When I was guesting on the Preds on the Glass podcast earlier this week, host Buddy Oakes and I were discussing how the Nashville Predators have managed –despite small budgets and little “superstar” talent – to remain so competitive year after year.
At the end of the day, it’s been a classic formula: stable, patient management; drafting well; player development; a coach who after 10+ years still has the ears of his players- and a willingness on the part of all their players to work as a team. I wasn’t aware until Buddy told me that the Predators built their team concept around a simple motto, if I can call it that: “All in”.
This attitude speaks to a basic philosophy that all teams talk about publicly but few, based on the “star” system, can actually put into action. It’s about accepting--and actually believing- that the team is the important thing, and that each player has to contribute all they can, as best they can, within their role, within that team context.
We can say, “ah, but the Predators have never really advanced in the playoffs”.
Well, if you really look at the numbers and the competition they have faced in the Western conference through the years as a relatively recent expansion team, they have done an outstanding job. (Just compare them with the Atlanta Thrashers, another expansion team from the same era--it’s not even close.)
The Leafs, when Cliff Fletcher took over after John Ferguson’s four years as General Manager, were not much more than an expansion team. They still need to build, block by block. They could do worse, much worse, than follow the blueprint of David Poile and Barry Trotz in Nashville. Leaf fans would love the young Predators defense with Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Ryan Parent, and a rugged forward like former Canadian National Junior team forward Jordin Tootoo.
That’s the Nahville model: no big stars, just a lot of worker bees who play their guts out most nights and make the playoffs--despite ownership issues and a small budget.
We know it’s a quiet time in hockey when Ottawa hiring a goalie coach received as much play this week as it did.