POSTED ON Thursday, 09.15.2011 / 5:52 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
It's the summer, so I'm starting a new blog to keep up on all of the off-season action. Have a question for me? Send it through twitter with hashtag #PredsRadio.

If you're more of a twitter fan, join me on Twitter at twitter.com/predsradio. And if you're interested in checking out my past blogs, you can find them here: 2011 Playoff Blog | 2010-11 Season Blog | Summer 2010 Blog  

Tom Callahan
Predators Radio Voice
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POSTED ON Thursday, 09.15.2011 / 5:27 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
It seems like a name we’ll be bandying about over the course of training camp with much interest is Craig Smith. If there’s one place Nashville would love an early surprise in its Christmas stocking goal scoring is it. Smith not only played well at the World Championships this past spring and then decided to turn pro, but at Predators rookie games this week recorded six goals and seven points in just two contests. He’s turning some heads with his performances, including that of GM David Poile who ranked it among the best he can recall in his time with Nashville.

With all that being said, Smith is a little older than most of those rookies at 22, but it also bodes well that he had success playing against other professional players this past spring. In talking to him, it became apparent he felt that it was just the right decision to make and turn pro. So now eyes will be focused on him as he attempts to make the jump.

What Smith does seem to have (and is so hard to find) is a goal scorer’s instincts. Plus many of the Predators’ hockey ops talk about his intangibles – those little things you see in a player that make you think he could be the real deal. No one wants to put a mountain of pressure on the kid because that’s not the way to help anyone succeed, but just know that there will be plenty of focus on him and his play this fall.

Camp kicks off Friday morning with off-ice, and Saturday for on-ice activities. Odds are you’ll see me out at Centennial Sportsplex for camp. Don’t forget to check the training camp schedule right here on the web site.

And to everyone on the twittersphere, feel free to send questions to me through Twitter with hashtag #PredsRadio.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 09.14.2011 / 10:05 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
So here’s my number for you today as we head into training camp this weekend: 30.

That represents the number of goals I think the Preds need to find over the course of the season that they didn’t have last year. With the departure of some guys who could put the puck in the net like Sullivan, Dumont, Ward etc. I figure the Predatorswill need everyone who chipped in last year to pick it up or find some markers from the new guys.

If Nic Bergfors wants to go ahead and account for 20 that will take some pressure off. But can Colin Wilson get to 25, or Nick Spaling to 15? What about the blueline? Will we see guys named Ellis and Josi pour a few in from the point? Somewhere those goals have to appear. Somewhere in all of this, I’m thinking we need 30… less than one every other game. But that’s my number that as a team I feel we must improve by for this year. And of course, I could be way off… and when we make the playoffs this year it won’t matter what I think anyway.

Keep an eye on Craig Smith. Apparently he decided that the show begins in rookie camp and will likely continue over the next two weeks. I know it’s early, but here’s hoping he caught fire someplace along the way. I’m also curious to see if Josh Shalla sticks in the pros this year (as a 20-year-old he can be sent to Milwaukee) or returns for his overage season. His performance in camp will determine his fate, and I’m looking forward to watching his progress. If he makes the Ads roster this fall that’s a great leap and shows how far his development has come.

I did mention Ryan Ellis before, and there’s a few other names like Josi and Ekholm that can get thrown in the mix. With the unfortunate news that Frankie Bouillon is unlikely to be ready at the start of the season, suddenly only Weber and Suter plus Klein and Blum seem certain defensive fixtures. Outside of that the battles of camp should include healthy competition for the 5 and 6 D spots on the roster. Can Ellis be what Cody Franson was, onlysmaller, more mobile, and with even more offensive upside? How about Josi, who was injured in camp last year and really never had the chance to break in even though many in the Predators front office were high on him coming into camp. And of course Ekholm, who will be the new kid on the block this year, seeing if he can hang tough through camp and usurp the higher seeding of the other two.

One other point I’d like to make about camp this year is that not only will the battles be among the younger players wanting to stick for the first time, but guys in years 1-4 of NHL experience looking to fillholes left by Goc, Ward, Sullivan, Dumont etc. There will be battles among guys like Kostitsyn, Wilson, Spaling andHalischuk as much or more than the Watsons, Flynns, Thangs or Smiths. There are holes in the lineup fellas – now who wants it?

We’ll have our answers soon enough. Until next time, keep your stick on the ice. And to everyone on the twittersphere, feel free to send questions to me through Twitter with hashtag #PredsRadio.
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POSTED ON Thursday, 09.01.2011 / 4:32 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog

Yesterday an email appeared in my inbox from Stu Grimson, asking if I’d heard about Wade. It touched off what I can only describe as a mental scramble as I frantically pounded away at my keyboard. I called Wade and left him a voicemail (Hey, this is Wade, leave me a message) in descending futility. As more and more people came over to my desk to confirm what I knew wasn’t going to turn out to be a hoax, my heart truly sank. And then I could only sit there and stare blankly ahead at my screen for almost an hour…

***

Our broadcast herd travels tightly together and you make friends quickly. TV and radio co-exist with players and coaches, but we are our own entity, our own pack on the road. Once Wade joined this pack he was welcomed with open arms – and really, how could you not like Wade? He was always joking around, always making other people smile. He also had a very good head for the game as we would talk in our morning meetings or on the air during the game, he really could break things down. He was learning the broadcasting ropes and was thankful and appreciative of the help we gave and advice offered. There was no ego, justwillingness to learn.

There was also enthusiasm in boundless amounts. Go back and listen to the games he and I did – whether he remembered to mute his mic or not (like the Buffalo comeback game) you could hear him clapping, shouting, and whoohoo-ing in the background when the Preds did something positive. We shared plenty of hugs, handshakes and hi-fives in the booth in the short time we worked together. It was great for me to work with someone who so purely loved the game and his teammates and was not afraid to show it. Wade was life out loud in many good, memorable ways.

Our whole broadcast family is missing Wade right now, and getting on a plane this fall won’t be the same without him.

***

I also remember that day in Buffalo because my family got a chance to come up to the press box there and meet Wade. I don’t get home nearly as much as I wish I could, but am still very close to my family. For them to be able to come and see where I “work” and know that calling a game in my hometown was so incredibly special for all of us was great. Then they got to meet Wade, who was gracious to everyone, made a few jokes, complimented me to my parents (totally scored points with my mom) and just chatted away with them like old friends. He certainly didn’t have to do that. He could have said hello and left, perhaps thinking I’d just spend the time with them. But he stayed and really made them feel welcome. I’ll never forget that.

***

When you get a new color partner or work any sort of job so closely with a new person, there’s a break-in period. In broadcasting when you talk over someone you refer to it as stepping on someone’s toes. Of course, the first few months you work with anyone less resembles a well-choreographed ballet and instead more like my awkward high school dances in which I simply tried not to crash into the girl I was trying to dance with while keeping her at arm’s length. And yet you still walk over one another.

Wade and I were working in New Jersey (and this may have actually been our first game together) when back-to-back we stepped on each other’s toes. Wade did it first and apologized, made his comment, and we went on. Later I stepped on his toes and apologized, and Wade said “that’s all right… (threateningly) just don’t let it happen again!” After a quick pause we both laughed about that one. And I knew we were going to be just fine with our mutual senses of humor.

***

It’s hard to fathom something like this when anyone appears to leave life before it was “time”. Looking ahead for Wade was what was sure to be a good career after hockey in media – who knows, with time he might have eventually become the next generation’s Don Cherry for the hockey world. He certainly told you what was on his mind, but did so in a way that conveyed his thoughts so that they didn’t offend people on the opposing side. Yes, he had a talent for being personable and expressive in a way that resonated and related to people. We felt like we could just as easily be Wade as he could be us. And we connected.

***

Probably one of the things that I wrestle with most is that Wade was just a few months older than me. I turn 35 this month, and for the last few year’s I’ve been determined to enjoy being the age I am instead of wishing I were something else as I did for parts of my 20s. When someone who was not only a colleague but a friend passes away and they are this close to your age, you can’t help but feel a shadow of vulnerability. It’s a cold hand that rests upon your shoulder and makes you realize that you mustseize what you have and make the most of it. We all struggle to make sense of the everyday, let alone the extraordinary… and when something happens that you will never be able to fully understand or explain, it hits that much harder. I’m going to listen to that little voice inside that tells me to fill my cup to the brim and always make sure I share everything positive I can with people. It seems the only acceptable way to deal with things right now.

The other nagging feeling I’ll always have is that Wade always made everyone feel better about whatever was going on… I only wish that somehow someone could have been there for him in the same way. It’s so strange to feel that “if only I’d called him yesterday maybe things would have been different…”.

***

My thoughts and prayers go out to Wade’s wife, children, family and friends. He touched so many lives, and I just wish that all of them find some comfort in something. Anything. I’m going to cherish my many memories of a man who always had a grin on his face and a joke for everyone, who always made you feel better, and seemed to have all the time in the world when you needed it.

I’ll miss you Wade. We all will.

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POSTED ON Monday, 08.29.2011 / 5:44 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
As of 6 am this morning, 102.5 The Game launched itself into the ether of radio permanence with the debut of The First Quarter with Darren McFarland and Brad Hopkins. While perhaps not quite The Beatles or Elvis on Ed Sullivan, it signals that Cromwell Radio is very serious about its relationship with not only the Nashville Predators but also the city’s sports fans as well.

I’m a firm believer that competition breeds quality and drives people to achieve more. When faced with knowing you have to succeed in a situation (especially head-to-head) I think it brings out the best in almost everyone. So to that end I’m really looking forward to seeing what The Game brings to the table. They’ve been able to have a look at what the competition has been doing, and now are able to move forward with Nashville’s newest platform for sports nuts.

Of course, the Predators are excited to be a part of things as well, since hockey promises to be a majorpiece of the puzzle for The Game. I am glad to know that our fans will have an outlet and plenty of team-related programming as things move along, including Barry Trotz’s segment on Wednesday mornings that will last approximately a half hour. The commitment to the Preds from The Game is exciting and something that from our point of view we really hope continues to develop for the good of all hockey fans in Middle Tennessee!

So if you have a moment or two, stop on by and support 102.5 The Game. Give it a listen and see if it just might be a station for you.

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 08.18.2011 / 11:50 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog

A few years ago, the NHL ran a series of commercials showing NHL players were just like you and I, except they were incredibly talented hockey players. The series was humorous and entertaining, with stars like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin acting as comedic foils for one another. Hey, those guys are like us!

Indeed they are – and some of them battle the same demons of depression, alcohol and substance issues, and a whole host of other human emotions. Recently Derek Boogaard and Rick Rypien, two players who had spent time in the NHL’s substance abuse and behavioral health programs, died unexpectedly at ages 28 and 27, respectively. The programs, which are run in conjunction with the NHL Players’ Association, have helped many athletes cope with whatever problems they may be facing. But on the heels of these two tragedies, it appears NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is going to look into the programs with the NHLPA to make sure everything that can be done is being done.

Bettman was quoted in a Globe and Mail article as saying that he doesn’t think any sports league does more than the NHL but maybe there is even more the league can do. NHLPA union executive Mathieu Schneider calls the program very strong but also shares Bettman’s want to take a closer look at things and see if it can be even better.

Due to the sensitive nature of entering programs such at these details are not forthcoming, but knowing that the league and NHLPA are taking steps to find more ways to help players who may need it is important. We’ve seen our own Jordin Tootoo go through the program and it certainly appears to have had a major positive impact on him. Taking that step to admit to needing help is a giant one – especially in the macho microcosm of an NHL dressing room. It is my fervent hope that what is already an established program can indeed reach out and help even more players in need. Sometimes there are things in life bigger than one person, no matter how capable, can handle.

Because, hey… these guys are just like us.

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 08.17.2011 / 11:31 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
The NHL has announced it will be conducting further testing on a curved glass partition meant to deflect players back into play as opposed to the turnbuckle system that resulted in injuries like that of Max Pacioretty last season.

Oddly enough, I’ve already seen this glass as while we were in Vancouver during the playoffs they were testing the fitting process for it. The glass basically replaces any area were a 90 degree angle would have resulted in the past and required padding. The new system is more designed to “steer” players back into the play off the rounded surface and will have some give to it as well to cushion any impacts.

The expectation is that head-on collisions will be virtually eliminated because it’s much tougher to smack into a curved glass section with an exacting blow as opposed to the old 90 degree angle. I know there will be much ado about the new glass, and I think it will be safer. But don’t forget that ours is a high-speed contact sport, and I’m sure the new system will greatly reduce – but not eliminate – dangerous collisions around the benches. Because we play in an environment that most closely resembles human pinball, there’s only so much you can do.

That said I like this step, the league obviously wanted to make a change and seems to have come up with a good design. Once further testing is done I’m looking forward to seeing the implementation as soon as possible. Having seen the prototype glass already, you will barely notice it unless you’re one of the two seats right next to it in the arena. Then you will be able to inspect it up close. But I think this one could be a winner in the area of player safety, and that’s what is most important.

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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POSTED ON Thursday, 08.11.2011 / 4:40 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
Sometimes when doing things like pouring over depth charts in the middle of August you can forget that the world keeps spinning outside the little circle of hockey. And sometimes, that circle reaches out to the world to lend a helping hand.

I likely don’t have to tell you that the Predators have some extraordinary people working for them like Barry Trotz and Brent Peterson. Each is reaching out to make an impact in the community and beyond through various charity endeavors that deserve highlighting as crucial dates draw near for them.

First, we’ll start with Barry Trotz’s Best Buddies Foundation, which is having a 5k Run/Walk on August 27 at McKay’s Mill in Franklin, starting at 7:30 am. This is a great charity. The mission of Best Buddies is to establish a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment andleadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The “BB5K” as it’s known, is a family-friendly event with inflatables, face painting, kids activities, post-race refreshments and even door prizes.

I will link to the web sites for you at the end of the article.

Also coming up will be Brent Peterson’s Peterson for Parkinson’s Foundation dinner and golf tournament, which this year is combining with the Predators Foundation fall event for the first time. There is a dinner on September 8th that will be at Bridgestone Arena and features great food, entertainment and both a silent and live auction for your bidding pleasure. Did I mention that plenty of Predators players, coaches, and employees would be there? It’s a great chance to mix and mingle with your favorites while supporting the team and two fantastic causes.

If you’re more the golf type, you will love Friday’s (Sept. 9) golf tournament at Vanderbilt Legends Club, North Course. You know it’s fancy when there’s a North Course. I presume there’s also a South, East, or West course too. But we’re not using those. Just the North Course. Plenty of players and coaches will be in this event too, but I warn you if you have the pleasure of golfing with either Brent Peterson or Terry Crisp, you’re in for a long day of jokes (and Brent golfs faster than anyone I’ve ever played with).

So there you have it, two fantastic ways to get involved with the Predators and some of the causes near and dear to our hearts this summer. I know August can be a long month of withdrawal, but we’re almost there. And not only can you help yourself, but you’re helping lots of others in the process.

Best Buddies Official Web Site

Best Buddies 5K Web Site

Peterson for Parkinson’s/Preds Foundation Dinner and Golf Tourney

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POSTED ON Wednesday, 08.03.2011 / 3:31 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog

So Shea Weber is back in house officially now, even though there was never really any doubt about it since the Predators took him to arbitration. It simply bought the club more time to work out a potential deal, and if nothing else you had the arbitration decision itself as a backstop.

Now that the captain is firmly back under Nashville auspices, we can really look at where this team is bound this season. A few changes under the hood will bring the possibility of surprises – who will step up this training camp to become the new “find” for this team?

Defensively you have your Weber/Suter pair, but beyond that things might get a little murky. Kevin Klein and Jonathon Blum will be patrolling the blue line, but Frankie Bouillon had another setback from his concussion and it’s impossible to say what his camp (or season) status will be. It almost goes without saying that either one or two guys get the chance to step up from Milwaukee, or perhaps one of the newly-acquired D-men like Brent Lebda or Tyler Sloan gets a crack at the top six. Of course, everyone’s focus in camp will likely be on Roman Jossi and Ryan Ellis, but don’t forget Teemu Laakso who has seen time with the Preds in the past. And Mattias Ekholm is in the mix too.

Up front Nashville looks very different from a year ago, with the departure of nameslike Sullivan, Ward, Lombardi (we barely knew ye) and Dumont. In their place again the Preds will be givingyounger players a good shot at things. Nashville picked up Niclas Bergfors, a former first round pick, in the hopes that he could be come yet another Predators success story from another team’s cast-off. The Predators would like to see continued development from Colin Wilson, Sergei Kostitsyn, Blake Geoffrion, Patric Hornqvist… the list goes on. And that’s not counting prospects all champing at the bit to earn a spot. Yes, the team will be young, but there’s room for someone to step up and seize the brass ring this year.

It all ties together with Weber. And now that we know the situation, at least for the immediate future, everyone in Nashville can put the focus back squarely on winning Lord Stanley’s Cup next spring.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 07.26.2011 / 2:37 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
Nashville Predators prospect and now former Wisconsin Badger Craig Smith announced he would unfurl his sails on a pro career this fall, forgoing his final two years of college eligibility. The club announced it has signed Smith to a two-year entry-level deal.

What that means in the short-term is that Smith will be in training camp and fighting for a spot in Nashville or (more likely) Milwaukee come fall. Originally I began writing this before having a chance to chat with Smith and could only speculate on why after feeling so strongly that he would return to Wisconsin in the fall just weeks ago he had changed his mind. On a Tuesday conference call, Smith tried to answer that question as best he could.

“It’s been so many things, I can’t say there was just one major thing that made me decide to go pro… I just felt comfortable with the decision and my ability to do it.”

Smith talked about life and career goals, consulting not only his family but friends who had made that very same jump from college to pro. Although he knows each situation is different from person to person, in the end Smith decided that his college career coupled with his World Championships experience was enough to persuade him to make the jump.

At Wisconsin, Smith came in with some obvious talent, but said that where things really came together for him under the tutelage of head coach Mike Eaves were the details in his game.

“So much of what I learned there was about the mental game. Staying positive no matter what the situation, and reacting to things that happen during games.”

That quote sounds like it could have come from a possible future coach for Smith in Barry Trotz. Trotz forever talks about details in his players’ games, and much of that comes down not to physical skill but mental preparedness. Perhaps Smith will find that he could be a good fit with the Predators mindset.

One of the buddies Smith leaned on was current Preds forward Blake Geoffrion, who can give probably the best picture of exactly what to expect from the Preds organization. Keep in mind, not only did these two play on the same squad, but Smith and Geoffrion were linemates.

“I’m pretty excited at the prospect of playing with Blake again,” Smith said. “He and I had a pretty good chemistry together.”

Now wouldn’t that be interesting?

Smith showed that he can compete with men on a pro level at this year’s World Championships, scoring three goals and six points with a +2 rating as the US Men reached the quarterfinal against the Czech Republic. Now the real question will be making that jump full-time, competing on a pro level not only for one tournament, but an entire season.

Regardless of where Smith ends up playing this season, he appears to be yet another feather in the cap for the Predators organization and someone to keep an eye on for years to come.

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.


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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
S. Weber 79 23 33 -2 56
P. Hornqvist 76 22 31 1 53
C. Smith 79 24 28 16 52
M. Fisher 75 20 29 -4 49
R. Josi 72 13 27 -2 40
M. Cullen 77 10 29 4 39
C. Wilson 81 11 22 -1 33
N. Spaling 71 13 19 2 32
R. Ellis 80 6 21 9 27
G. Bourque 74 9 17 -5 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Hutton 20 11 4 .910 2.62
D. Dubnyk 11 18 3 .891 3.43

 
 

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