For the last two years, Nashville has done all it can to show their top-end talent they’re serious about winning. The ownership made bold statements on adding payroll. The front office added some good veterans at the deadline, and retained two of last year’s rentals. Together, they locked up one of the best goalies in the world for the next seven years.
But still, the strategy of waiting til the eleventh hour has bit the Predators. Again.
Ryan Suter, after saying all the right things and reasonable things for most of the last two years, bolted to Minnesota. Now there’s Shea Weber, who will be now asked to sign a multi-year deal or be given a list of teams to be traded to. While he would warrant a healthy ransom and certainly some of the prospects Nashville would receive would be good players, this is a potential deathblow to all the good momentum that’s been building for years in this city.
If he doesn’t sign, here is your rhetoric that you will hear from people far more educated than me:
The Predators have done a great job building the fanbase. That’s great, really it is. But three straight summers that have seen the roster lose notable players without comparable improvement will force fans to ask themselves “Why support a team that can’t keep their players?”
Nashville has survived and thrived due to their farm system, and superb player development. But as now we’ve seen losing Suter, Ward, Hamhuis, all of which were among the biggest names in the free agent market, just because the team has drafted them doesn’t mean they’ll be retained. Nashville has had the chance to ink Weber to a deal for the better part of 24 months, and have failed to do so because… why? Is it the system? Is it the stigma of the Leipold era that continues to be planted in the mind of every media member above the Ohio River? Whatever it is, it’s discouraging for fans and players alike.
This isn’t a town like Oklahoma City, that supported the Thunder when they were losing their way to top-end talent. It’s more like Atlanta, Charlotte, and Miami. Football is king in the south, and likely will be for a while. Ever see what a football stadium looks like in one of those towns when the team is terrible?
I tried finding some pictures of LP Field during the dark ages, so just assume they were as bad. I was there. They were bad.
The point is this: cosmopolitan cities particularly in the South need winners in order to draw a crowd. We can sit here and thump our chests and say “that won’t happen here” and “we’re different”, but how confident are you? The readership here isn’t the group that will stay home and give up, but we may be the minority. It’s new territory- it’s a winning franchise that looks to have a good future that could take the next step if players wanted to play here, but nope… they don’t want to stay. If it’s not about the money, what is it about? David Poile? Barry Trotz? Again, accept the fact that football is king here. If “that won’t happen here”, explain Vanderbilt’s football attendance, and the Titans having some trouble filling LP.
Nashville is what it always wanted to be, a beautiful vibrant city that people from all over the country are visiting and moving to. It’s in the same breath as DC, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Miami as a destination for professionals and tourists. Aside from the Heat, none of the teams in those cities had a bigger window for winning a title than the Nashville Predators with Suter and Weber in the lineup. But one rotten summer can ruin it all, due to poor planning, which has led to attrition.
We say it every summer it seems, but it’s never been more true when we say this is the ultimate crossroads for the Nashville Predators hockey team. Will convince their team captain, best skater, team leader, and the absolute best defenseman in the game to commit to the team based on their pitch? They haven’t done much outside of the meeting room to convince him, and that purely falls on David Poile and the brass. The fact is that if Shea does stay, the window will remain open, and they’re a forward away from repeating last year’s feats or better. If he leaves, the Predators are likely screwed for years to come. What Nashville fans need to remind themselves is that a reputation is hard to scrub and change. Weber leaving cements it further that the team is little more than a farm system for bigger markets. If you doubt the effect of a reputation, remind yourself about the relocation rumors and stability concerns. While those concerns may be subsiding, the perception hasn’t caught up with the reality.
Idea: if Poile does trade Weber, call up Columbus. Acquire Nash, and teach Shea a lesson on being competitive.