Fan support, organizational depth, 3-on-3 overtime and the upcoming campaign were among the topics of discussion during the executive portion of the Nashville Predators Skate of the Union Address held Saturday at Ford Ice Center.
Predators Chairman Tom Cigarran, CEO Jeff Cogen, President Sean Henry, General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Peter Laviolette spoke to fans at the annual event, touching on a number of items the regular season, which is less than two weeks away.
Prevalent on everyone’s mind is Nashville hosting the upcoming 2016 NHL® All-Star Game, with Cogen reiterating that the best way to secure a seat for the weekend is to become a season-ticket holder. The Preds CEO also stated the franchise received 8,000 tickets from the NHL and they’re asking for more.
Starting at the end of last season and carrying over into the 2015 preseason, the Preds have asked their fans sing the national anthem prior to games within Bridgestone Arena. Henry says that new tradition will continue throughout 2015-16.
“When we played in Toronto at the beginning of the season last year, their [microphone] went down and their fans ended up signing the American anthem for all of us which was pretty cool and very powerful,” Henry said. “When we played them, we returned the favor, if you remember, and all of you got on your feet and we sang their anthem for them. We realized there was something there… In the end there’s nothing more powerful than standing up and singing our anthem. You get chills, so of course we’re going to continue that, and we’ll always have someone fun to introduce the anthem.”
On the hockey side, the introduction of 3-on-3 overtime, of which the Preds have seen three-straight times during the preseason, was also a talking point, with Poile believing the new addition could make or break some teams this season.
“With the parity in the National Hockey League, we could possibly have a quarter of our games decided in this 3-on-3 situation, so it’s imperative that our players and our coaching staff formulate a game plan to be successful,” Poile said. “I think we’ve got the ingredients for it. It’s going to be something that we’re all going to have to make an adjustment to, and for sure at the end of the day, you’re going to hear something like, ‘this team made the playoffs because of how good they were in 3-on-3.’
“I’m really glad we made the change. I think it’s going to be fantastic for our players and our fans and it’s one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen.”
The GM is also excited about the depth within the organization, believing it will help with not only the inevitable bumps and bruises of the season, but also pushing players to be their best.
“The good news is, I think our players and our team see that we have this depth and that challenges them and pushes them,” Poile said. “Our coaches realize that they’ve got guys to go if some other guys aren’t pulling their weight.”
The panel knows that every NHL team begins the year with the same goal of winning the Stanley Cup. They also know only one of the 30 teams will accomplish that feat come June. But the promise is still there. Plus, the team isn’t half bad either.
“We have a plan, we have a belief, we have a dream, and I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves because this is a tough League,” Poile said. “There are a lot of good teams in this League this year, the good news is we’re one of those teams. We believe in ourselves, and hopefully confidence and that experience of what we did last year can take us just a little bit further and get to that promised land.”
“All the teams are good,” Cigarran said. “What I want is, I want us to end the year where our fans really feel they had a team they were proud of. [A team] that gave it everything they had, that hopefully won the Stanley Cup, but if we didn’t, they left nothing out there. I think I’m OK with that; I still want a Stanley Cup though.”
2016 NHL All-Star Weekend Panel:
Predators Executives Panel:
Preds Players Panel:
Team White defeated Team Gold by a 3-2 score, and then tallied another marker in 3-on-3 overtime during Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage at Ford Ice Center.
Forward Max Reinhart scored twice in regulation, then once more in overtime, to lead the way offensively. The contest consisted mostly of prospects on both sides such as Kevin Fiala, Viktor Arvidsson, Austin Watson and Colton Sissons, with a sprinkling of players with more NHL experience like Eric Nystrom, Gabriel Bourque and Mattias Ekholm among the participants.
The game is just one more element to training camp, and mixed with practices and exhibition outings against other clubs, gives Laviolette and the coaching staff yet another opportunity to evaluate the roster.
“Not everybody can get into the exhibition games, or maybe not as many exhibition games as you want,” Laviolette said. “We’re still in training camp, we’re still evaluating and it’s an opportunity to watch them play some games as opposed to just practice. Between the rookie games and practice and the exhibition games and the scrimmage here, I feel like we’ve got a pretty good handle on everybody.”
Defenseman Barret Jackman, who hasn’t skated in an exhibition game yet due to a previous upper-body injury, also participated in the scrimmage, and is hopeful to skate in Nashville’s final two preseason games this week. The veteran blueliner also got a look at some of the team’s young talent up close, a group which left him impressed.
“There’s quite a few,” Jackman said when asked of the young players who stood out. “Fiala really played well, I think [forward Yakov] Trenin is a big, strong kid, he’s got some raw ability; there are a bunch of guys that stepped up and I think made some tough decisions for the coaches.”