When Coyotes general manager Don Maloney looks at the Nashville Predators, he might as well be peering into a crystal ball to see the future of his own team.
“There’s not a more similar franchise to us in the league,” Maloney said. “When I came here, I used Nashville as a model for how we wanted to do things.”
Like the Coyotes, the Predators play in a non-traditional hockey market that they’ve called home for less than two decades.
Like the Coyotes, the Predators have been hampered by cap constraints because that non-traditional market hasn’t produced the revenue streams necessary to keep up with the Rangers, Flyers and Red Wings of the hockey world.
Like the Coyotes, the Predators have staked their future on astute drafting, painstaking player development, cerebral coaching, suffocating defense and water-tight goaltending.
And like the Coyotes, the Predators are finally getting a taste of playoff success as they prepare for a Western Conference semifinal series with the Coyotes that begins Friday in Glendale.
“All of us here believe you’ve got to find a way,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “There are differences between franchises in terms of size and how it relates to their budgets, but there’s always a way to win, and we’ve been able to find that way.”
Nashville’s roster is stocked with players it drafted who came up mainly through the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Milwaukee. Forwards David Legwand, Martin Erat, Patric Hornqvist, Colin Wilson and Craig Smith; defensemen Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Kevin Kline, Ryan Ellis and Francis Bouillon; and goalie Pekka Rinne are all products of that system.
But in the past two years, Nashville has also added high-end forwards Mike Fisher and Andrei Kostitsyn, big defenseman Hal Gill and reliable checking forward and face-off specialist Paul Gaustad at the trade deadline while bringing back talented 2004 first-round draft pick Alex Radulov from a self-imposed exile in Russia, giving the club an enviable stable of skill that has it dreaming big dreams.
In that sense, the Predators are a shade ahead of the Coyotes in their development. They won a first-round playoff series for the first time last season — one year before the Coyotes accomplished the same feat. And now, many analysts have them slated to advance to the Western Conference finals, if not the Stanley Cup finals.
“They didn’t always have the economic wherewithal to spend their way to wins,” said Maloney, noting that the Predators had to let draft picks such as Scott Hartnell and other key players such as Tomas Vokoun and Dan Hamhuis walk in the past because they couldn’t afford to keep them. “Last year was the first time they were really able to spend, when they were able to get Mike Fisher.
“They’ve already got the homegrown talent in place to really solidify their roster, then they’re able to reach outside the box and go and get Kostitsyn and Radulov, who really isn’t costing them much.”
The Coyotes thought so highly of Nashville’s drafting and development approach that they hired Predators scout Rick Knickle to become their director of amateur scouting this season.
“We’re starting to see meaningful contributions from our young guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mikkel Boedker and obviously Keith Yandle,” Maloney said. “I like our defensive future and our goaltending, but I still feel we have a lot of work to do with our forwards.
“The next step is to be able to bring enough skill into our system, because at some point the Shane Doans and Ray Whitneys — those core guys who have been driving the bus for years — have to be replaced.”
In order to do that, the Coyotes need something the Predators have enjoyed for years: stable ownership. While Phoenix is still awaiting a buyer, Nashville has relied on stable ownership, stable management and the same coach for its entire history (Barry Trotz) while infusing new blood and new ideas into the sales and marketing departments to boost the attendance and visibility of the franchise.
In the past two seasons, the Predators’ attendance has risen about 1,700 fans per game to an average of 16,690 this season, allowing them to spend more to acquire stars while also spending more to keep their own. They locked up Rinne with a seven-year, $49 million deal in November and are expected to make a big push to retain Suter and Weber this offseason.
Clearly, success on the ice has also impacted that ability.
“What comes first, the chicken or the egg?” Poile asked. “Winning drives everything. If you don’t have that, you might have the greatest salespeople in the world, you might have the greatest market, but if you don’t support some sort of winning team, it’s going to be tough.
“Winning’s good for your city. People want to be proud of their city. People want to cheer for their city. You do a lot better business when your team is playing well.”
Clearly, there are differences between the Phoenix market and Nashville. While the NFL’s Tennessee Titans eat up a lot of interest from August until January, there is little to distract Predators fans from January on — outside of Vanderbilt basketball — because the city does not have an NBA or MLB franchise, whereas Phoenix has both.
But Phoenix is the nation’s 12th-largest television market, while Nashville is No. 29. That difference in size and potential fan base negates some of the effects of competition.
“I’ve always looked at that franchise as the one that had done the most with the least, but now you look at them and you wonder: Where are the flaws?” Maloney said of the Predators. “Hopefully, as we get into this series, we’ll be able to find some.”
- Fossils in La Brea Tar Pits reveal why coyotes still exist, but not saber-toothed cats
- Massachusetts weighs ban on predator hunting contests
- After hitting a dog with his car, a Canadian man drove it to safety. Turns out it was a coyote
- Stastny’s OT goal caps comeback, Vegas beats Predators 4-3
- Coyotes’ Soderberg thriving despite blindness in left eye
- Acer Predator 15 review
- NHL on NBCSN: Goaltending, special teams driving Predators’ early struggles
- Models must not engage in illegal activities…Queen Moremi
- Hello Big Boys! Plus-size female models are making a mint on the catwalk - now men want a slice of the pie too
- Almost a quarter of Tesla Model 3 orders refunded, according to report
- Cindy Crawford’s model kids Kaia and Presley Gerber look just like mum at awards ceremony
- What's her secret? Instagram model Steph Claire Smith displays noticeably larger chest compared to her old modelling photos
- After years of success, how did it all go wrong for Virgin Australia?
- Rosario Dawson models 'whimsical' bohemian dresses for H&M Conscious Collection
- The Tesla Model 3 Killed the Rest of American Luxury
- Vietnam offices, hospitals adopt Japanese model for optimal efficiency
- Welcome to 2018: A computer-generated, pro-Trump Instagram model is going haywire
- Steve Jones finds comfort in the arms of glamour model Keeley Hazell after X Factor USA savaging
- Pirelli model who won £75million divorce settlement from her Saudi billionaire ex may have to sue her own 13-year-old daughter to get the cash after he died without paying up
- Nita Ambani: The Lady Behind Successful Mukesh!
Coyotes see Predators as model for success have 1211 words, post on www.foxsports.com at April 26, 2012. This is cached page on Game Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.