This Week In The 'Drome: The reprodigalization of Alexander Radulov, Vandy gets vandied, your humble reporter gets all neologic and more ...
Radulov vs The Preds: Big news, but no great surprise this week when Predators general manager David Poile said that Alexander Radulov wouldn't return to the team.
It took years of machinations and negotiation to get the prodigal son to return to feed on the fatted calf of a second-round exit. We welcomed him lustily, burying those hard feelings we'd carried since he went to the KHL.
But alas, it didn't work out. There was the suspension and sitting against the Coyotes, which probably didn't help his case much. There are questions about whether he ever really intended to sign long-term here anyway.
On 102.5's Sports Revolution, Poile delineated the reasons why it wasn't going to work. One is that Rads was used to the slower pace of the KHL and he tended to take longer-than-necessary shifts when he came back to the NHL. That's sort of a strange explanation for letting go potentially the best goal-scorer in team history and also makes one wonder about the fate of shift-hog UFA Jordin Tootoo.
But now, Poile shops his Russian. In his analysis, Josh Cooper says while Nashville has limited leverage — Radulov could jump back to the KHL and with Poile making it clear the team has no interest in re-signing him, teams could lowball the Preds knowing the team just wants something back — in a fair market, Radulov could merit a first- or second-round draft pick (Nashville has neither this year, having traded them for Paul Gaustad and Andrei Kostitsyn) plus a top-six forward. That's a pretty nice comeback if he could swing it.
Expect the Predators to extend Radulov a qualifying offer just to keep him from going on the open market July 1. But certainly don't expect him to be wearing a gold No. 47 ever again.
The Week Behind
Hoisted On Their Own Petard: Friday night, down 8-3 in the eighth inning, Vanderbilt did what Vanderbilt had been doing for weeks: They came back. And they did it, as Sinatra would croon, their way. There was a double steal — so regular in Commodore games, the reaction to the usually exciting play is identical to that for a routine single — and bunches of runs in the late innings.
The 'Dores had swept their way into the finals of the Raleigh regional and eyed the nemesis Florida Gators awaiting in the battle to get back to Omaha.
But sometimes karma has other plans. With a chance to get out of NC State's turf unscathed, Vandy tried another late comeback Saturday. But it fell short. There was a sense the air came out of the balloon with Vandy facing an all-the-marbles clash against the homestanding Wolfpack.
Vandy would jump out into the lead in the final game. But it was NC State that would mount the comeback.
It was a disappointing end for the team, to be sure. Despite all the troubles with Florida over the years, this year's crop of 'Dores had done reasonably well against their SEC foes and another trip to Nebraska was within reach. But given that the team was below .500 in late April, having that chance can be considered another success for Tim Corbin, who may well be the best hire in the history of Vandy's
athletic department Division of Student Life.
Joe Q. Average starts paying attention to college baseball only during the tournament — an expected outcome, perhaps, since even the staunchest baseball fan isn't ready for the pastime when they get the bats out on Presidents' Day. And just as Mr. Average gets in gear, Major League Baseball comes in with its draft, so these college guys whom you've just started getting to know may be on the verge of bolting for the bucks.
Vandy had another crop of draftees — starting with Sam Selman, who got the call to my beloved Royals. Selman was picked high enough his decision is likely a no-brainer; he'll forgo his last year of eligibility so he can get started in the Appalachian League or whatever. The other guys — at least the juniors with a year of college eligibility left — have tougher calls.
The Music City Mets : For Mets fans — God love 'em — last weekend was top notch.
Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in team history. And unlike those dolts at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The 'Drome is not putting an asterisk next to it. Yeah, maybe Carlos Beltran hit a fair ball, but after 50 years, one has to assume the Mets have been on the wrong side of calls like that one in their quest for a no-no. Not that I expect the Cards to stop talking about it, because they are the
World Champions of Whining About Umpires Best Fans In Baseball.
Anyway, Santana's no-no was aided in no small part by former Vanderbilt Commodore Mike Baxter, who made a saving catch and got himself hurt in the process.
The next day, former Big Red/Vol/Sound R.A. Dickey knuckle-balled his way into a complete game shutout and now he's tied for the league lead in wins and boasts an unbelievable 2.69 ERA. When the knuckler works, it's nearly unhittable, as Dickey's foes are learning. He might just be the second Nashville-area pitcher to get an All-Star Game start in three years. His eight scoreless innings yesterday afternoon (and a ninth win) won't hurt his candidacy.
Garbage Time : Nice interview with Cal Ripken, who was in town building a Habitat home. ... A shout-out to voice of Preds Pete Weber and Tennessean Titans beat man Jim Wyatt who are picking up National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association honors Monday. ... The Titans offseason program is underway. First-round pick Kendall Wright remains unsigned, but fellow wide receiver Kenny Britt is doing some running and cutting.
I'm With Stupid : Thanks to Friend of The 'Drome Zack Bennett who found this t-shirt weirdly for sale on Busted Tees. Has the Music City Miracle made the jump from Greatest Moment In Nashville Sports History to kitsch already? Or are the good folks at Busted Tees just 12 years behind the times on their sports references? If the latter, we can't wait for our Fusaichi Pegasus trucker's hat. Meanwhile, cubicle neighbor Pierce Greenberg expressed his displeasure at the latest offering in his alma mater's bookstore, pictured right. Apparently, this is a reference to a song by LMFAO, which is apparently a thing that exists.
Not JEFF The Brotherhood? : Former Titans coach Jeff Fisher made his local music video debut this week, playing a "one-half of a no-nonsense cop duo looking to deliver some swift justice," according to Creaming compadre Patrick Rodgers.
Follow-Up Shots: In last week's edition, I posited an SEC scheduling solution centered around regular re-shuffling of the conference's divisions instead of the schedule itself. Turns out I wasn't the only one with that idea. The folks over at The Roommate Switch have figured out how to do it. ... Hosie thinks all the sturm und drang about James Franklin's hot wife comments is a little over-the-top. Agree to disagree, buddy; Franklin's got to know saying stuff like that — even if it was in jest — is going to get him in hot water.
The Week Ahead
Suter's Suitors: It's getting to be crunch time for David Poile in his quest to keep defenseman Ryan Suter in a saber-tooth sweater.
Suter will hit the free agency market July 1 if he hasn't signed a deal with the Predators. In a lean year overall for free agency and especially for blueliners, Suter will command a high price. If a deal seems unlikely — or if Suter feels the need to set his value on the open market, an outcome the players' union would certainly prefer — Poile can trade his rights.
There's the lay of land and looking at the calendar, something will have to get done one way or the other soon.
Both sides decamped to Suter's offseason home in Madison, Wisc. and came out announcing productive talks.
In a radio interview this week, Poile said sometimes it's like Suter has already re-signed in Nashville long-term. Of course, Suter hasn't done that, but Poile's insistence that talks are going well are telling. Part of a GM's job is to manage expectations. If he truly feels like Suter is going to walk, he's doing himself no favors by saying things are going well. Of course, the Gandalfian Poile could just be setting the table to throw Suter under the wheels of a giant bus with a June 30 announcement of "Well, we kept his rights because we thought things were going well, but now it looks like he's going to walk."
Outside of Nashville, where might Suter end up? In the same interview, Poile said Suter won't end up in New York or LA, because he likes Nashville's size. That's two eliminated. Canadian teams seem unlikely, too, so we can knock them off the list. Outside of that? It's anybody's guess. Detroit, of course, is mentioned as a top target, especially now that Nicklas Lidstrom has retired. Despite an aging roster — and a first-round elimination at the hands of the Preds which sort of takes the shine off the argument they are closer to the Cup than Nashville is — there is a cachet that comes with the winged wheel. And if things keep going the way they've been going in Detroit, it might just end up being a very small town indeed. The Wings have plenty of cap room and can promise Suter, who has said he wants his next contract to essentially be his last, lots of upfront cash. Plus, he can play with Ian White on their first pair (er — maybe the Wings won't mention that).
Also in the mix is Philadelphia, who look like they'll need someone to replace Chris Pronger. A sneaky underdog is Minnesota, close to Suter's hometown and in a city with that Midwestern, smallish-city vibe he apparently enjoys.
No one knows what's in Suter's brain, except for a desire to lunch with John McCain and George W. Bush, but at least one columnist (a Canadian, even — and they know everything about hockey!) thinks Suter stays here.
Worthless Prediction: I'm with the Canadian guy. Suter signs a deal in Nashville — and he may go on the market before he does it. If not here? It'll be someone we never saw coming. Or Minnesota.
Let's Play In Hypotheticals : We've all got our bingo cards and our well-worn jokes about lost tourists and all the different ways they mangle "Demonbreun." It takes us hours to get through downtown, but we grin and bear it. CMA Fest week is our lot and the pink cowboy hats will return to Indiana soon enough.
Meanwhile, the LA Kings couldn't close out the New Jersey Devils in their inevitable run to the Stanley Cup, so the series goes back to Newark.
But what if it wasn't the Kings who won the west? What if it was the Predators? What if the Stanley Cup Finals were going on at Bridgestone Arena, puckheads rubbing shoulders with all the Aunt Myrtles and Uncle Charlies flying in from Missoula and Miami?
It's a nightmare scenario — and not just for the Visiting Fans In Cowboy Hats Tumblr, which would have the tough task of discerning away supporters and boot-scooters.
There does, at least, seem to be some movement to shuffle CMA Week. In his look at Bonnaroo in this week's dead-tree, Adam Gold talks with Nashville's Chief Booster, CVB chief Butch Spyridon. Next year, by fortune, the two music festivals won't be contemporaneous and Spyridon wants that scheduling quirk to become a scheduling certainty. If the CMA folks are willing to agree to take the later week, the potential of a Cup-Cowboy Conflation are minimized.
Otherwise, the arena operators will have to continue planning their contingencies — which would likely result in the relocation of at least the CMT Awards — which Predators President Sean Henry tells The 'Drome are in place.
Want to e-mail a Toast of Music City nominated sports reporter? That's sort of like asking if you want to meet a Goodwill Games medalist, sure, but I still welcome the comments: jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And be sure to listen as I join Willy Daunic and Greg Pogue at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays on 102.5's Sports Revolution.