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Preds saw Weber's captaincy as foregone conclusion

by John Manasso
NASHVILLE -- As the Nashville Predators introduced their team during pregame ceremonies for their home opener Saturday, the sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena thundered when the public address announcer intoned the name of the player saved for last: The Predators' captain, No. 6, Shea Weber.
Asked about it after the game, Weber acknowledged the reaction.
"Yeah, definitely," Weber said. "I've always noticed the people in Nashville are great people, and just to get a reception like that is a special feeling."
Weber returned the thanks by picking up two assists and going plus-1 in 25:40 of ice time as the Predators won the season opener over Anaheim, 4-1.
During the offseason, at their annual "Skate of the Union" event in July, the Predators formally announced the 25-year-old Weber, a Canadian Olympian and one of the game's best at his position, as their captain following the trade of former captain Jason Arnott to New Jersey.
However, coach Barry Trotz said on Friday that the message already had been delivered to Arnott that he would no longer be the captain, even if he had remained.
"We were changing the captain regardless and [Arnott] could support Shea or not -- that type of thing," Trotz said. "Then [general manager David Poile] found a deal that made sense for Jason and so we made a deal and we got Matt Halischuk, who we always liked. And then we were able to go out and change the dynamics of our team by bringing in Matt Lombardi. So we went from a big, skilled centerman to sort of a quick, skilled centerman, which is OK.
"Sometimes change is good and we got a little younger with Matt versus Jase. It was Shea's time, so we made him captain."
Last season, two teams had situations in which they wanted to open up their captaincy for a player-in-waiting and each handled it differently. Washington traded Chris Clark to Columbus to name Alex Ovechkin its captain while Carolina had to strip one of the most respected players in team history, Rod Brind'Amour, to name Eric Staal.
Trotz said one of the two hardest things a coach has to do is to remove a captaincy from a player, with the other being when a coach has to tell an older player that he can no longer perform the way he once did.
"It is awkward because, you know, a guy that's leading you and then you're saying we're going to change that leadership and that's a tough conversation," he said. "Not only for the player, but for management and coaching staff and all that."
Trotz said the decision was born out of his observation that during last season the team was beginning to follow Weber as its leader. According to a report on Saturday, the Predators have begun negotiations for a contract extension with Weber, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Along with fellow defenseman Ryan Suter, Weber represents the bedrock of the franchise, and it seemed to Trotz that the players have behaved that way for a while.
"Last year, as the season was going on, it was pretty evident that everybody was following Shea and Ryan and [Steve Sullivan] and it's sort of the group that I have there and we made the change," he said. "There's a time where you look at -- there's captains and there's guys that people follow, and Shea is one of the guys that everyone wants to follow.
"He's our captain, and I think he'll be an exceptional captain in the League for a long time."

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