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Why the Predators will win: About time

by Shawn P. Roarke
They say good things come to those who wait.

Well, Nashville has waited long enough to find some postseason success, so perhaps this is the year for hockey's version of the "Music City Miracle."

Certainly, the Predators have some good people in the organization who have earned the right to enjoy a little success in Nashville. And by success, we mean a run far more substantial than the first-round exits that have been all too common in the past few years.

The list starts at the top with GM David Poile and coach Barry Trotz, who have been together in Nashville since July of 1997. Trotz, then an unknown commodity with no NHL coaching experience, was one of the first hires made by Poile, who had an enviable track record during a 15-year run as GM and vice president with the Washington Capitals.

Amazingly, it has been one of the more solid marriages in the NHL -- Trotz is the second-longest tenured coach in the League -- and that union is starting to bear fruit. This is the fifth time in the past six seasons that Nashville has reached the playoffs, a notable achievement after missing the postseason in each of the franchise's first five seasons.

But it is not just the front-office staff that has waited for Nashville's moment in the sun. Of the 32 players who have pulled on a Nashville sweater this season, 18 of them are draft picks of the team. That is a solid track record for any organization and should be rewarded with some playoff success.

David Legwand is still around after being the franchise's first draft pick, No. 2 in 1998. Legwand has never approached the career forged by Vincent Lecavalier, the No. 1 pick in that draft, but he has been a solid soldier throughout an up-and-down tenure in Nashville. Amazingly, the 29-year-old already has 704 NHL games under his belt.

Meanwhile, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, first- and second-round picks in the 2003 Entry Draft, have become the team's crown jewels. But, the organization has also hit late in the draft game, with starting goalie Pekka Rinne, top-six forward Martin Erat and sophomore sensation Patric Hornqvist (the last pick in the 2005 Entry Draft) all coming in the seventh round or later.

Even the imports have compelling stories as they chase playoff glory.

Steve Sullivan has fought his way back from a career-threatening back injury. Top center Jason Arnott has battled through injury after injury in an attempt to recapture the thrill he experienced in winning the 2000 Stanley Cup for the New Jersey Devils. Joel Ward, meanwhile, took a roundabout route here -- making a four-year pit stop at Canada's university level after a junior career did not land a NHL job.

Make no mistake, part of the fun of a Stanley Cup run is the storylines. As you can see, there is no shortage of storylines on a Nashville team that has harbored a Stanley Cup dream since the day the franchise came into existence on June 25, 1997.

Now, with a solid home-grown goalie, bookend dominant defensemen and opportunistic scorers, Nashville might just be in a position to move that fantasy into the realm of reality.

Bring on the Music City Miracle.

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