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The Preds Mental Ward: When Is It Time for Treatment?

By: Miranda Martin

It’s been almost two days since the “Kostitsyn” incident, and I am still speechless.

Personally, I’ve been trying to figure out just what to say about the whole situation. It’s been a struggle, as my inner fan wants to throw things, rip out my hair, and even at some times Kim Kardashian ugly cry. I’ve been trying to analyze this as unbiased as humanly possible, but it’s really difficult—every fan makes an investment in their team somehow. I allowed myself to be mad for the night, and then I distanced myself Monday to clear my head from the post-game hangover.

So after careful deliberation, let’s just say that it’s poetic that the Belarusian’s bad error just happened to occur this season, when everything else seems to be going wrong, too.

While I understand everyone wants Kostitsyn shipped away, he’s not the first person to make a mental error that cost a game before. The error has brought back cringing memories of Game 5 against Chicago in 2010, where Martin Erat’s giveaway led to Patrick Kane’s game-tying goal late in the third period. It would eventually lead to a Game 6 exit for the Preds, and a stepping stone to the Stanley Cup for the ‘Hawks. Hell, even the Duchene “offsides” goal from February had a mental error by the defensemen who expected a whistle and stopped playing while Duchene kept going.

If we really wanted to recall all of the mental errors that have led to goals and game decisions, this would be a novel, not a blog post.

Barry Trotz announced today that it’s simply “accountability” to scratch Kostitsyn tonight, as expected. While I do agree (along with everyone else), what about the other players that haven’t been held accountable this year? Namely other veterans, who are supposed to be setting an example for this team, are not being held responsible. If Scott Hannan was not injured, he’d still be playing, even after the pickpocket that started the tumultuous attack by the Vancouver offense last week. Martin Erat has more giveaways in this past road trip than points this entire season. I know there are only so many healthy scratches, but altering time on ice or special teams time for underperformance. On the flip side, Pekka Rinne, who has been struggling with an “I blame myself” complex as well as just pure exhaustion, is still getting the call instead of some time to rest and regain his composure.

I’m not defending Kostitsyn’s play. What he did was something that warrants a few extra nights in the press box, and I understand the backlash that he is getting from a frustrated fan base. But I’ve decided to play Devil’s Advocate here. While many are calling for a change to the Predators players, staff, or organization, just how are they supposed to make said changes after a season like this? On the ice, the players who are performing at their highest level are the ones with the two-way contracts, so sending them down would just lead to an even worse message. Want to trade the underperformers? There are two main issues. One, there are no trade/movement clauses to deal with regarding certain players, and, two, based on performance, how are you supposed to trade someone who nobody wants?

This team is truly stuck in their traditional mentality right now. The coaching staff loves home grown players like Martin Erat and David Legwand, and, generally, these “home grown” players are forgiven quicker than Poile’s random pickups on the market. As for off the ice… there’s the same desire for fluency by experience within the operations. There have been little changes to the organization in the past 15 years. David Poile has been the only general manager this team knows. The team takes significant pride in having Barry Trotz as the longest tenured coach in the NHL now since Lindy Ruff was relieved from his duties as head coach of the Sabres just three weeks ago. Not to mention that this is a shortened season, so making drastic decisions may be seen as beneficial in the long run. That would be taken into account with any decision to change organizationally, including coaching staffs and other hockey front office positions. Montreal’s upheaval this past season with management and players happened after an entire 82-game season in the cellar. Does a 48-game season warrant the same upheaval, especially for a team that’s never experienced true change? Or did this 48-game season finally bring forth the issues that needed to be addressed for years?

The problem is…the wrong changes may create even a worse mental state for the franchise, and I don’t think anyone knows exactly what the “wrong” change would be. This team is on eggshells right now. The goal of this season shouldn’t be to make it to the playoffs anymore. David Poile shouldn’t be looking for that one “great player” that will magically fix everything while damaging the depth of the team like years past. The goal should be to get this team and its fans back into a good mental state. Pekka Rinne has to get in a better mental place and have the support around him to stop taking the blame for games. Players have to find confidence again. Young players need to be rewarded for their excellent play by being named “first liners,” and veterans demoted to recharge. Something’s eventually got to give, right?

It all needs to start tonight against Columbus. If the team can start adjusting and believing that they can perform at a better level, then, as always, the fans short term memory will be erased and the team becomes lovable again. If it doesn’t work, then the fans will sit begrudgingly until drastic changes are made. The mentality should be “we can do this,” not “oh crap, Columbus has been streaking… they may beat us… here we go again.” Never underestimate the power of a good mentality. As the cliché goes, this game is 80% mental.

If all else fails, there’s always rock bottom. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get there any time soon.

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