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Friday, June 22, 2007

Mass Exodus Doesn't Even Begin to Explain It

Someone should put the Nashville Predators to sleep already.

After dealing their captain and supposed rising young winger to Philadelphia the puppet management of the Preds has struck again. This time, Nashville trades away their starting goaltender Tomas Vokoun to the Florida Panthers for a first-round pick in 2008 and two second-round selections (one this year and one that could be for this year or next).

The spin doctoring from Predators GM David Poile is, of course, epic:

"We saw Chris Mason emerge as a No. 1 goaltender in 2006-07 and with full
confidence in Chris and Pekka Rinne, we felt as if we could make this move,"
said Predators general manager David Poile. "Mason won 24 games for us this past
season, starting 21 in a row at one point, and finished with the second-highest
save percentage in the NHL.

"In addition, this trade will help restock
our organizational assets and affords our team more payroll flexibility. We now
have two first-round picks in 2008, which is projected to be a strong entry
draft. "

What is left out of this explanation is that Chris Mason makes a mere $1.53 million dollars compared to the $5.3 million owed to Vokoun and the Predators are stuck in financial limbo while the NHL Board of Governors (now headed up by notorious franchise destroying owner Jeremy Jacobs of the Bruins) goofs around and waits to decide if they want to let Jim Balsillie and his $238 million dollar bid for the Predators into the owners club.

If there's anything we know by now it's that the NHL owners are notoriously greedy. How else do you explain the rumor that the NHL wants to expand by up to two more teams? Outside of sheer idiocy, just look at what expansion fees are going for these days: $150 million. If they expand by two teams, that's $300 million dollars for the thirty owners to split amongst themselves (and not with the players). Pure greed.

Nevermind that it's insanity that Balsillie is willing to pony up $238 million dollars for a franchise that's still in its relative infancy and is now being gutted as if it were set on fire. Nevermind that that the Predators have had troubles drawing consistent numbers of fans during their entire run in Music City, U.S.A. Nevermind that Balsillie was "only" going to pay $170 million for the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team so brimming with young talent it would've been foolish to turn down buying the team. Just pay no mind to any of those things - it's incredible and typically frustrating that the transfer of ownership hasn't happened yet.

The Predators are now mired in dire straits as the current ownership is scared to spend money on something they're not sure they're going to have anymore and Jim Balsillie isn't about to throw them a lifeline because the team getting torn apart and left for dead will allow him a much easier way to get the heck out of Dodge and off to southwestern Ontario. Balsillie has sworn that as soon as he is made owner of the team, he'll spend whatever it takes to suit up an immediately competitive team.

Now while Balsillie is someone who's hard to trust (especially after backing off of Pittsburgh and then supposedly misleading Heir Bettman about keeping the team in Nashville) I do believe him when he says he'd spend like a drunken sailor to field a winner. Balsillie knows what the bottom line is all about and in the NHL the only way to make sure money keeps coming in is to put a winner on the ice. It keeps the fans coming to games and that's where the money is made these days, especially given how cutthroat ticket prices are.

I can't help but wonder how long this charade will continue with the Predators. I'm sure what's going on with them will dominate discussion during the broadcast of the NHL Draft tonight and a lot of the same things will be said and no one will hit on the real point in that the NHL continues to drop the ball in every conceivable way all while trying to sell us on the buzzwords of "new rules" and "shootouts." Yeah....right.

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