This Week In The 'Drome: What now, Shea says gay is OK, horses, hats and more
Rebuild vs. Re-buy : At the end-of-year press conference, Predators general manager David Poile said while the end result was the same — losing in the second round — the mood of the annual confab was different from 2011.
"Last year, we were pretty excited at this point. This year, we are disappointed."
Instead, this week in the dead tree I ask what comes after all-in.
In poker, losing an all-in opens two options.
One, you can shove off, take your patina-covered pennies and play slots with Aunt Edna. Alternatively, you can dig a little deeper into the pockets, re-buy and sit back down for more.
This, too, is the Predators' choice. Do they lament missing their window of opportunity, resigned to the fact that Ryan Suter is going elsewhere along with umpteen other free agents? Or do they come back to the table, build on the success of the year and try to prop that window of opportunity for another year?
Poile said all the right things at the press conference. There was no groundwork-laying, expectation-diminishing chatter about a rebuild. He wants to go for it in 2012-13 too. He was even rosy — as rosy as the often-dour Poile can be — about the chances of bringing Suter back. Whether he was blowing smoke remains to be seen, but Poile is savvy enough an executive that if a rebuild is in the immediate future, he'd certainly prepare the press — and through that conduit, the growing fan base — for it.
Oddly, of course, the Predators have never been on a rebuild, like the Stalinistic five-year plans underway in Toronto and Edmonton. They were an expansion team and then they were a playoff team, and but for one season, they've been a playoff team since they first reached that threshold. Sure, there was The Great Firesale, but you know what happened after that? The team made the playoffs.
A reasonable person would expect, at some point, a rebuild is coming for what is a uniquely stable hockey organization. Nearly every professional sports team goes through one every once in a while. In the words of Clemenza, "These things gotta happen every five years or so, 10 years. Helps to get rid of the bad blood." But in Nashville, it doesn't look like Poile is going to the mattresses this summer.
The Week Behind
Ryan's Mope: The big story of the off-season, of course, is going to be what to do with Ryan Suter as he heads for unrestricted free agency.
In a year with a relative paucity of high-end free agents, Suter will be a coveted chip. The Detroit Red Wings are faced with the prospect of Nick Lidstrom finally powering down his motherboard. The Philadelphia Flyers may be in the market for someone to replace Chris Pronger. The Minnesota Wild are allegedly ready to take that next step.
Or does Suter stay here?
He wasn't too thrilled to talk about his future after the Game 5 loss in Arizona, and it didn't seem as if he'd make himself accessible to the press after Wednesday's locker clean-out day. But eventually he did, joking with the media that he was just waiting for the TV cameras to clear out. Reports were mixed on the level of emotion Suter showed during his availability, but he did, at least, offer some clues as to what he's looking for. He wants to sign with the team he'll be with the rest of his career and he wants to make the right decision for his family. And as he stated numerous times, he naturally wants to win a Cup.
So what does "right decision for my family" mean? More often than not, that's athlete-talk for "$$$$$$," unless there are school-aged children involved (Suter does have a young, non-school-aged son). David Poile and his fellow general managers have a general idea of what the market value is for a defenseman of Suter's ability and will jibe that with his edict he wants to only sign one more deal. As always, all of the sturm und drang comes down to term and compensation.
If Suter's decided he definitely doesn't want to return to Fifth & Broad, the best thing he can do for the franchise which developed him is to let Poile know, giving him the option to maximize the value of his negotiation rights before the Wild West of free agency begins July 1. Poile indicated that he'd like to move back into the first or second round of the draft — picks lost in the trades for Paul Gaustad and Andrei Kostitsyn — and, for some times, the right to talk to Suter before everybody else might just be worth moving out of the first day of the draft.
Over The Barrel: Traveling trophies are typically reserved for college football games — and with just a few notable exceptions, tend to be the oeuvre of the Big Televenty. But Vanderbilt and Louisville eschewed those strictures and started the Battle of the Barrel — representing the bourbon and Tennessee whiskey industries of the programs' home states, which surely thrills the puritans at the NCAA — in baseball.
Vandy won the inaugural edition, climbing back to .500 and giving Tim Corbin his 400th victory in black and gold. That .500 record is crucial — it's the necessary benchmark required by the NCAA for post-season eligibility.
Garbage Time: Vanderbilt assistant Dan Muller was named the head basketball coach at his alma mater Illinois State. ... The murder trial of Shanterrica Madden, accused of killing MTSU women's basketball player Tina Stewart, is underway in the Boro. ... The Rollergirls took a comprehensive win over Santa Cruz Saturday at Municipal.
Shea Says It's OK: Check out Predators' captain Shea Weber's contribution to the You Can Play project below.
The Week Ahead
They Race Horses, Don't They? Tomorrow is the Iroquois Steeplechase, Nashville's annual outdoor cocktail party and the peak of people-watching season. It is a walking, breathing, steamy demonstration that we are still a class-based society. For the best breakdown ever of how seating at Warner Park delineates Nashville's pecking order, read Kay West's excellent 2005 piece, which explains this vestige of our own little Ancien Régime better than anything.
Mimosas and seersucker and Ingrams aside, there are horse races to be had on Saturday. In the main event, Tax Ruling will try to be the first horse to win the $150,000 race three times. Anyone who survives the fuzz of day drinking may just squint and see history!
Also of note, young Gustav Dahl, a 17-year-old Franklin High junior, will ride at least two races Saturday. And he can't even have a bourbon-and-branch at 10:30 AM. Does he know what he's missing?
That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore : In last week's 'Drome, I chose to illustrate the Opening Face-Off with a photo of Glen Campbell, captioned with the title lyric from his great "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," alluding to the trouble Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov got themselves into in a Phoenix-area nightspot.
It was no generic photo of the country great — it was him struck low. Given Campbell's recent diagnosis with Alzheimer's, some of you saw the photo as a "bummer" and others suggested I was poking fun at a man courageously fighting an awful disease.
In fact, that photo was not of a "confused" Campbell, as one commenter suggested. It was Campbell's mug shot from a 2003 DUI arrest (coincidentally, the Rhinestone Cowboy was arrested in Phoenix). I was attempting to tie together Phoenix, drunkenness, a great song and poor decision-making with the joke.
Because of the numerous levels of context there, the passage of time and Campbell's diagnosis, the joke clanged and several readers were rightly offended by it. I am not insensitive to Alzheimer's — like many families, mine has been affected by it, and I, like all of you, have watched as Pat Summitt fights the early stages of the disease.
Part of the charm of The Hippodrome (or at least it's my intent) is the numerous photographic non sequiturs and casually connected side references. If they offend, they have not done their job.
I don't make my artistic choices lightly but in this case, I made the wrong choice. I'm sorry.
Help me, people! Send me sports tips, because there's still a long way until football starts. Shoot me a line at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Please. And be sure to listen to The Sports Revolution on 102.5 The Game between 4 and 5 PM on Tuesdays. And if you have something to talk about, for Goc's sake, call in or this space is gonna be nothing but cricket scores for three months.