Friday, March 30, 2012

The Hippodrome: Could Losing Help The Preds?

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 7:15 AM

This Week In The 'Drome: Playoff projections, Cuban defections, fiscal expectations, Count Von Count and more ...

Opening Face-Off

One, one extra home game. Ah ah ah!
  • One, one extra home game. Ah ah ah!

4 vs. 5 vs. 6: With St. Louis earning the losers' point last night in Chicago, the Predators are officially all but eliminated from winning the Central Division and, thus, a top-three Western Conference seed in the playoffs (Ed. Note: Thanks to reader Seth Dean for noting that if the Preds win out and the Blues lose their remaining games, the teams will be tied and the Preds could win based on the regulation-and-overtime wins tiebreaker; your Dromemaster sometimes has math trouble).

And, unless they have an epic end-of-season collapse, there is similarly no chance of them finishing seventh or eighth. The Predators will, indeed, be somewhere between fourth and sixth once it all shakes out next weekend.

Fourth place looks to be ideal: home-ice advantage in the first round is a coveted asset, especially for a team which plays so well at home (the extra game of revenue certainly doesn't hurt). Conventional wisdom would say, then, that fifth is better than sixth; without home-ice advantage, better to face-off against the conference's fourth best team rather than its third.

But this is hockey, not logic class, so throw that conventional wisdom out the window.

Because the NHL rewards divisional winners with a guaranteed Top 3 seed, whichever of the troika of Central Division teams stuck in the morass of the middle of the standings — Detroit and Chicago are the other two — slips to No. 6 gets to play the winner of the Pacific Division, one of Dallas, LA, San Jose or Phoenix, all of whom will likely finish with fewer standings points than Nashville, Detroit or Chicago.

The Predators have played meh hockey in the last few weeks, but still cling to the fifth seed like Sméagol to the One True Ring. They can't seem to usurp Detroit in fourth, nor can they convince Chicago to come up and take the seemingly harder first-round match-up.

It's unlikely Barry Trotz would tank — at least not openly — and try to get his team into sixth. Playing a Pacific team might mean an easier on-paper match-up, but it also means longer travel with a team that hasn't been playing well. Ideally, they'd get into fourth and let Detroit and Chicago "fight" it out over who has the honor.

But if the Preds do continue this schneid and get into sixth ... well, that's not so bad.

The Week Behind

Surreal
  • Surreal

Your Really Ugly Sister: Back in July, I suggested that USA Soccer's ills against Mexico could be solved by playing more games in Nashville.

My well-crafted Alamo metaphor still has credence. Mostly because it wasn't a combination Canadian-Salvadoran army that tried to wrest independence from Texas.

Playing in front of literally tens of people at LP Field, the US U-23 team failed to qualify for the Olympics by losing to the Maple Leaf-wearing syrup slurpers from north of whatever state is north of whatever state is north of Kentucky and then collapsing epically into a tie with El Salvador, a country which is often overmatched in CONCACAF competitions but nevertheless takes its futbol seriously enough they fought a war about it.

Let's just hope USA Soccer doesn't see LP Field as some kind of ... well, Alamo.

The Good, The Bad and the Blackhawks: It was a four-point week for the Predators, which is just fine, thankyaverymuch.

The team opened a back-to-back weekend with a solid 3-1 effort in Alexander Radulov's home re-debut Saturday against Winnipeg. Game ops played the "Radulov" send-up of Van Halen's "Panama," Rads got his mostly-standing ovation and an assist on a slick pass to Matt Halischuk. 'Drome favorite Gabriel Bourque had a heckuva game with a goal and a typical fly-around-the-rink night. He took a shot from the deadly Dustin Byfuglien and lived to tell about it. The former Thrashers fans got their jersey-tossing catharsis.

Missing Marty Erat Sunday with the infamous "upper body injury," the Preds absolutely crushed the Blackhawks, with 13 players getting a goal or assist in a 6-1 victory on the road, chasing Corey Crawford and putting some distance between the Hawks in sixth and the Preds still in fifth.

But then the Preds ran into the St. Louis Blues, having the NHL's best season. The white-hot Brian Elliot shut-out the saber-tooth wearers — still without Erat — and all but secured the division. But, good news from that one? The Preds won the season series 4-1-1. Although, sheesh, did Ken Hitchcock's Blues look ready.

Garbage Time: The Rollergirls started the 2012 season with a 30-point win over Atlanta. ... Vandy's bowling team is going back to the NCAA tournament for the seventh straight time.

Halftime Entertainment

Sight gag credit Bobby Briggs
  • Sight gag credit Bobby Briggs

To Be Fair, The Original Was A Little Exhaustive: In honor of our favorite UT fan heading for hills, a rare Vols item.

Despite The 'Drome's barely contained affection for some of UT's greatest rivals, we do have a soft spot for General Neyland's Seven Maxims ('Drome favorite: "Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made"). So imagine the surprise when we discovered those seven were distilled from THIRTY-EIGHT originals.

Some of them are a bit redundant — he repeatedly insists his teams charge and block and come up to the line and so on. But it's a disgrace some missed the cut, especially No. 32: "Hate & abhor the scrimmage line; it is a restraining mark." And some coaches — notably Tommy Tuberville — adhere to No. 15 even today.

Il Paradiso Socialista! Cuban player Yosmel de Armas apparently defected rather than play the Canadians (maybe he found the politeness cloying). This despite the fact Cuban defections are rare in Nashville, perhaps related to the fact Nashville is 90 miles from Land Between the Lakes and not Havana. Hopefully, Yosmel will follow the lead of his countryman Yoenis Cespedes and puts out a badass highlight video.

The Week Ahead

countdown.jpg

The Final Push: Five huge games left for the Predators before the playoffs begin.

None are bigger than tonight's 6:30 p.m. game against the Red Wings in the Motor City. Both teams are remarkable at home and, therefore, want to secure that ever-important fourth seed. Fans of the Wings, which have qualified for umpteen consecutive playoffs, generally don't give much bother to the regular-season, playing in mid-April seen as a birthright, but according to the local TV man who joined Joe & Willy on Thursday's edition of The Sports Revolution, this is a game that has Detroit buzzing.

The Preds follow up the Friday Night Fight with a three-game home stand against the lurking 'Hawks, the playing-out-the-string Wild, and somehow-still-involved Dallas (which is also, somehow, still in the Pacific Division). All three are winnable and Trotz will want six points from the homestand. The Preds finish the season Saturday week in Denver.

The key in this final week is for the Preds to get into gear, as they have, at times, seemed a bit sluggish or out of sorts in recent weeks, perhaps due to the abundance of healthy bodies which has the coaching staff pulling the silver arm on line-matching slot-machine nearly every night.

Worthless Prediction: Really, there's nothing unwinnable about any of these games, especially with Erat, defender Roman Josi and forward Jordin Tootoo returning healthy. The key is to get at least point out of Detroit tonight and lock up a quick six in the homestand, making the result against the Avs irrelevant and, perhaps, leading to the first appearance of the mysterious Jack MacLellan in a Preds sweater.

Overtime

Yep, thats Tom Berenger
  • Yep, that's Tom Berenger

Get To Know The Substitution Effect: So the Predators put out their economic impact study, claiming a $410 million impact on Metro, which is a pretty good return on the $7.8 million that comes out of the general fund every year.

These studies are dog and pony shows and are subject to mounds of criticism, which Charles Maldonado once wrote about in the City Paper. To the credit of Bob Leib and his team which prepped the Preds study, they are ahead of the curve here.

For one, Bridgestone Arena gets a relatively high number of out-of-towners. Using credit-card data, Leib's study shows 65 percent of arena visitors are from outside of Davidson County, including 84 percent of concert ticket buyers and more than 57 percent of Predators' ticket buyers. Bridgestone also draws a significant number of out-of-state customers: More than 39 percent of concert ticket buyers are not from Tennessee. For Predators' ticket buyers, that number is nearly 11 percent.

That deflects the common "substitution effect" critique of stadium studies, which says that most spending at sporting events and concerts is simply replacing what instead would be spent by locals at movies or the art gallery or whatever. Not many people are driving from Bowling Green to go to the Green Hills Cinema (or from Murfreesboro, for that matter).

According to Leib, the study was fairly conservative — the economic impact doesn't include the seven-figure salaries of the Predators players, for example. It also points out that Bridgestone Arena has been used as an example in two other (totally independent) studies as a publicly funded sports venue that is "worth it."

The release of the study was well-timed, of course (especially since it's rosy), as the Preds and Metro are, apparently, 80 percent of the way towards completing a new incentives agreement.

Love notes, complaints, and misguided and ill-informed paranoid rantings can be sent to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Be sure to listen Tuesdays at 4 on 102.5 The Game as I join the Sports Revolution.

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