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Dan Hamhuis Ready to Go Back Home to Nashville, Win Cup

Defenseman Returns to Where His Career Began, Adds to Nashville's Premier Blue Line

by Thomas Willis @TomAWillis / Digital Manager & Producer

There's a 2014 series of Matthew McConaughey car commercials in which the movie star turned spokesman for a luxury line of vehicles says it's OK to return to where you started.

The dimly lit, overly dramatic TV spots have been justifiably parodied in the years since their time in the spotlight, but for the commercial that preaches "sometimes you have to go back, in order to move forward," there's more wisdom within the 30 seconds than what's found in some of its peers.

Dan Hamhuis probably didn't see himself being compared to Matthew McConaughey in a story on, but after the veteran defenseman inked a two-year deal to return to the franchise that drafted him in 2001, maybe the blueliner could garner some wisdom from a series of commercials that can now only be found online.

"Nashville has a really special spot in our lives. It's where we grew up," Hamhuis told Darren and Daunic on 102.5 The Game on Wednesday. "So many great memories - from the city, the hockey side, from teammates and staff and everyone there - and all positive… So when [Preds General Manager] David [Poile] called and expressed interest in bringing us back, we were really excited and wanted to make that work."

In the years following his departure from the Predators in 2010, Hamhuis and his family have seen the organization evolve into the top-tier member of the NHL they caught signs of during their six seasons in Music City.

"In year six [of the franchise], which was my first year that the Predators made the playoffs, I believe we snuck into the eight spot that year. We were heavy underdogs to the Detroit Red Wings, but it was exciting times," the 35-year-old recalled. "From there, the franchise has really gone on an incredible run of 15-16 years now of a Presidents' Trophy, a Stanley Cup Final, with playoff runs consistently in there. [They're] definitely a pain in the butt to play against, as I experienced the last eight years. It's great to see. It's a great hockey story."

Seeing what Nashville - both as a city and a hockey team - has achieved during his absence created a gnawing desire in the back of Hamhuis's mind. After spending 548 games away with Vancouver and Dallas, he knew it was time to come back. Make no mistake: he's not coming back simply for nostalgic reasons; Hamhuis is returning because he believes this team will win.

"The team being very competitive, in my opinion, one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup next year, that's a huge draw," Hamhuis said.  

"The fans, it's not secret anymore, especially after [2017's] playoff run they had… It's a well-talked about thing: about how great Predators fans are across the League. We're excited to have a chance to go back and be a part of it again."

The McConaughey-esque narrative is there, but as the second-oldest member of the 2018-19 edition of the Predators, can Hamhuis still play? In a word: yes.

The defenseman actually saw his average time on ice rise to 20:11 last season in Dallas, while filling a mostly top-four role. From an advanced analytics perspective: Hamhuis recorded possession metrics of 50.8 and 45.5 percent in two seasons with the Stars (Corsi courtesy of Hockey-Reference). He's also been durable, logging 79 games in 2016-17 and 80 last year.

With Hamhuis expected to step into a reduced role in Nashville behind the Preds' big four (Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban), the blueliner still has the tools to succeed during 13 to 15 minutes a night. He should also see his Corsi rise back above 50 percent in that scenario.

"You look at the Predators defense and it's solid. They have a really great top four and some great support players behind that. I talked with [Preds Head Coach] Peter Laviolette and he saw me fitting in behind those top four guys to help them," Hamhuis said. "I thought the role that was described for me on this team fit really well with where I'm at."   

"It's frustrating for the forwards, on the teams I've played with, to play against those guys because there's just never a break… It's a pleasure and an honor to be able to play on a team that's as solid as this one: well coached, tough to play against and really solid from forwards, to defense, to goalies. It's a team that I would like to be a part of, to contribute to hopefully the Nashville Predators winning a Stanley Cup."

See? It's just like McConaughey says: Sometimes you have to go back, so you can see where you're going.

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