By Amanda DiPaolo
At the start of each hockey season, the Nashville Predators organization adopts a motto that best exemplifies the team. This year, the Predators motto is the word together. As the puck officially drops tonight at Bridgestone Arena, Predlines talked to some of the Predators about what together means for them.
Colin Wilson is about to start his second NHL season, and expectations are high. Drafted 7th overall in 2008, Wilson is only 20 years old. Last season, as a highly touted prospect, Wilson had a roster spot penciled in despite the typical road to Nashville traveling through Milwaukee. But a nagging groin injury forced Wilson out of the lineup and down to the American Hockey League.
For Wilson, together as a motto means forgetting about individual goals in favor of team ones. “If we all have individual goals we aren’t going to be able to accomplish much,” Wilson said, adding “if we all go out there with the same goals, together that’s what will help us go further and win the Stanley Cup.”
Predators leading scorer from last season, Patric Hornqvist, like Wilson, believes the Predators success is found and depends on the team’s ability to stick together. “We always play like a group of five. It doesn’t matter if you are in the neutral zone, your own zone or the offensive zone. Nobody can do it by themselves,” Hornqvist said, adding “We are a team out there and in the locker room and we stick together. If we do that we’ll be a hard team to beat.”
For someone like Cal O’Reilly, this is an important year. It’s a contract year and if O’Reilly doesn’t define for himself a role in the organization he might find himself looking elsewhere come July. O’Reilly has found success at the AHL level but he has yet to find similar success in the NHL. Last year, O’Reilly played 31 games for Nashville, scoring 2 goals and added 9 assists for 11 points. While playing for the Admirals, O’Reilly averaged more than a point per game, scoring 9 goals, adding 31 assists for 40 points in 35 games.
During training camp, O’Reilly, whose younger brother Ryan plays for the Colorado Avalanche, spoke with Predlines about his expectations for the year. He believes this is the season he sticks as a regular in the NHL. So far so good for O’Reilly. He made the roster out of training camp and is starting the season on Nashville’s second line, centering the two leading point getters for the Predators, Steve Sullivan and Patric Hornqvist.
O’Reilly also believes together is the way to a winning season. “Together all the time,” he said, “we are five guys on the ice but we are 20 guys all together and that’s how we are going to win it.”
Starting goaltender, Pekka Rinne agrees and adds that the idea of being together is nothing new for the Predators. “It has always been one of our strengths to have real good team chemistry.”
For players new to the Nashville organization, together as a team concept may be new, with many teams relying more on a few select players to get the job done. But it is no secret that Nashville’s type of play is described by fans, players and coaching staff alike as “the Predator way.”
Sergei Kostitsyn, whose rights were traded to Nashville from Montreal for the rights to negotiate with Dan Ellis and Dustin Boyd, saw the together motto as a lifestyle. “I think everybody together off the ice, and on the ice,” he said.
Even Predators who are in Milwaukee, either as a result of youth and inexperience or they are a victim of the numbers game, see the notion of together as a part of the Predator way.
For Tennessee native Blake Geoffrion, the motto of together doesn’t end in Nashville but is applicable to the organization as a whole. And like Kostitsyn, Geoffrion thinks the idea of together isn’t just about the game and the locker room. “Whatever we are doing either in Milwaukee or in Nashville just stick together in everything off the ice and on the ice. You have to be together, you have to be a family, you can’t be an individual,” he said.
Andreas Thuresson was put on waivers, cleared and has been sent to the Admirals. Thuresson sees the motto of together as completely natural, one he grew up with. “In Sweden it is all about being together. There is no I in Team, so it’s battling together,” he said.
The Predators are known for drafting leaders. Even future of the Predators organization seems to understand what the Predator way exemplifies. “Everyone in,” Taylor Beck, who is an alternate captain for the OHL’s Guelph Storm, said, “you have to be 100% committed to helping the team win anytime you are on or off the ice.” Beck was sent back to his junior team on September 25th after having a very impressive training camp.
Nashville’s new captain, Shea Weber, doesn’t see the motto as something to strive for, but rather something that already is. “I think it is a word that sums up our team. Everyone within this locker room and organization knows what kind of character we have and the chemistry goes a long way in winning hockey. It just sums up how we feel as an organization.”
Tonight the puck drops at Bridgestone Arena at 7pm against the Anaheim Ducks. Last night, the Ducks lost their season opener on the road to the Detroit Red Wings in a game filled with fights and injuries. Ducks defenseman Andy Sutton left the game in the second period and didn’t return.
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