Predators are gone if CBA not agreeable to owner

In an interview on WWTN, owner Craig Leipold stated that the Nashville Predators will not be able to function unless the new CBA addresses the needs of smaller market teams. This is the most direct statement he has made that things are going poorly for the team. Nashville currently has the lowest attendance in the NHL, and the Corporate/individual season ticket base ratio stands at 35/65 – opposite of most other professional team ratios. The team is teetering on the edge, and unless the team solidly makes the playoffs next year, the team will fold or move.Currently the management of the team is fighting to keep a positive spin on what turned out to be one of the worst seasons in team history. They were already facing the impact of the previous season wher they traded away the original Captain, Tom Fitzgerald, and then traded top goal scorer Cliff Ronning. The result of these two trades was something fans could not see any positive effects from. Fitzgerald was traded for mid draft picks, and Ronning was traded for a player who had minimal impact on the team and then was banned for substance abuse (a former Heroin Addict who refused to give up substance abuse.) The team went on a major loosing skid, and ended up in the basement annex of the Western Conference.

This year the team started with injuries to fan favorites Scott Walker and newly appointed Captain Greg Johnson. Scott Hartnell went through a slump – a concussion in preseason left him struggling- and there were injuried to the rest of the main cast in Timmonen, Hulse, and new scorer Johanssen. Goalies Mike Dunham and Thomas Vokun were playing lackluster, and the fans were wondering what would happen next.

Dunham went to the Rangers, and Vokun started playing inspired hockey behind a healthy team that was finally starting to see its first draft pick finally mature into a solid NHL player. David Legwand began to show he was ready to take the next step along with stellar play by Vokun. The team got within 3 points of 8th place in the Western conference, and were actually getting some good press. Fans were starting to come back to games, and they were actually fun again.

Then the wheels started to come off. Johannsen and Legwand get injured, and the team goes on its worst winless streak in franchise history- the worst game of which is the home closing loss to Anaheim – to a less than sold out crowd.

I go throught this history, because most of the board does not have any idea of who the Predators are, and what has happened this season for them. Most don’t care either. Nashville is always listed as one of the teams that other Hockey teams fans would like to see contracted, and the press has been less kind to them than all of the other expansion teams (especially ESPN.)

What is the NHL’s perspective? I am sure that the NHL is not going to contract. It makes no money for them to do so. Moving the team provides the NHL with a nice cash influx as a franchise movement fee, and then the marketing of new sweaters, hats, and t-shirts. The city that gets the team will have a strong nucleus of young players to build on. It is a win-win for the league and the city that gets the team. The only loser is the city of Nashville.

For those that think Leipold will get shafted if he tries to move- Season ticket sales give him a way out if the fan base goes the way it has been once they drop to a certain level for two years in a row (hint- this year was one.) This makes the CBA all that more important to the Nashville franchise. If The CBA goes for the rich owners that don’t care, Nashville is gone. If it goes for the survival of the league and all of the teams, Nashville can survive with a strong team effort next year. If the players want all of the teams to survive, and there to be less competition for jobs, they are going to have to step out of the box also.

The team is on the verge of some good things happening on the ice. The majority of the players are in their low to mid twenties. some are really starting to show promise. They don’t have the supporting cast that a big money team has to allow them to shine. I would point out that Adam Hall should be in consideration for Rookie of the Year. He has put up great numbers on a team that does not have superstars to feed him the puck. His play has been awesome – no-one has been watching him beacuse of the lack of support for the team he is on.

Nashville Management has sent out renewals and season ticket order forms. Mine is already returned with deposit and about $200 in refund money (they are not doing that again). There is a sense that they are aware of the rumors flying that the team is on thin ice financially and attendance-wise. The GM and Owner are trying to put a positive spin on the future. The question is- will the NHL structure allow them to continue into the future?