Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tyler Sloan: Looking for a Fresh Start in Smashville

In late July after all the prized unrestricted free agents had been picked over, Nashville Predators G.M. David Poile signed defenseman Tyler Sloan to a one year, two-way contract that only received any attention because there was nothing else to report in the hockey world.

I was on vacation in Mammoth, California, sitting in a restaurant when I got the press release that Sloan had signed. I immediately did a little research on the web on my phone and was reasonably satisfied that Poile had done his due diligence and found another gem that could shine in the Predator system.

A month earlier, Sloan had been bought out of the final year of a two year deal with the Washington Capitals, making the 30 year old veteran of 99 NHL games and hundreds of games in the AHL and ECHL a free agent looking for a new situation.

Sloan explained, "I talked to them (Predators) in the summer and they said there was some opportunity in the back end with Frankie having some trouble still and needing to fill the five-six slot and potentially seven. They said that the opportunity was there and it’s up to you. You can play your way on or off."

With all the cards on the table, Sloan signed with the Predators on July 28 in a deal that will pay him $650,000 in the NHL and $105,000 at the AHL level.

It was a new situation for Sloan who had been with the Caps for a while. "I’ve been there for four or five years in the organization at Hershey and Washington. Coming over, I only knew a couple of the guys so it was a pretty big change for me, but it is a fresh start and I’m pretty excited about it."

The age difference is glaring with the Preds. "I was looking at the numbers and there are only five guys over thirty. I went from being middle of the pack to being an older guy here. It’s great, it shows you’ve got a lot of prospects, good young team, and a promising future."

Being with the Capitals, Sloan had plenty of high profile exposure, including being a part of last year's Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. "I took warmup and was a part of that and it was a great experience and a lot of fun. I would have liked to play but it was a fun experience."

An outdoor rink, that is basically on stilts is an oddity. "The ice was not very good. It was so wet that you could hardly shoot or pass or handle the puck. Then it started to rain and it became a good curling rink with a lot of bumps. It was a different experience feeling the ice move and the boards rattle but it is great for the game."

A side benefit of the Winter Classic was taking part in the HBO 24/7 series. "I was around a part of that but didn’t get on film as much as some of the other guys. It was a fun experience. They did a great job with it. It was a great thing for the NHL and both teams. It would be fun to do again."

While Sloan wasn't one of the stars of the 24/7 series, he was one of two primary characters in the documentary "The Hockey Diaries: The Almost Season," that first aired a year ago and chronicled the journeys of Sloan and Mike Knuble during the 2009-10 seasons. It is a great production that really lets you get to know the highs and lows of a player's season and is worth a listen.

Competing for a slot on the final roster with all the high draft picks that the Predators have in camp is a challenge for Sloan. "They got a lot of energy, that’s for sure. I’ve got to stay on my toes but it's fun. They have such good talent here and great young core guys with good work habits. It’s fun to be a part of it."

So why did Sloan choose Nashville and the ultra competitive situation? "You've got the top defensive pairing in the league that eat up a lot of minutes. At the same time, if you can get into the top six, it’s a great core to be a part of. To be backed up by these two goaltenders, it is a no brainer for a defenseman to want to come here and play here."

Sloan appreciates the situation and likes the chance to have a fresh start in the Predators orginization that appreciates hard work.

"I’m thrilled to be here and have the opportunity to try to make the team."

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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