The Nashville Predators held a “Skate of the Union” event Thursday night at the Sommet Center. Several hundred fans attended and received free food, autographs from players and a chance to have their picture made with Steve Sullivan and his Masterton Trophy.
The complete video of the event is available here in a Friday post.
The featured portion of the evening was a round-table discussion that included primary team owner David Freeman, Marketing head Ed Lang, General Manager David Poile, and players Steve Sullivan and J. P. Dumont. A Q. and A. session from the crowd followed.
The hour-long session covered a broad range of topics and gave the fans insight into what Predator’s management is thinking about the upcoming season.
David Freeman opened the session by reminding fans that it had been a quick two years since he first met the fans at the Save the Predators Rally in July 2007. He assured fans on the team’s stability by saying “This franchise is a whole lot stronger now and our best days are ahead of us.”
Freeman also discussed the franchise’s core strengths as an organization. “The Predator Way” includes the best scouting in the NHL, coaches who can develop players in Nashville and Milwaukee, stability and class in David Poile and his staff, and the passionate and knowledgeable fan base.
Steve Sullivan, who returned to the Preds after being out for two years, says that he feels great. On his training, he commented, “I’m doing exactly what I did to get back, if it worked then, then let’s just stick with it.” He thanked Freeman and Poile for bringing him back saying, “There was nowhere else that he wanted to go. The house was never for sale,” referring to his now famous “tweet” after he signed.
J. P. Dumont was asked how the Preds could improve the power play and he smiled and responded, “He’s sitting next to me!” referring to having Steve Sullivan back for the entire season. Dumont also listed Alexander Ovechkin as his favorite player to watch.
What most folks wanted to hear was what the Predators will look like in the coming season. David Poile discussed the team’s strength and which youngsters may have a chance to make the team in camp. . He pointed out the Predator’s philosophy has always been that, “the road to Nashville is through Milwaukee.”
Poile mentioned key prospects in the pipeline. On defense, he discussed Ryan Ellis, Jonathon Blum and Roman Josi. He pointed out that “Sulzer, Franson and Blum may be able to make the jump this year.”
On offense Poile gave accolades to Colin Wilson, Nick Spalling, Mike Santorelli, Cal O’Reilly, Ryan Jones, and Patric Hornqvist all of which will be given a chance to stick with the Preds in camp.
Promising that the Predators were “going to be good” in the coming season, Poile pointed to Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis as the best in goal in the league. He called Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Dan Hamhuis the “best young core on defense” in the NHL.
Poile promised big improvements on offense with “our first line intact for the whole season, J.P. Sully and Arnie.” He also expects David Legwand and Marty Erat to have the best seasons of their career.
Poile called Steve Sullivan and Joel Ward “the two best two players available in free agency” and admitted that he was “a little slow” in getting them wrapped up.
Other signings that Poile discussed were Been Eaves who he said was “the best player in Finland the second half of the year.” Peter Olvecky was compared to Joel Ward as a player on the cusp of being ready. Poile also pointed out that former Ranger’s first-rounder, Hugh Jessiman may also be a player that gets a good look in camp.
Poile concluded his analysis by stating that “we are going to do everything we can to return to the playoffs this year. Our ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup but our first goal is to get back to the playoffs.”
Notes… The Pred's new third jersey should be out in September and it will be worn for Saturday home games… More FSN games will be in HD this year. The Preds had more HD games last year than the Kings and Ducks combined… Three Nashville kids won national championships at the “Aces Got Skills” competition… Poile described first round pick Ryan Ellis as “Sully as a defenseman”… Next year’s Predators team may be the first time in NHL history where all defensemen are draft choices…
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass and The Columbia Daily Herald