's have NHL head coaches thinking about how they can go out and win the game, rather than how not to lose it before they get a standings point for making it to overtime.

Barry Trotz and the Fortnight of Doom

After dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night (with all due respect, Mr. Poile, how did you let Vaclav Prospal leave on Tampa's team plane?), the Preds are about to go through a brutal 9-game, 15-day stretch against other Western Conference teams that leads right up to the NHL Trading Deadline, and represents one third of their remaning regular season schedule.  In detail, we have the following: Saturday 2/9 @ San Jose Sunday 2/10 @ Phoenix Tuesday 2/12 vs. Detroit Thursday 2/14 vs. Chicago Saturday 2/16 vs. St. Louis Sunday 2/17 @ Minnesota Tuesday 2/19 vs. Edmonton Thursday 2/21 vs. Vancouver Saturday 2/23 vs. Dallas Of that group, only Chicago and Edmonton are starting to slip away from playoff contention, so the games will be just as meaningful to the opposition as they are to Nashville.  To me, the question that hangs over the team right now is where the secondary scoring has gone, and whether David Poile will attempt to acquire so…

Beware the Stench

A quick tip this morning to a fine article over at the New York Times, examining one of hockey's most peculiar tactics: the face wash.  Rubbing your glove in an opponent's face is a time-honored means of goading them into taking a penalty or otherwise reacting foolishly, and when done by a seasoned master, it can turn the tide of a game. I know when I started playing adult rec hockey we had a decent team made up of mostly young 20-somethings who were just full of enthusiasm, and we had a great time, but there was always one team made up of a bunch older guys that gave us fits.  You'd battle along the boards for a puck, and one of them would place his hand on you just briefly enough to cause you to react, and that gave him the space he needed to swipe the puck and make a play. Now, as I zoom through my late-30's, it's time for me to turn the tables and do the same to players younger, faster, and more energetic than myself.  For those of you who've ne…

What Dion Phaneuf's New Contract Means for Nashville

With Calgary's Dion Phaneuf signing a 6-year, $39 million contract extension, speculation around Nashville naturally turns to Shea Weber, the young defenseman who is expected to fill a Phaneuf-like role on the Predators for years to come. Weber, like Phaneuf, is a 3rd-year player with good size, a booming shot from the point, and plays with an edge that thrills fans and intimidates opponents. Nashville GM David Poile has gone on record repeatedly saying that he will re-sign Weber and not allow him to leave as a Restricted Free Agent this summer, so what does the Phaneuf contract mean in terms of how much this will cost?

Clearly, there are a number of similarities between these two young stars. Take, for example, the Scouting Reports from TSN:

Assets: Hits everything that moves. Owns a big shot from the point and isn't shy about unleashing it. Displays all-around ability. Is the total package.

Flaws: Must continue to improve his defensive-zone coverage, which isn't terrible bu…