It has been almost five months since the Nashville Predators lost game six of their first round playoff series against the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks putting an end to a great late season run.
As fate would have it, even if the Preds had won and moved on to round two, that probably still would have been the last home game of the year for the Predators. After the Bridgestone Arena was flooded on May 1, it was closed for events for over three weeks. Renovations to the locker rooms and coaches offices continued well into the summer.
Now, everything has been cleaned up and the whole arena has a fresh coat of paint. Tonight, at a few minutes after 7 p.m., the puck will drop for the first of at least 44 times between now and
April. Predator fans would like to see many more games than that as the team hopes to go deeper in the playoffs than they ever have before.
Not only does the arena have a fresh look to it, the Predators have a bright outlook too, both on and off the ice. The team sent Jason Arnott to Jersey, and lost Dan Ellis and Dan Hamhuis to free agency.
In their place, they added the speedy Matthew Lombardi and the talented, but unknown quantity, of Sergei Kostitsyn. They also brought former Preds, Ryan Parent and Jonas Andersson, back for an encore shot at life as a Predator.
Additionally, the Preds sport the best group of prospects in the NHL according to Hockey's Future. Only a few have a legitimate shot at starting the season with the team but many will be wearing Preds' colors in the years to come. Click here for the roster of 20 players that will see action tonight.
Off the ice, the Predators made a few moves that solidified the franchise and give the team the best chance to succeed financially that we have seen since opening day in 1998.
The specter of 25% of the team being tied up in Boots DelBiaggio's bankruptcy court was lifted when the other owners were allowed to purchase the outstanding shares at a discounted price. In the front office, the Predators looked outside the organization for a couple of successful hockey businessmen and hired Sean Henry as President and Jeff Cogen as CEO.
All in all, having watched the franchise grow from its infancy to a regular playoff participant, I can honestly say that the present, as well as the future has never looked brighter.
All that is left to do is to drop the puck. Go Preds, make it happen.
Launy "The" Schwartz Update...
I try to keep a positive tone to our posts at POTG. I am really struggling to not be vicious and vindictive toward The Score's Drafted 2 competition where our friend, Launy Schwartz, was unceremoniously booted off the show Tuesday night based on an uncorroborated lie just to create drama and draw ratings. You can watch all of the fabricated for TV reality action here.
I will have more to say soon, but Michelle Kenneth captured the truth of the matter in her post here.
Last night, Launy appeared on Chris Wassel's The Program for over an hour and gave keen insight into the world of (not) reality TV. If you are a fan of Launy at all, or want to learn how an innocent person can be used for ratings, give it a listen.
In Pred Nation...
Josh Cooper made the call to Patric Kane to get his thoughts on Sergei Kostitsyn. PHT adds their two cents to Josh's story. Josh also discusses the veterans that Barry Trotz says are being pressured by the crop of rookies. This morning Josh discusses opening night and headlines with Ryan Ellis in his notes column.
The Carolina Hurricanes announced that they would travel with an experienced roster for tonight's game at Bridgestone Area. They already have a game under their belt, losing 4-1 to Florida on Tuesday, so they may be a little further along in their look at prospects.
The Preds officially announced their deal with The Buzz 102.9 to carry every game at the same place on the dial for the first time since 2004. Here is an audio clip from Pete, Terry and Tom being introduced on the station. Preds.com also has their game preview for tonight.
Keep in mind that tonight's game is also the beginning of PredsFest that runs from the pregame activities tonight until the third game in three nights on Monday when Atlanta comes to town. In between is a game with last year's President's Cup winning, Washington Capitals on Saturday.
At OnTheForecheck, Seth Lake reviews the Predators' full day spent practicing with special teams on Wednesday. He has good news to report and the fact that Barry Trotz appears to be taking ownership of the most troubling part of the teams play over the past few years. Chris Burton discusses the "new era" in Preds Nation and it is all good.
Jim Diamond talks to Patric Hornqvist and Colin Wilson about the team's power play prospects for this season.
Amanda at Predlines takes a detailed look at the home ice debut of Brentwood native, Blake Geoffrion.
David Boclair points out that we may see more of Pekka Rinne in the preseason than you might expect. After starting slowly last season, Barry Trotz wants him to hit the ground running (or skating, I presume).
Many folks think that hockey is a sport that is too hard to understand. Patten Fuqua breaks the game down to a few things that anyone can understand. Also, at Section 303, Jeremy has news of how you can be the "in game DJ" at Preds games.
From @kausatoday: #Predators Coach Barry Trotz says "Jonas Andersson is tremendously fast...he might even be faster than Lombardi." Kevin also has a post about Colin Wilson and a longer one focused on captain, Shea Weber.
Admirals' Roundtable also looks at their Milwaukee favorites that are set to dress for tonight's game.
Social Media mogul at The Tennessean, Eric Shuff, is making a move to become the Predators' Interactive Marketing Coordinator. Congrats, Eric, you will be a real asset to the team.
Hockey Night in Nashville is back with their predictions in the Central Division. This is the most optimistic look yet for Pred fans.
What would any type of opening night for the Predators be without a story from the Tennesseean's business page about financial troubles. So, here is the latest version, just in time for the opening puck drop. This is a very tired subject.
Here's a look at potential future Preds owner Brett Wilson's house from the Ottawa Citizen.
Around the NHL...
Ryan at RLD Hockey has his top five Vezina candidates for this year. Preds fans will like the list.
Amanda Fortier takes a look at NHL ticket prices broken down in several ways at View From My Seats.
I am on board with Bob McKenzie who thinks that the Wings will be much improved this season.
Kirill Kabanov just doesn't get it. He showed up late again yesterday. This guy is a great talent and could take a job as a comedian doing one liners. I really would like to see him play in the NHL someday but he is not on the right track.
PHT takes a look at top scorers from last year and the effect a contract year may have on them.
McKeens has their top 100 defensemen and top 50 goalies. Pekka is fourth and Shea is sixth. Ryan Suter is underrated at 28th. I can't wait to see that over the full season.
James "Tapeleg" Gralian went on the road and has a report from the Avs-Blues game on Tuesday with plenty of pictures at Jersey's and Hockey Love.
After last year's Olympic year schedule, Vancouver players are looking forward to a return to normal.
Odds and Ends...
Here are a few things not to do on Twitter. It appears that drunk tweeting is frowned upon.
GQ has a great read on my favorite movie of all time, Goodfellas. I can't believe it has been twenty years since it was released.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass