Friday, March 2, 2012

The Hippodrome: David Poile, Gambling and The Gospel Of Matthew

Posted By on Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 7:42 AM

This Week In The 'Drome: Deadline rundown, Madness run-up, legendary sit-down and more

Thats a helluva playoff beard
  • That's a helluva playoff beard

Opening Face-Off

Risk vs. Reward: In his Gospel, Matthew records Jesus as saying, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" — that's from the NIV; hopefully Baptists will go unoffended.

Naturally, of course, Jesus wasn't talking about hockey here — Nicklas Lidstrom had barely started his career during Jesus' ministry — and respected exegetes will dismiss out of hand such a tenuous connection between Deadline Day and the Sermon on the Mount.

But Predators GM David Poile understood the sentiment. Faced with the prospect of the special syzygy of Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber falling out of alignment this summer, he went for it.

Weeks before Monday's drop-dead date, he swapped prospects and picks for gargantuan blueliner Hal Gill. Then, on what was a boring Monday, swapped picks (including one which he got in the Gill trade) back to Montreal for former first-rounder, brother of Sergei, Andrei Kostitsyn and then, at the death, sent his first round pick to Buffalo for highly regarded face-off man and penalty-killing forward Paul Gaustad.

He filled the needs: he shored up the back-end in Gill, picked up a skilled (if troubled) forward in Kostitsyn and solidified the grindier, messier parts of the game in Gaustad — in these parts, heretofore known as the guy who threatened to "get" lovable back-up goalie Anders Lindback in a surprisingly chippy game in December.

No one is arguing that the first-round pick for Gaustad was pricey, but the price is the price on deadline day. In most circles, the Preds were declared clear winners; The Hockey News' Ken Campbell — lover of Nashville he is known to be — was a predictable exception.

But what, really, did Poile give up for the run at the Cup? True, the Predators are now devoid of early-round picks in this summer's draft. But this summer's draft is also considered one of the worst in years. Furthermore, Poile and Barry Trotz's strategy — one that was met with plenty of skepticism¬†— was to play young players early this season. Rookies like Gabriel Bourque, Craig Smith, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi have all chipped in — and at a low price. Backfilling the prospect pool right away may not be pressing issue since so many guys are rapidly developing at the NHL stage. And if Poile's strategy pays off, that first round pick he paid for Gaustad won't be a very good one anyway — it may be the last pick of the first round.

Further, he showed the still-unsigned Suter and Weber he was willing to move to win — and, allegedly, was willing to move a whole lot to get the biggest fish of all, Columbus' Rick Nash (who went un-traded, starting a cavalcade of bad news in Ohio).

Poile stopped worrying about tomorrow — and started working for June.

The Week Behind

Mariah loves basketball
  • Mariah loves basketball

You've Got Me Feeling Emotion: Senior Night presents a classic dilemma. Do the ceremony before the game and your team may be so overwhelmed by it they come out flat; plan it for after and it becomes a distraction.

With a late tip-off Tuesday, Vandy's hand was forced, the pomp and circumstance handled in the pre-game. And then, in the game itself, the Commodores handled Florida, sloughing off the Gator press which had caused them so much consternation in Gainesville and foiling repeated comeback tries, Vandy leaving with a 77-67 win, and, finally, that key signature victory.

The emotion not lost on the players — Jeff Taylor played the brilliant game he is capable of playing (and that Kevin Stallings will need him to play in the next few weeks) and had the game's iconic moment: subbed for late, walking off to thunderous and appreciative ovations, wiping tears from his eyes as he hugged the oft-brusque Stallings.

Stallings played all the seniors and subbed them out to ovations — from Taylor and fellow star senior Festus Ezeli, down to the walk-ons, headed for med school or law school or work, but certainly not the NBA.

And Stallings subbed John Jenkins early, too. A junior and, thus, not entitled to such treatment in the last game at Memorial Gym for the year, but perhaps that was a nod of Stallings' shining head that indeed, all his stars would be gone next year.

But let tomorrow worry about tomorrow, right? Now, Vandy is finally playing the basketball expected of them and at just the right time.

Hurry Up And Wait: The Predators capped five games in eight days by playing three in four and won two of those three, beating San Jose and LA before losing the first post-Deadline Day match at Carolina with Lindback playing for Pekka Rinne in a game that featured an uncharacteristic six penalties for the Preds.

Though early returns on the deadline moves are mixed at worst and unknown at best, since Gaustad sat out Tuesday's game, the four points earned off the Sharks and Kings are crucial, both teams in the Western Conference play-off mix.

A fun side-story from the days around the trade deadline is guys fighting to stay on the roster. Waiver wire pick-up Brandon Yip took the fighting part literally, Thunder Jack Hillen played superbly in only his second appearance in February, and Gabriel "Ooh La La" Bourque played the game of his short NHL career in Carolina, adding a goal and assist, giving him four points in three games.

Garbage Time: Belmont plays on in Macon. Lipscomb won't. ... Ensworth tries for the high-school sports Triple Crown this weekend. ... Whole lotta love for MTSU from the Sun Belt. ... The Lady 'Dores took care of things in their SEC Women's Tournament opener. ... Alexander Radulov had three assists as his Salavat team defeated Ak Bars in Game 1 of their KHL playoff series. Seriously, Ak Bars needs to win and get Salavat's season done with. ... And former arena naming-rights sponsors Sommet are now facing big-time federal charges, "including stealing from an employee pension plan, to pay $254,535 toward their arena naming-rights obligations." Of course, the arena types had already sued them for not paying their arena naming-rights obligations, so who the hell knows where that money is? Zack Bennett reminisces.

Halftime Entertainment

Steelers? Please stay away from Big Ben
  • Steelers? Please stay away from Big Ben

Hey Tebow, I Know Looks Can Be Deceiving, But I Know I Saw A Hitch In Your Throw: So Tim Tebow and Taylor Swift were spotted noshing in New York. Nice to see Swift dating age-appropriate for once, at least.

This can only end well: Tebow breaks her heart and Swift writes umpteen songs rhyming "quarterback" with "heart attack"; or, perhaps, Swift turns into Tebow's own Jessica Simpson, he loses a bunch of games and ESPN has to figure out something else to talk about. All in all, a win for everybody.

Know What I Mean, Vern? : Beloved ex-Pred Vern Fiddler gave Vancouver Canucks' coach Alain Vigneault a fit of hysterics by pretending to be 'Nuck Kevin Bieksa.

The Week Ahead

March (artists depiction)
  • March (artist's depiction)

Fits and Starts: Blame basketball.

The Predators' March schedule is a goofy one. Between the SEC Women's Tournament and the first and second (er, second and third) rounds of the NCAA Men's tournament, Bridgestone Arena is occupado for much of the first half of the month, sending the Preds on the road, squeezing in home games when they can.

But, opponent-wise, March comes in like a lamb. They'll play next tomorrow in south Florida against the Panthers, with familiar faces Jerred Smithson, Marcel Goc and whichever Santorelli is down there before coming home for a pair against the Kings and Avalanche. All three of those teams are fighting and scraping for playoff position — the Panthers will likely get in on virtue of winning the NHL's Southeast Division, the garbage bin of big-league hockey — so take nothing for granted.

But in a crucial month in which the Preds can make a push for a Central Division title, now looks like a good time to pick up points.

Worthless Prediction: This is another good chance for the Preds to pick up six points. If the trade pieces can slide in, there's no reason to expect much less.

Surprisingly Important: Not sure anyone saw this end-of-season UT-Vandy game as being worth very much, but here we are.

Cuonzo Martin's charges are charging; Kevin Stallings' are playing as expected. Dores and Vols are one of a handful of SEC teams looking to lock-up a first-round bye in the conference tournament and tomorrow's in-state hatefest will go a long way to determining who goes where.

The good folks at Roll Bama Roll have a nice breakdown (albeit from an Alabama perspective) of how this weekend's games will determine seeding in the Big Easy for the tournament starting next Thursday.

The short version: For UT, a win against Vandy, plus a couple of wins in New Orleans, may have them dancing, a surprise since most people saw little but rebuilding coming out of Knoxville this year. For Vandy, a win in Knoxville means sitting opposite Kentucky in the bracket. Good news all around.

Worthless Prediction: Senior Night's a crapshoot, as we said, and UT is tough to beat when their defense gets going. Vandy needs to avoid a letdown — and Kevin Stallings could win his first ever "last Saturday of the regular season" game. He will.

Insanity, Round Up: It's hard to keep up with all the conference tournament comings and goings. Short form is that TSU is in town for the OVC tournament, fortunately slated opposite of Murray in what may be a sell-out weekend at Municipal. Expect that and a third Tiger-Racer game in the championship. Let's call for the TSU title, shall we? Down in Macon, Belmont is heading full-bore to a final against home-standing Mercer with the A-Sun's lone berth on the line. They'll get it. And in the Sun Belt, MTSU's men and women look to back-up regular season titles with post-season berths. Both will earn them. It'll be a tender Tennessee March, folks. Pick a side now.


Coach Temple, legend

There's No Such Thing As Too Much Of A Legend: In this week's Scene dead-tree, I profile Predators' enforcer Brian McGrattan and TSU track legend Ed Temple for the annual must-read People Issue.

Coach Temple was a gracious interviewee. He sat down with me in his TSU office — full of memorabilia and news clippings — including a 1993 Scene profile — and pictures and awards — for nearly three hours. We covered nearly six decades in that time. It was a fascinating story, starting with a 20-something hiding out in a TSU dorm and hitting Olympic teams from Rome to Mexico City to Tokyo and beyond.

His stories and his contributions are legion ... and had to be condensed into less than 500 words for the Scene.

Here's some more tales from Temple:

In 1952, Temple took a team to a meet at New York's Madison Square Garden "in a station wagon."
"We were just country people," Temple said. To get his team ready, he had them run sprints in the hallway of the Paramount Hotel. "People were looking at us like 'These people are crazy,'" he said.

In 1958, Temple had several runners — Wilma Rudolph not among them, as she was a new mother — on a team scheduled to compete in a Cold War goodwill meet in Russia. In the trials for that meet in Morristown, NJ — Temple remembers minute details about hundreds of track meets — TSU dominated.

"They were supposed to name the coach [for the team traveling to Russia] and the word on us was out," he said.

Temple heard he wouldn't be named the coach and before the final decision was to be made, told the chairman of the AAU if he wasn't the coach, he'd take his girls back to Nashville. A few minutes later, "She said, 'Ed, you're the coach.'"

In 1960, Rudolph — who had spent summers in Temple's brutal June and July camps as a high-schooler — was ready to matriculate, but she was a young mother. Temple, up to that time, had a rule against mothers on the track team, but bent the rules for Rudolph. A good decision.

In 1968, Temple was denied a raise — this is after another Olympics dominated by Tigerbelles — and nearly left the school. He also still didn't have any scholarships and neither the school president or athletic director seemed inclined to change that.

"These people would be out at the airport to greet us," he said, but all of his athletes were still on work-study.

"I had to go to [Gov.] Buford Ellington. [Legendary sportswriter] Fred Russell got me that meeting," he said. "[The governor] couldn't believe it! He said, 'Coach, you're not going nowhere.'"

And, thus, the state of Tennessee started giving athletic scholarships to women.

"I was in the doghouse," he said.

When Temple retired in 1994, he stopped going to practices — he's still never been back, having "passed the baton," as he says, to former Tigerbelle Chandra Cheeseborough-Guice. He'll watch an occasional meet on TV, but doesn't like all the parading around of the athletes draped in the flag.

"One of the great things [at the Olympics] is the anthem. That's a great thrill. That's the time you raise the American flag. These days, they are doing it for a sponsorship; when we were running, there was no money," he said. "They only play the anthem for the No. 1 team. I'm from the old school."

Got something to say? E-mail The 'Drome at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And be sure to listen 4-5 PM every Tuesday on 102.5 The Game's Sports Revolution.

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