by Jas Faulkner, contributing editor
There is no joy in Nashville on this hot Fourth of July. Earlier today, Predators GM David Poile held a press conference during which the normally unflappable boss behind the Big Cats conveyed a sense of betrayal that was echoed throughout the Predators press and fan community. As a leader in the organisation, as he had to do in the past, David Poile would be the person to stand as the face of the franchise and deliver news that no one with any connection to 501 Broadway would want to hear: Ryan Suter would not be returning as a member of the Predators roster for the 2012-13 season. According to Poile, the organisation had not been given sufficient notice or a chance to answer any offers that might come from other clubs. Like many in the Nashville hockey tribe, Poile felt that Suter would always give first consideration to the team that drafted and developed him in 2003.
Hours later, an equally emotional Suter would answer a query from one of the reporters on a conference call to the Wild office. When asked when Nashville fell out of the running, there was a pause.
“This morning,” said the 27-year-old defenseman. “Nashville has a first class operation and I had the privilege of working with great coaches and teammates, the fans are amazing, as is David Poile.”
So why leave? Net wags will be making cha-ching noises at the mention of Suter’s and Parise’s names for the rest of the week, but the reasons seem to run a lot deeper than a mere grab for mammon. Both young men have deep roots in the Midwest. Parise is from Minnesota and Suter, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, is married to someone from The State of Hockey. When asked, both young men cited these connections as big motivators for choosing long-term contracts with the Wild.
The clarion call of change may have been a factor. Suter started his career with Nashville as a bachelor with little to consider beyond the rink and the weight room. Now he is married and has a partner and child to consider. The return of Alexander Radulov after a nearly five-year absence may have given Suter and possibly former line-mate Shea Weber new perspective. Five years ago, all three men were close friends who did a lot of their running around together. Radu returned to find Shangri-La on the Cumberland had moved on without him. Suter was a family man and Weber had gained wisdom and maturity over the past couple of years as well, having weathered some of life’s more extreme lost and founds. To see a glimpse of where they were then and where they are now might have given them something to think about.
Of course this is speculation, and ultimately, it is the business of the people who were there and no one else’s. Yet there is the impulse to be armchair general managers. We want to follow every verbal and emotional pigtrot to the source, especially when it’s our team taking the hit.
“Ryan, did you speak with David Poile?” asked one reporter at the Wild teleconference in a slightly disdainful tone.
“It was the toughest phone call I’ve ever made,” responded Suter, who showed as much emotion as his former GM.
There were questions about the extent of the hard sell by Minnesota. Who did they know? Who did they talk to? Other than a few conversations with long-time friend, Dany Heatley, it was all above the table and official according to Ryan Suter.
One final question came. What was he going to do with the rest of the day?
“Go to the lake. Yeah,” said Suter, “I’m going to the lake and I’m going to shut off my phone.”