Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Forechecker pressures the Nashville Predators into a draft turnover

On the Forecheck is one of the premier blogs when it comes to looking at hockey numbers beyond mere plus/minus and points. The Forechecker is also one of the best sources of information on the Nashville Predators.

For years, I was much like cranky MSM'ers: "numbers don't tell the real story," I'd say. Yet over the last year or so, bloggers like Kent, the Forechecker and Earl Sleek keep swaying my opinion. Now, whenever I see someone use plus/minus I cannot help but sport a cocky smirk.

Follow Dirk at On the Forecheck and you'll probably have the same type of reactions.

1. It might be difficult to predict whom the Predators will end up with at #11, but talk about a few prospects you expect to be available. Is there a guy you're really hoping will still be around?

The guy who really has people salivating around here is Jordan Schroeder from the University of Minnesota. He's a high-end talent, with the only knock on him being his 5'9" height. He's solidly built, however, and draws raves as a two-way threat who would seem to fit in well with the Predators style. I wouldn't be surprised to see David Poile trade up a couple spots if that's what it takes to get him.

2. The defection of Radulov was a pretty big blow to the Predators, particularly since the organization's strengths seem to be in developing defensive players. How likely do you think it might be that the Predators move their first round pick (or one of their better draft picks/prospects) to fill the offensive void?

I don't think you'll see the Preds move that pick to acquire a proven NHL talent, simply because I don't think you'd get a true difference-maker at #11. Maybe if it was a top-five pick you'd get something nice, but if you're up that high, you'd rather take a shot at a top-notch prospect that you can work with for the next several years. Don't rule out the organization using some of that defensive depth that they've developed, however, as a trade chip. That's why taking the best player available, no matter your current need, is generally a good idea. By the time that talent is developed, if you can't use it, you at least have created some value that you use in trade.

3. Nashville seems like a team that's been built largely through strong drafting. Talk about some of the best moves in the organization's history. Are there any picks that stand out to you as "steals"?

You can't do much better than Pekka Rinne as the 258th overall pick in 2004, but Martin Erat at 191st in 1999 looks pretty good as well.

4. Conversely, talk about some of the Predators' "d'oh" moments. Are there any botched picks that really stand out as being ones that the franchise should regret?

It might be a bit early, but you'd probably call Scotty Upshall a disappointment with the 6th overall selection in 2002. While he shows occasional flashes of effectiveness, his career-best numbers this season totaled 15 goals and 19 assists, not exactly dynamite stuff. He's on his 3rd NHL team already, too.

5. Take this opportunity to stand on a soapbox, if you'd like. Feel free to discuss the future of the Predators' franchise or the NHL at a whole. Perhaps you'd like to discuss Nashville as a market, or something of that nature?

Nashville has a pretty bright future as an NHL market, based on the commitment that the city has made in terms of the Sommet Center lease, and the direction that the new ownership group has taken, to aggressively develop the business side of the team. There's been talk of renovating the arena to include a stretch of retail stores to better integrate it into the downtown area, for example. Combine that with the long-term demographic shifts which keep Nashville among the faster-growing cities in North America, and I think over time it should become a well-established, reliable NHL market. If the league as a whole grows at 2-3% a year, for example, I'd expect the Preds to grow by 4-5%. That "slow but steady" development could always take a leap forward if the Preds managed to make a decent playoff run, but people are very positive about the overall direction of the organization.

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