After the game five in the Preds series against Anaheim, coach Barry Trotz talked about Jerred Smithson being "disposed of" by the L A Kings and that they turned him into a Nashville Predator. That rejected King scored the game winning goal and is one of a group of players that is the heart and soul of the Nashville Predators.
Other than Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne, and now Mike Fisher the Nashville Predators do not have a lot of star power. What they do have is 25 or 30 players that know their role and are willing to play it for the good of the team.
While most teams consider the top seven or eight players as the "core" of the team, Barry Trotz claims that his "core" is about 25 deep and is made up with all the players in Nashville and the ones in Milwaukee that go back and forth as needed.
This season, with all the injuries that he Predators experienced, the team used 35 different players with Trotz "plugging and playing" different combination all season long in order to have 20 men on the ice for 82 games. The "core" was much deeper this year.
With the Predators in control of their AHL franchise in Milwaukee, they have instituted the same systems and philosophy there so their is not much of a learning curve when they call up a player. When a need arises, they do not just call up whoever is hot at the time, they will call the player that plays a similar role in Milwaukee for the missing player in Nashville.
When Andreas Thuresson was recalled earlier this year, the Predators were without Nick Spaling and wanted another gritty defensive first forward so Thuresson was recalled. He was not the best player in Milwaukee but the right player.
Because of how the Predators build their team, players like Smithson, Spaling, Matt Halischuk, and Joel Ward are as key to the team's success as the top scorers.
I have said all year that Trotz would take Spaling and 17 Spaling clones and put Rinne in net and win eighty-two 1-0 games in a season simply by playing the team game and out working the opponent every game.
Another integral part of the Predator way is having all six players on the ice focusing on the defensive game at all times. Trotz feels that good defense, hard forechecking, and living in the dirty areas creates offense.
This philosophy shows why a great goal scorer who didn't like to play defense named Alexander Radulov was not the star in Nashville that he has become in the free-wheeling KHL He spent more time in Trotz's doghouse than he did on the ice at times simple because he didn't understand that he was one of twenty instead of the star.
Finally, the other piece to the puzzle, is Predators General Manager, David Poile who has worked hand in hand with Trotz since the beginnings of the franchise. The Preds' draft philosophy is focused on picking character type players who will fit the team philosophy.
Also, at trade deadline day, the Preds usually aren't big spenders but they will pick up a the right player when they can. This year they got Mike Fisher who was born to be a Pred playing a gritty two-way game and being willing to put the team first at all times.
Folks from other places, who don't watch the Predators day in and day out don't understand "The Predator Way." They look at the Predators' roster on paper and don't understand how the Preds make the playoffs every year. There are few names that they recognize.
Nashville has always been said to be a "non-traditional" market which usually carries a negative connotation. However, the choice to both build a team and play the game in a non traditional way has produced a winning combination that few other franchises can match.
That is "The Predator Way."
Buddy Oakes for PredsOntheGlass