One of the few games I took my family to during the 2009-2010 year was a game against the Kings in February. Going into that game, the Predators had owned the Kings over the past couple of years, and this game appeared to be no different. They were going with Jonathan Bernier instead of Quick, who was having a very good year by his standards at the time. This version of the Predators team was known for being a bit gritty, but mostly quick and reactive. The Kings were bigger, nastier, and pushed Nashville around for 60 minutes, winning 2-0. Since then, the Kings have OWNED Nashville for those same reasons. And now, they have top tier talent on their second line, three defensive pairings that can contribute, and arguably the best goalie in the game (Quick).
That doesn’t mean the league won’t catch up to them (I’d love to see Boston play them in a series, blood will be spilled), and the Predators could be the team that can re-tool and go after them. Or better yet, learn a thing or two from them as a team, organization, and franchise.
THINGS I WOULD LIKE TO SEE MY BELOVED HOCKEY TEAM DO SIMILAR TO THE STANLEY CUP CHAMPION KINGS :
- GET BIGGER
I was tickled pink when Pawwwwwwll Gaustad and Hal Gill showed up, and even happier hearing they may be close to extending their stay here. Are they pricey? Yes. Size is pricey, that’s the nature of pro sports. Gill and Gaustad are a couple of pros who play the game that Coach Trotz loves. They’re tough, they penalty kill and block shots, and don’t whine about it. Gaustad isn’t nearly as limited as he was used, and would like to see him play some more minutes. Gill slotted with Ryan Ellis makes an immense amount of sense on the third pair. The Kings’ third pair is Alec Martinez and Matt Greene. Ellis and Gill is the more talented version of this pairing. Speed compliments size, and vice versa. No more of this Klein/Gill crap, except on PKs. After the defeat against the Blackhawks in the playoffs in 2010, David Poile said the team was going to improve on their size. Austin Watson was drafted, and boy… he would be useful here.
- TOP END TALENT IS BETTER THAN PROSPECTS THAT ARE NEAR THEIR CEILING
When the gunsmoke settled last year, the Kings gave up Jack Johnson, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, a first and a second for Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and a Stanley Cup banner. Having Slava Voynov to take the spot of Johnson helped, and having Drew Doughty around who passed Johnson in the pecking order while being younger also helped. The truth is that the Kings had the depth for trading off the defenseman, and had the role players and rookies to fill out their bottom two lines. Simmonds is near his ceiling, and may have had a better statistical year than Richards, but playing for the Flyers in the wide-open style of the Atlantic division doesn’t hurt either. Johnson wasn’t missed by the Kings, and perhaps there was some bad blood. Regardless, he seems happy to be in Ohio. The Preds are chock full of prospects, but very few blue chippers. Given that the Kings weren’t able to land free agents as easily as teams like the Rangers, Red Wings, etc, they felt the trade was necessary to land top end talent. It worked. And then on the ice, it worked.
- THEY KNOW WHO THEY ARE, AND ASSIGN ROLES BETTER THAN NEARLY ANY TEAM
Again with the defensive pairings, all three pairs play a similar game. One guy is the puck mover, quicker, and plays the aggressive style, and then there’s the Rob Scuderi/Willie Mitchell/Matt Greene that patrols and guards the rear of the play. This sounds simple enough, but it doesn’t explain why Gill and Klein played together, and Boullion and Klein. It’s not about having the most talent on the ice, it’s about having the right talent. The forward lines are also a fine example. With the addition of Carter, Jarrett Stoll slid back to the third line and became their Paul Gaustad type, taking important draws. All four lines had size, speed, and skill. It was really something to behold, and covet.
- (off the ice) HAVE FUN
Yes folks, these are children’s games that men play for money, and we pay to see live because it’s a great escape from our lives, real world problems, and enjoy. This is not news. In an area where hockey is not the top sport (Nashville, L.A., Dallas, Carolina, and there’s nothing wrong with that) the team and organization has to try a little harder to make an impression on the fans. I’m not a “FIREWORKS on DVD” guy, but if you’re outside looking in on which experience looks like more fun, which would you choose:
Keep in mind this was the most effort they ever put into an opening intro door #2:
skip to 7:35 to see a direct comparison
And screw it, Door #3
No one touches the Stars when it comes to videos. No one.
Sure, I’d rather have a winning hockey team than a cool intro video. But we’ve been given the same dog-and-pony show over the last 2-3 years. Dancers come out to some techno song, Gnash comes out to a song by The Used, intro video, “Thunderstruck”. It’s easy for people who attend over 20 games a year to get jaded, but you know the game ops people are behind the times when Preds’ fans are blown away by something the Knicks/Bulls/Most NBA teams were doing in 1994.
Heh. John Starks.
The Kings social media is something to covet, regardless of who you are. If you’re reading this, you likely know about their Twitter account that wreaked havoc and caused tears across British Columbia. Their fans didn’t whine like ours would have if their local news had put the Orlando Predators logo up instead of ours.
Can you imagine the angry mob outside WTVF if Vicky Yates called him “Peter Rhine”?
In review, our team, has a lot going for it, but not all of the pieces are fitting together yet. The last three champions haven’t been the most talented team on the ice every night (Except for Chicago), it’s been size and skill that’s been getting the rings. Poile has already drafted bigger in the last three drafts, but free agency additions adding both size and skill will be needed if the team is to continue improving.