All’s Well that Ends Well: A Final Home Game
By: Miranda Martin
It’s certainly been a dismal season for the Nashville Predators, but with the final home game happening tonight against Calgary, it’s crucial for the state of this franchise for the team and the fans to go out on a good note.
Yes, positivity has been fairly grim a vast majority of the season, and silver linings have been few and far between. Though the team peaked at 4th place in the standings mid-February, they currently stand at 14th in the league—just two points ahead of last-placed Colorado. Since the half-way mark of this shortened season, the Predators have gone 5-12-4. In April alone, the Predators have only seen one victory—April 2nd against Colorado. The team is currently on a 9 game-winless streak, including a 7-game losing streak to make a new franchise record. The team has been shut out 9 times, and their goals-for total is ranked 27th in the league—just like them.
But there are some definite highlights to the losses, believe it or not. Due to the injury bug, several Nashville Predators prospects from Milwaukee have been able to get their feet wet. In total, seven different players have seen call-up (and even some permanent) time since the beginning of the season in January. Players like Daniel Bang and Austin Watson saw a handful of games, wheras players like Victor Bartley and Taylor Beck rose to the occasion and found themselves as key roles on the team. The Predators also got to see firsthand the talents of Filip Forsberg, who was picked up in the Martin Erat trade to Washington April 3rd. The depth of this team is stellar beyond these players, though. Even through the constant call-ups, the Milwaukee Admirals were able to clinch a playoff berth in the AHL playoffs.
Why is this so important? This team has thrived on home-grown players. Gabriel Bourque, who, even with his injury, is still this team’s leading goal scorer, was originally an AHL call-up. A vast majority of the home grown players, including stars Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne, had their roots in the AHL before making the team go. Giving these kids, an opportunity to play in an NHL game in an essentially throw-away season for the team gives them an opportunity to see NHL ice and adapt to it for future chances in their personal game. This way, come next year, when the team may need them in a deep playoff push, there’s not as big of a wide-eyed response.
Another positive light has been the growth of the team off the ice. The performance of this team has been a true test of the survival of the casual fan. Even though the home record of 10-9-4 is not as great as it has been in the past, the fans have still chosen to show up. The team has seen a small dwindle in their sell-outs in the past two months, the attendance average is still just below 17,000. The Tennessean reported this morning that the lowest attendance this year was 15,063, much higher than previous seasons, like 2009-2010, where the low attendance was barely over 10,000. Even with the lack of success, many fans have chosen to stick with the team and keep the hockey market alive.
It’s not over. Even though the Predators saw their slim fate of making the playoffs go out the door last Monday against Vancouver, there are still three games to go. Let’s revive the sell-out counter, and, even though it may hurt our draft lottery on April 29th, it’s time for the team to revive the win counter too. It’s time to play for pride.