Saturday, April 4, 2009

Complentating the World of the Predators (and Baseball?)

For the first time in months, I am the only one at home. Fisher and Jackson are taking the ACT and Cathy and Laura are at a dance competition in Birmingham. So as I sit in our deserted house I’m trying to figure out possible ways that the Predator’s hockey season does not end in less than a week. I’m not finding many combinations that have a happy ending for Predator fans.

I’m not surprised that we lost to Columbus and Chicago on the road and I’m pleased that we played competitive hockey in both games in spite of all the injuries. What is surprising to me is that St Louis, Anaheim and now Minnesota are not struggling down the stretch.

In February when the Predators were starting to play better, the pessimists were saying that there were too many teams in the mix for the Preds to make it to the top eight. After overcoming the dire predictions and making it as high as seventh, the wisdom of the original statement is starting to show as we have fallen to ninth place.

There are three points that separate seventh and tenth place in the standings that change nightly. If you look at the graphical NHL Playoff Race site and the SportsClubStats, it becomes clear that the Predators need to win their last four games to get to the 99% chance level of being in the playoffs. If they don't, our only chance for the post-season is having two of the other three teams collapse. One probably will, but two would be unlikely.

Of the other three, Minnesota probably has the best shot at stumping their toes as they have games at Detroit and Columbus. The flip side is that they can stick a nail in the Pred's heart when they host the Predators in the season finale next Friday. They also play the slumping Stars at home. Their computer odds are only slightly worse than the Preds at 19%.

St Louis will have to lose a game even if we win our last four as they are a point ahead in the standings. Unfortunately, they have been been on a roll behind former Pred Chris Mason and winning games that they aren't expected to win. They have Columbus at home and road games against teams two teams with no sign of life (Dallas, Colorado) and a Phoenix team that has actually played fairly well lately. SCS has them at a only a 30% chance of failing to make the playoffs.

Anaheim only has an outside chance (15%) of missing the playoffs. They have a home and away with the Sharks and a home game with Dallas and a road trip to Phoenix. They also have a two point bulge over the Preds and are the hottest team in the league going 8-2 in the last ten.

All that being said, the Predators have two home games with Columbus and Chicago and a road trip to Detroit and Minnesota. The Preds have a 26.5% chance of making the playoffs with the computer projecting that 2-2 is the greatest outcome probability for the last four games. The Predators basically will need to play their best week of hockey of the year and pray that Dallas and Phoenix decide to get on the stick and help out the cause.

Ever optimistic about our chances, I'm still not ready to throw in the towel. Pekka Rinne may be enough to keep us close in every game where an odd bounce here or there can make a difference. After the last two losses we are due a few. Also, every time the Preds are counted out and facing life support, Barry Trotz manages to pull a rabbit out of his hat at just the right time.

It all starts tonight when Steve Mason and the Columbus Blue Jackets roll into the Sommet Center for a 7:00 p.m. puck drop. Everyone needs to load up on lucky trinkets for the team and also for themselves as the players will give the "shirts off their backs" to lucky fans. See you there!


The guys at have come up with another gem this week with their 303:30 podcast featuring Hockey Buzz's Brandon Felder and Aaron Portzline from the Columbus Dispatch. This second episode proves the first was not a fluke. Everyone should go here and listen to it now.

Probably no surprise to Predator Twitterers but the @Predfans group is the most active hockey talker on most days. Go here for proof.

Changing the subject to baseball, I've been looking at a lot of pictures of the Met's new CiTi stadium and read a review by Russ Cohen at Sportsology that really struck close to home. Before Hockey came to Nashville in the 90's, I would attend twenty or so Braves games in Atlanta annually and would never miss a post-season game. I had been a fan since the Braves moved South in 1966 and had always gone to games at the old Fulton County Stadium. That place was a part of me and it was my favorite place in the world to be.

When the new and improved Turner field opened after the 1996 Olympics, and the old FCS was imploded, it was like someone in the family had died. The new stadium was state of the art and had everything you could imagine but it didn't matter to me. The Braves did preserve the wall where Hank Aaron hit his record breaking home run and another little green area with a tree that I used to sit under waiting for the gates to open. I could walk across the parking lot to where the old stadium was and see the remnants and that made it hurt even worse.

So much of sports is tied to memories of past days that it is really important to not lose the character and personality of the old stadiums when new ones are built. That is what happened at Turner Field. Watching a game there has few echoes of the past other than the "Tomahawk Chop" which has long since become passe.

I have really enjoyed going to Camden Yard and minor league fields in Albuquerque and Oklahoma City because I haven't lost any history at them. With all the old Braves broadcast crew dead or retired, and few players from the old days (Jones and Glavine are the exceptions) I've completely lost touch with the team I lived and died with from 1966 to the early 2000's. Players come and go, but the stadiums carry the history and feelings through time and it appears that the Mets forgot that too at Citi Field where very little of Shea was brought with them.

I really wish the politicians in Nashville would end their squabbles and build a new downtown stadium. We need something to do in the hockey offseason and the current facility is not a option for me. Greer is one place I have no positive memory to lose. I really need a new positive baseball experience to rekindle my interest in the game and a park down the street from the Sommet Center might do it.

Thanks to Russ for giving me the opportunity to reflect on something that I've tried to forget.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

Afternoon Update - Arnott Returns - According to The Tennessean's John Glennon, it appears that due to the dire circumstances facing the Preds, Jason Arnott will try to give it a go tonight against the Jackets. He also confirmed, if there was any doubt, that Pekka would be in goal. I'm sure this will give Barry Trotz options on numerous line combinations that we haven't seen before. You can bet that the hot-handed rookie Cal O'Reilly will remain a key player on one of the top two lines and that Ville Koistinen will return to the far end of the bench for the remainder of the season.

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