It’s a sad, slow ballad in the hockey circles of Music City right now. The Nashville Predators have lost six games in a row, the team is alone at the bottom of the Central Division, and it currently sits just four points out of last place in the Western Conference. To add insult to injury – and the Predators have plenty of injuries – former first round pick and star defenseman Ryan Suter will likely skate into the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs with the Minnesota Wild, a club that features an old owner and becomes a new division rival next season. Meanwhile, Alexander Radulov, another former first round pick, is making more than one billion rubles over the next four years to not play hockey in Nashville.
Pessimistic times for the Predators.
But allow me to interrupt the Predators funeral procession with four reasons to find optimism in this supposed lost season. I’m no John Buccigross, but let’s let a few of the current chart-topping country songs help explain why this season isn’t a lost cause.
Sure Be Cool If You Did, by Blake Shelton … could the Nashville Predators actually win the draft lottery and gain ownership of the top pick in the draft for the first time in franchise history? The highest the Predators have ever selected was No. 2 overall in 1998 – the club’s initial draft before its expansion season – when Nashville drafted center David Legwand. While fans would always prefer to see its team in the playoffs and toward the bottom of the draft board, if you miss the post-season then you might as well pick first in the draft. Speaking of firsts, for the first time since using a lottery system, all 14 teams that miss the playoffs will have a chance to win the draft lottery and select first in the 2013 draft.
If You’re Gonna Be Somebody’s Heartbreak, Be Mine, by Hunter Hayes … if there was ever a season to stink, the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season was the one to do it. Fans of teams that were against winning this season only have to suffer through 48 games between January and April compared to the traditional 82-game, October to April death march.
1994, by Jason Aldean … Filip Forsberg – who made his NHL debut last night and who was born in 1994 – is a product of a poor Predators season. If Nashville was a playoff team this year, then Martin Erat is less likely to demand a trade and Forsberg is more likely to remain in Washington (or is dealt to another club). You don’t get Forsberg without giving up Erat. The Predators rarely have the opportunity to acquire a player with this type of skill set and offensive potential. Filip Freaking Forsberg – my favorite nickname so far for the Nashville newcomer – has the potential to make fans forget all about this disappointing season. Joe, Joe, Joe Diffie (my apologies to Joe, to hockey, and to 1994).
The Highway Don’t Care (But I Do), by Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift … the Predators hit the road – though I imagine they will travel by plane, not via the highway – and hope to play spoiler in the final two games of the season against the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus and Detroit are two of the teams battling for the eighth and final playoff spot so the two will be desperate for points. What better way to conclude a division rivalry than to prevent the Red Wings and Blue Jackets from making the playoffs in their final season as members of the Western Conference?