This Week In The 'Drome: Poile's choice, Vandy's identity, Storm Troopers at Lipscomb, and physics (in Latin!)
Isaac Newton vs. Geddy Lee: Two great philosophers who had two different outlooks on decision making.
Newton's First Law of Motion and Hockey Personnel Decisions says (in part) "Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo movendi uniformiter in directum" — the old "object in motion will stay in motion" saw. Dr Lee, on the other hand, reminded us in a 1980 treatise "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."
As discussed in this week's dead tree, Predators general manager David Poile is faced with a conundrum in the month before the Feb. 27 NHL trade deadline. Does he try to keep his team in motion by adding a few key parts, or does he trust what he's got is good enough to get it done?
At least one of the more confounding problems has been dismissed. With Ryan Suter headed to the open market in July, there was speculation Poile would trade him ahead of the deadline for the blockbuster forward and veteran defender the team lacks. Apparently, though, Poile has kiboshed the idea, allegedly sending either an email or letter to his 29 counterparts pulling Suter off the market.
The Predators have proven they are capable of competing now with the pieces in place — the team's won 12 of 14 heading into the All-Star break. Does Poile risk upsetting the balance of the team by shipping a young player in exchange for a veteran who has proven himself elsewhere, or does he stand pat, betting on the hand he's dealt?
Complicating matters further is the conventional wisdom Suter and Shea Weber want to stay in Nashville, but want a commitment the team is going to compete — a commitment proven by adding a scorer. Can the prized pair be placated by simply looking at the standings, or do they still need Poile to show them the sniper?
Tough questions. Maybe they can only be answered with Natural Science.
The Week Behind
Magic Is A Harsh Mistress: With the meat of the SEC schedule to come, Vanderbilt has already lost four games in the usually friendly confines of Memorial Gym, that architectural wonder borne of a university's desire not to overemphasize athletics and an architect's altruistic vision of keeping hoopsters from scraping up their shoulders. Even in lean years, three non-conference losses at Memorial would be cause for concern. With this lauded group of Commodores, losing to Mississippi State at home seems inconceivable.
The magic returned when Tennessee visited. Perhaps it was the white-out — a strange idea since Vandy is black and gold and the visiting Vols are orange and white — but more likely it was Jeff Taylor, the super-talented but oft-maligned model of both inconsistency and control (depending on the night — and sometimes the game situation).
Vandy — once considered a smartass pick for the Final Four, but now treading water on the fringes of the Top 25 — needs Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli, its trio of probable future NBAers, to play as they did against the Vols and grab the magic back if they hope to live up to those lofty pre-season expectations.
The New Hotness: What can be said about the Predators' recent run that hasn't already been said about the Japanese shinkansen trains?
Speedy, timely, beautiful to watch in an unobtrusive way. Unique and powerful engines in Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne and a chain of cars along for the ride — each doing their jobs, seemingly all of them chipping in on the score sheet.
Heading into All-Star weekend, the Predators won four straight division games — two apiece against the forever-floundering Blue Jackets and the legitimately contending Blackhawks. Suddenly — with division-leading Detroit choosing to start their week off a day early — the Predators find themselves 50 games into the season and in sight of the Central Division lead.
Garbage Time: Longtime Belmont AD and basketball coach Larry Striplin Jr. died Monday. His name graced the old cracker-box in which the Bruins (né Rebels) played. ... Tickets are available for a whole mess of Olympic qualifying soccer coming to LP Field in March. ... Vandy baseball earned a Top 10 pre-season ranking from Baseball America. ... If MTSU's Kortni Jones didn't pass you the ball Wednesday night, you were certainly in the minority. ... The Titans filled the sui generis-est of coaching positions, hiring Keith Millard to coach the pass rush; meanwhile, Jeff Fisher grabbed Dave McGinnis and Gregg Williams to meet him in St. Louis. Boclair wonders if Fisher got the Rams gig to ease a potential move to LA.
R2-D2 Has A Sick Spin Move: Apparently a late January tilt against the mighty Ospreys of North Florida needs a little goosing in the ticket sales department, so the Bison of Lipscomb are bringing in 'em with a Star Wars Night Saturday.
Fans are encouraged to dress up as their favorite Star Wars character as David Lipscomb's Men's Basketball team takes on North Florida with tipoff at 6:30 PM.
In attendance to watch the game will be representatives from the 501st Stormtrooper Legion, one of the world's biggest and most dedicated group of Star Wars costuming enthusiasts. With chapters all over the world, the 501st Stormtrooper Legion has made appearances at major conventions as well as charity events, raising nearly $6 million in donations for various charity organizations in 2011 alone.
Not to be out-done, surely Belmont's planning a The Room-themed night soon. You're tearing me apart, Lisa!
It's Gooood!: Everybody relax. The Predators quest for a Goo-Goo Goal came to an end Monday against the Jackets when Mike Fisher scored a power-player marker in the waning minutes of the second. In the more common sugary reward department, Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn are tied for the Frosty Goal lead with two apiece.
The Week Ahead
Hi Ho, It's Back To Work We Go: The Nashville Predators are like the Seven Dwarfs. Jerred Smithson is Grumpy. Francis Bouillon is Doc. Kevin Klein is "Sneezy." Anders Lindback is Happy. Colin Wilson is Dopey. Sergei Kostitsyn is Bashful. There is no Sleepy, there is Smashy (played by Shea Weber) with a handsome beard and arms like oak branches. Pekka Rinne is clearly adopted.
Anyway, like the Dwarfs, the Predators would just as soon work as go on vacation the way they've been playing. But alas, the NHL has to have their All-Star Game, so Weber, Suter and rookie rep Craig Smith head to Ottawa (the Jan Brady of eastern Canada) for the dog-and-pony show. Tune in tomorrow to watch Shea Weber in the Hardest Shot Competition. Sadly for Suter there is no "Touching-Up-Icing" contest. The game itself is Sunday afternoon.
The Preds open the stretch run with two road games: at Minnesota Tuesday and in Philly on Thursday. Let's hope the pre-break heat stays cranked up.
Worthless Prediction: Weber finally beats Zdeno Chara in the hardest shot contest. Preds keep it going and Detroit looks wearily in its collective, broken rear-view mirror.
They Be Should Playing This Game In Smyrna: I'm sure when Kevin Stallings scheduled this stuck-in-the-middle non-conference game against MTSU, he didn't expect the Raiders to be in the midst of an historic season, but here we are.
The Raiders make the short trip up 24 for a 1 p.m. game against Vandy. It's important here for both teams to keep some perspective. MTSU probably needs a statement win to get at-large consideration in March, but not at the expense of the surefire path to the Dance: winning the Sun Belt. Vandy, on the other hand, needs to stay loose. A loss to Middle isn't devastating, but it's the kind of game where thinking about it too much will be a killer.
The 'Dores clearly have the talent advantage here, but MTSU has shown they can go on the road and beat a major conference opponent with excellent shooting and superb athleticism. UCLA isn't exactly living up to their history, but they are still UCLA and MTSU still beat them in Los Angeles.
Worthless Prediction: The first eight minutes or so will tell the tale. If Vandy can grab control early, they can win this game by double digits. If they let Middle hang around and get in a shooting groove ... where's that Magic?
The War for 24: MTSU and Vanderbilt might be the best rivalry around that should be bigger.
Both schools could stand for this one to have a little more juice, frankly. With Harvey The Totem Pole now sadly not up for battle, MTSU's two biggest foes are Western Kentucky and Troy (Middle and Troy play football for an obscure classics reference; The 'Drome approves). Vandy would say Tennessee and Kentucky, of course.
Geographically speaking, all of those rivalries are a little far afield, so it's too bad MTSU and Vandy isn't a bigger deal. Their proximity notwithstanding, there's a certain class war charm in the juxtaposition of the sprawling, suburban, rambunctious state school and the tony, ivy-covered walls of the state's most exclusive university. The 37 miles between the school's doors just — or at least, should — ratchet the intensity.
The Raiders and 'Dores will resume their football series with four home-and-aways in 2015, good news for anyone who went to the early 21st-century games at Dudley Field — intense if not always well-played games with plenty of the in-stands sniping which makes the wins sweeter and the losses harsher. The games should sell out with ease as their predecessors did and maybe that will inspire the powers-that-be at each school to find a permanent date each fall.
The two teams square off regularly in baseball and Saturday's men's hoops games are a step in the right direction — the ideal end product would be making the game a permanent fixture, including regular trips to the Murphy Center for Vandy.
MTSU has struggled at times to sell tickets, competing as they do with a number of Nashville colleges (not to mention the pro sports teams). Setting up regular tilts with the buttoned-up big brothers up the Interstate could help spark the large but lethargic alums of the state's biggest school into a fan base worthy of Division I status.
Tips, tricks, foreign language translations, pictures of Geddy Lee in a powdered wig? jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Also, be sure to check me out on 102.5's Sports Revolution with Willy Daunic and Joe Dubin on Tuesday between 4 and 5 p.m. Online here.