POSTED ON Friday, 07.22.2011 / 5:12 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
With Steve Stamkos wrapped up by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the big name dangling out there (especially for us!) is Shea Weber. With arbitration scheduled and the possibility of a deal being struck at any time before thedecision is handed down, PredNation is holding its collective breath to seewhat the outcome will mean – now and down the road.

Stamkos took $37.5M over the next five years, and in the final year of his contract he agreed to go to $5.5M in an obvious concession to the salary cap hit of the contract, keeping the total cap hit at $7.5M Many people are reading this as Stamkos wants to win, and he’s willing to put the team’s needs ahead of his own. Of course, now you have to wonder if this logic might be applied by Shea Weber, David Poile, the arbitrator, or anyone else involved in the case.

What we can take comfort in at the end of the day is that Shea Weber will be wearing Predators gold once the season starts. Nashville is poised for a very good season of youth development alongside the continuation of success bred by last year’s playoff run. The returning players are another year on in experience, and the new kids are going to make a serious push in training camp for spots this year. Training camp might be pretty interesting!

POSTED ON Wednesday, 07.20.2011 / 11:07 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog

Hi all. I’m not going to pretend that losing your team doesn’t suck. I lived in Augusta, GA for four years, and those little fellas in the blue jerseys grew on me in that time. Even the avant-garde blue home jerseys with ATLANTA printed down one sleeve – eventually those became one of my favorites in the league because they were different.

I would like to do two things in addressing you all as brothers and sisters in hockey. The first is please go support the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL if you don’t do so already. It’s a beautiful arena, the show is top-notch for an ECHL franchise, and you’ll be completely amazed at how affordable it is. Spending four years in the ECHL I can honestly tell you there are some very talented players at that level, and a lot of kids who still have the fire and the dream of playing in the NHL some day. Please go see them play. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Second, when you get a craving for NHL action, consider heading up here to Nashville to see the Preds play. We know that if you were with the Thrashers through thick and thin you will have a lot more in common with our fans than you know. And wear your Thrashers gear! Show that hockey is alive and well in Atlanta even if your team ended up in Winnipeg. We welcome you with open arms and Tennessee hospitality to Bridgestone Arena, and I truly think you’ll enjoy the atmosphere in our building, which is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best crowds in all of hockey.

If there’s any impetus for you to want to come up and check out a game, you can really let your emotions wreak havoc with you on September 24 when the Jets come to town to play the Predators in pre-season action (check out the Preds special Thrash-to-Smash ticket offer). It should be interesting to see how much has changed, and how much won’t, once the team hits the ice for training camp.

As a quick guide for you, I’ll give you the short list of names to become familiar with – consider it your Preds Fan Primer:

Shea Weber – D
Team captain, booming shot. Put the puck through the net in the Olympics en route to a gold medal. Norris Trophy runner-up this year to Nicklas Lidstrom. Hits like a truck.

Pekka Rinne – G
Vezina Trophy finalist this year in what should be the first of many kicks at that particular can. Definitely the Predators MVP this year, without his acrobatic play who knows where the team would have finished. His play had some on our team muttering perhaps he should have been league MVP! Another great in the making.

Ryan Suter – D
The American-born counterpart to Weber on defense. Won Silver at the Olympics, and his family has an Olympic past that includes his dad Bob winning gold in 1980 for Team USA. Smart player who moves the puck well and can really cover up a mess with his exceptional play.

Jordin Tootoo – W
Tootoo has long been a fan favorite for his physical play, fiery demeanor, and game intensity. Not the biggest in stature but has a huge heart. Really, everything you need to know is right here.

Patric Hornqvist – W
Goes to the front of the net and takes serious abuse to score goals. If you like lunchpail guys, he’s the one for you.

Martin Erat – W
One of the most offensively talented Preds forwards – scores some great goals and has good speed too.

There are more guys on this team worth knowing like David Legwand, Mike Fisher, Jonathan Blum, and on and on… but I’ll leave you with those and say this: don’t let hockey die. Even if you decide to pick another team, keep the game alive in your city and in your heart. We could all use all the support we can get!

I hope to see you all in Smashville this year – whether in Preds Gold or Thrashers Blue!

Tom Callahan
POSTED ON Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 11:38 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
Indeed, the gold jerseys were unveiled yesterday before a good-sized crowd on the Bridgestone Arena plazajust before 8 pm last night. The unveiling capped a daylong festival of all things Preds, the Skate of the Union.

Throughout the day Preds fans got a chance to get their hockey fix sated a bit, going into an air conditioned arena that reminded them training camp is only three months away while getting autographs, perusing equipment and merchandise sales, getting locker room tours, and being able to be a part of the “Skate of the Union” address from top Predators hockey and business operations staff.

It seems that the buzz generated by Nashville’s solid playoff performance is still fresh in the minds of fans, several of whom I had the chance to chat with throughout the day. It’s nice to see that the evolution of the franchise is resonating with the fans as the team takes steps towards becoming more and more competitive in the NHL. If it were simple to win the Stanley Cup, everyone would do it! But the Predators reiterated yesterday the commitment to maintaining the fan experience both on and off the ice – with Jeff Cogen and Sean Henry tipping their cards ever-so-slightly about a proposed (and unspecified) improvement to the 300 level, coinciding with the realization that once the new convention center is ready what is currently the arena’s back door may well become the “front door” for major entrance traffic.

Not to be lost in the message there is that not only is it important to see a winning team on the ice, but every moment you spend in and around Bridgestone Arena is being honed to be the most pleasing, fun and entertaining experience possible. The goal is to make the arena the best in the world in all aspects, and the fan experience is one of them. What would you like to see in the arena? And for just a moment, let’s pretend money is no object, so shoot for the moon. You never know what may grow from your ideas!

All in all, I think on top of the positive messages conveyed yesterday on and off the ice, the gold jerseys were met with a warm reception as well. Ryan Suter and Blake Geoffrion both donned the new uniform during the unveiling yesterday, showing off a jersey that will be instantly recognizable as Nashville’s team. It might take a little while, but I feel these will begin to grow on people in the very near future.

Finally, the new logo is also in line with a new, simplified look and color scheme. Retaining the basic head was a great choice and reinforcing the two basic colors of the franchise looks good. Don’t worry, if gold isn’t your thing there will be plenty of blue shirts sporting it as well I’m sure. Either way, I like the simpler look and aesthetic. It seems more “classic” if you will.

So for now, and for a few weeks yet, you the fan have time to try to look at and digest what the new season holds in store for the Predators. Certainly the team is working hard to bring Shea Weber under contract, and beyond that Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne. With that core in place and perhaps some more coming down the road, the Predators have matured with one more year in the playoffs and have put itself in prime position to once again be a top contender in the Western Conference. Let the chatter begin!

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

POSTED ON Saturday, 07.02.2011 / 11:07 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog

“I’m really excited.”

With those words his eyes got bigger and you could clearly see that the smile accompanying those eyes was genuine. The enthusiasm was apparent, the expressed joy authentic.

Kirk Muller is your new bench boss for the Milwaukee Admirals, and if his debut press conference was anything to judge him by, there will be a lot of energy in the AHL this year.

For those unfamiliar, Muller captained the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1993 and over the course of a 19-year playing career put together some impressive numbers. After spending the last five seasons as an assistant in Montreal, Muller decided that he would need some head coaching experience to really break into the NHL as a lead horse some day. So it was that he contacted the Predators about the opening in Milwaukee, and now he embarks on a new journey in the Nashville organization.

Both David Poile and assistant general manager Paul Fenton made sure to highlight Muller’s skills as a communicator with his players as well as his leadership roles throughout his playing career. Indeed they are going to lean on him to develop the next generation of Predators players, and communication will be critical both with his charges on the ice, and with the Preds’ front office brass.

The Predators pride themselves on being able to take the talent they draft and make it NHL ready. Certainly the track record has been pretty good thus far, and with the promotion of Lane Lambert to the NHL bench, Muller brings with him a wealth of experience and leadership that will prove invaluable in developing those younger players. Plus, there will be a different opinion and point of view within the organization – one that knows what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. If you think a long NHL career gives your words weight, imagine what a championship resume adds to that.

In fact, that really is the one other point that felt hammered home: Muller is a winner. He has been there and done that, and can tell everyone what it takes from first-hand experience. Along with Martin Gelinas, the Preds now have two Stanley Cup winners working directly with players in the development cycle. While the expectations are clearly big ones, you can see that his enthusiasm and excitement will match or exceed anything that comes his way.

Milwaukee, you can breathe easy – you have a winner on the way. Here’s to chasing the Calder Cup!
POSTED ON Thursday, 06.30.2011 / 3:57 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
All week long the Nashville Predators have been conducting its prospects camp as a way to get a better read on where recent draftees and prospects currently sit in regards to career development.

Once a player is selected or signed to the Predators organization, there is a giant web of support and help available to guide them through the process. Martin Gelinas has been Nashville’s Director of Player Development for over a year now and quickly becomes a familiar face and voice to Preds picks. Along with Nashville’s excellent staff of trainers and doctors, players are just a phone call away from receiving help on any topic from weight lifting to nutrition or on and off ice drills.

Among Nashville’s brightest prospects is defenseman Ryan Ellis, who comes off a stellar career in the Ontario Hockey League where he captured almost every available honor and record for defensemen. But when you talk to him now, you can hear the Nashville in his voice – and not because of an accent.

Ellis knows that he’s had to continue improving on his already solid stats and skills, and gives credit to the Predators staff for helping him in many forms.

“The (prospect) camps are great. Not only do you get to meet your fellow prospects and make friends but also measure yourself against them. I know the knock against me has been my defensive game, and I’ve really worked on that in the past year while continuing to develop my offensive side as well.”

It’s clear the Predators have ingrained the work ethic in Ellis, even on top of what he already had. He looks like he’s taken to the weight room and has filled out more as his body matures, under the guidance of Preds staffers like Strength and Conditioning Coach David Good. This year’s training camp will be a great test for Ellis, who landed in Milwaukee at the tail end of last year’s playoff run for the Admirals. That experience helped give him a taste of the pro game and perhaps even better prepares him for a shot at the big club this year, which is his ultimate goal.

Another player who has benefitted from the guidance of Nashville’s careful eye is Zach Budish. Taken in the same 2009 Draft Class as Ellis at #41 overall, his stock slipped when as a high school senior he injured his knee playing football and missed his entire hockey season. Recently Zach hurt his other knee in an accident and is currently rehabbing to get back up to speed and return to playing for the University of Minnesota. His doctors at both the university and with the Predators have been in constant contact, keeping his rehab on track and making sure he gets to 100% as soon as possible.

It might be something that gets overlooked, but the support system the Predators put in place covers everything: on-ice training and drills, off-ice workouts, nutrition, and even ways to handle bumps in the road that all 18-20 year olds will come across. Perhaps a big reason why the Preds do so well with homegrown talent is largely in the behind-the-scenes process of nurturing those prospects into future NHL players and upstanding young men at the same time. It’s time the organization receives credit for the job it does.

POSTED ON Wednesday, 06.15.2011 / 4:07 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog

Game Seven. This is what everyone plays for – the chance to leave it all on the ice in a winner-take-all contest. It may be the best single game moment in sports. And that, hockey fans, is what we have tonight.

You probably don’t need me giving you the storylines that have woven through this series or even the post-season as a whole. Tim Thomas vs. Roberto Luongo (Pekka Rinne!); The Sedin Twins vs. Zdeno Chara; Burrows biting; major injuries and suspensions; The Weight Of A Nation on each team; Julien and Vigneault tossing out some fun little barbs; etc. There’s a lot more where that came from.

At the end of the day, it is going to ride firmly on the shoulders of one man: Roberto Luongo. If he shows up tonight and is the goalie who can, then the Canucks win. If he doesn’t have it, Boston raises Lord Stanley’s Cup and the Canucks must wait another year.

That said, I think Tim Thomas wins the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP no matter who claims victory tonight. Unless he surrenders eight goals, Thomas has inarguably led the Bruins to where they are now. As soon as he puts pad to puck for the first time tonight, Thomas will set a playoff record for saves in a single post-season. He has been the reason the Bruins have gotten away with some big mistakes and have held on long enough to occasionally get the scoring machine in gear and keep this a series. In my mind you’ll really have to struggle to make a case for anyone else.

The other question that remains for tonight is can the Bruins show up on the road. This team has been night-and-day different from Boston to Vancouver, dominating on home ice and never seeming to really find itself on the road this series. The Bruins would do well to really come out flying against the Canucks and try to intimidate them physically. If the Canucks are allowed to establish the pace and flow of the game, that will spell disaster for the Bruins.

So buckle your seatbelts! I expect nothing less than a game that will take all 60 minutes – if not more – to decide. Enjoy the game.

POSTED ON Friday, 06.10.2011 / 12:54 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog

Just for a moment, I’m going to talk NBA. Don’t worry, I’ll be brief.

I think like most people I’m not pulling for Dallas so much as against Miami. Sorry Josh Cooper (who is a huge – and legit – Dallas fan). The mocking coughs of LeBron and Dwayne Wade as they arrived at the arena clearly aimed at Dirk Nowitzki are just a symptom of something that will kill any team: arrogance and entitlement.

This Miami team clearly reads its own clips and thinks they are going to win. How can they not with that all-star cast? A team of destiny some might say. Well, if Dallas wins one of the next two games, destiny gets to a fork in the road and takes it. (Thanks Yogi)

I’ve heard that very same phrase talked about in regards to the Vancouver Canucks… that they are a “team of destiny”. Well, through the first two games of the series I would heartily agree with you. They seemed better than Boston in many little areas, despite having a long layoff coming into the Final. Did they begin to read those clips that said “this team is IT!” and buy into it? I’m not ready to fully convict them on that charge. However, I do feel that specifically after Aaron Rome’s hit on Nathan Horton the foot definitely came off the gas pedal for the Canucks. And the chance to figure out what needs to change is slipping away.

The fact that Roberto Luongo is starting for Vancouver tonight is hardly news. I would be completely shocked if he wasn’t playing. Alain Vigneault has brought the Canucks this far and he’s not going to suddenly lose his marbles. Aside from the obvious defensive issues, the Canucks are once again not scoring. THAT is what they need to focus on right now.

To that end Alex Burrows needs to find a way to be more effective while continuing to be annoying. Ryan Kesler may indeed be playing hurt, and the Canucks miss his contributions from the last two series wins. Plus the spotlight will be on Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who must find a way to be effective in physical games. It hasn’t really been a hallmark of theirs over the course of their careers, so don’t expect it to change. But just one dominant performance could put Vancouver over the hump. It just has to happen tonight.


A quick note on Lane Lambert joining the Predators as an assistant coach, announced earlier this week:

If you preach the message of growth up the system and climbing the ladder, the hiring of Lambert certainly reinforces that for players coming in to this summer’s prospect camp. There will be many players who will eventually wear a Predators uniform, but they must remain patient and go through the system. Head coach Barry Trotz is often fond of saying it’s easier to make the NHL than remain here, and the message there is you must continue to work and improve and learn once you reach this level. Lambert shows that not only do players move up the system but coaches as well, and he’ll be able to provide the example of “I’ve done it, and so can you” along with many players.

The other element here is that there won’t be a big learning curve for Lambert, who having been in the system knows what to expect and will have very little problem acclimating. That will also allow the coaching staff to continue to move ahead at full speed.

Well, enjoy Game Five tonight everyone. And don’t forget – keep your stick on the ice!

POSTED ON Thursday, 06.09.2011 / 10:25 AM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog

I guess the very first issue that comes to my mind after watching Game Four centers on goaltending for Vancouver. As we talked about in the last installment it was going to be a key for the Canucks to get a strong game from Luongo. I’m not saying he played poorly, because he didn’t. One bad goal doesn’t lose you a game. But the weight of each successive goal going in coupled with the Canucks not scoring created a situation where Alain Vigneault felt that by pulling him out things would change.

They didn’t.

At no time did Vancouver get its mojo back in that game. Boston simply took it from them like candy from a baby. Now it’s time for the Canucks to look inside and see what they have left in the tank. Truth be told, they may be running on fumes. Long travel season, the grind of the playoffs, and Boston simply holding the Canucks’ feet to the fire physically are all taking a toll.

Boston definitely stuck to the game plan of leaning on Vancouver, although it would have been hard to match the manic pace of both scoring and hitting in Game Three. The Bruins simply suffocated the Canucks offense as best as they could – but Vancouver still managed 38 shots. Tim Thomas had to be very good again, and he was. But now instead of the Canucks getting under Boston’s skin, it’s the other way around. Alex Burrows tried and got buried at the end of the game. Boston is playing a good brand of “team tough” right now, and it is bringing them success.

I can’t imagine that we won’t see Luongo back in for Game Five in Vancouver. The Canucks will grab some energy from heading home, but they’ve got to find the keys to a suddenly-dormant offense. More than anything, the Canucks need to take the game to the Bruins, which is something they have not done in the last two contests for any extended period of time.

By the way, the last team to win Games Three and Four by a combined 10+ goal differential? The 1984 Oilers. That has nothing to do with anything – but it’s a fun stat.

Also, congratulations to former Pred Rich Peverly for scoring twice in the game. He showed in Atlanta he could put some points up when moved to the top unit, and did so for Boston in Game Four. Nice to see a good guy do well.

So Game Five heads back to the Great White North – I’m just wondering who gets to hit the panic button next. It’s going to take a monster effort for me to be convinced it’s not the Canucks.

Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!

POSTED ON Wednesday, 06.08.2011 / 1:43 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog

And suddenly it’s a series…

Game Three was exactly the kind of in-your-face hockey the Bruins needed to play to convince everyone – including itself – that this will be a grind and not a sweep. The loss of Nathan Horton seemed to provide a rallying cry for the team and they really took out their aggression on Roberto Luongo, scoring eight times and no doubt inviting questions for the Canucks goaltender that he had hoped to not face. Will he melt down again, as he did in the Chicago series for two straight games and did last year when the Canucks were eliminated against those same Hawks? Or will he bounce back strong?

On top of that you have to look at Vancouver’s (lack of) response to Boston’s physical game. It seemed to me the Canucks were sitting back, waiting for some sort of retribution at any moment. Of course, Boston’s revenge came in the form of eight goals, but I swear that the threat of things just exploding at any moment rattled the Canucks. Even the usual bangers for the Canucks like Torres and Lapierre didn’t have as much of an impact in that style game as I expected. So perhaps if you’re Boston, you have to say to yourself “this is how we beat them”. The Canucks have shown that certain players have a tendency to disappear when played physically.

Finally, the question looms for the Canucks about missing defensemen and for Boston about losing its second-leading scorer in Horton. With Hamhuis likely out again tonight and Rome gone for the duration, Vancouver’s D has a tall order ahead of it. They must handle what looks to be increasing forecheck pressure from Boston and move pucks even faster. Boston will look to Mark Recchi to continue his savvy veteran play to help lead the team to victory.

Keys for Boston:
   • Keep the physical play at a maximum.
   • Focus on continuing to rattle Ryan Kesler.
   • C’mon power play!

Keys for Vancouver
   • Luongo must step up tonight.
   • Bangers have to help control the tempo and aggression in the game.
   • Burrows, Kesler, and Raymond must mix it up and produce as well.

That’s it for now, but as always – keep your stick on the ice!

POSTED ON Friday, 06.03.2011 / 4:20 PM
By Tom Callahan - Nashville Predators / Tom Callahan's Summer 2011 Blog
Well that was quite the Game One to start what promises to be a memorable Stanley Cup Final! Both Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo had to be sharper than sharp, and each team played physical hockey looking for that little opening. I’m sure we all thought overtime would be a foregone conclusion when Raffi Torres netted the game’s only goal. Boston broke down just one time too many and Thomas couldn’t bail them out this time.

I really like that both teams are playing hard, hustling to every puck, and showing that this indeed is the pinnacle of what the NHL offers in competition. I’m not one of those people who needs seven goals in a game for it to be exciting. I just like to see battles everywhere and scoring chances littered in. Both defenses made just enough mistakes to keep it interesting – only it was Boston that was burned in the end.

Kudos to the Canucks for coming out strong after a long layoff. I remember when I was in Elmira in the UHL and we made the Colonial Cup Final, we sat for eight days waiting for the Western Conference Final to be decided. Needless to say, we fell down in an 0-2 hole before evening the series at two and eventually losing 4-2. Three of the last four games went to overtime in that series, and it was pretty exciting. But I remember how flat we were after sitting that long. It couldn’t have been easy for Vancouver so kudos to them.

I’m also wondering how Dan Hamhuis is feeling today. Sore for certain, but I can’t see much keeping a player out of the Stanley Cup Final. If for whatever strange reason Hamhuis’ “middle body” injury keeps him out of the lineup, the Canucks are down a major defensive cog. But they did well with five D over the last half of Game One, so we know it can be done. You’d just prefer not to have to burn high minutes on guys who are now playing games 110 or 120 of their season.

Don’t forget once Lord Stanley’s Cup has been handed out there’s more hardware to come. The NHL Awards show is in Las Vegas on June 22; stay tuned for more information on a Preds Watch Party here in Nashville.

That’s it for now Preds fans. Until next time, keep your stick on the ice!

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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


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
C. Hutton 20 11 4 .910 2.62
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