Nashville stepping into the hockey spotlight: Will the Predators take home any hardware Wednesday?
On Wednesday, the National Hockey League will hand out its annual achievement awards. For the second consecutive season, the Nashville Predators are nominated for four trophies. For the third straight, David Poile is up for General Manager of the Ye
ar. Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber are each nominated for second consecutive seasons for tops in their respective positions, and Mike Fisher has been nominated for the Foundation Player Award, handed out to the player known for his charitable and community work.
“I think it is great,” Poile said last Friday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena. “It obviously wasn’t always this way. We have been picked on in the past with having some attendance problems, [with] ownership situations, [and] rumored to be moved a few times… This is relatively new. It is like we are thought of at a much higher level in the NHL than we were four or five years ago.”
Nashville has only been on the winning end of one NHL Award. Steve Sullivan picked up the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2009 for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
This season may be Nashville’s best chance yet at a major award concerning on-ice play. Weber is considered a favorite to win the Norris Trophy.
Poile believes his All-Star defenseman is a lock for the trophy.
“He was really close last year, and he played every bit as good this year,” Poile explained. “That’s not to say the other two candidates didn’t play well. I think he was the best in the League this year.”
Weber is up against Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson. Chara lead the Bruins in average ice-time per game at 25 minutes, scored 8 power play goals and recorded a career-high 52 points.
The toughest competition for Weber comes from Karlsson who picked up 78 points in 81 games.
Weber, however, is the more rounded player, ranking near the top in several categories. With 49 points, Weber picked up 19 goals – the same as Karlsson. played an average 26:09 per game, lead defensemen in power play goals with 10, and ended the season with a +21 ranking.
Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne is nominated for the Vezina Trophy against All-Star Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winning Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings.
Poile’s mid-season acquisitions of Hal Gill, Paul Gaustad, Andrei Kostitsyn and securing the return of Alexander Radulov are reasons enough that he may finally win the award for best GM in the League, despite jokingly referring to himself as the Susan Lucci of the GM Award.
Of course, even Lucci won a Daytime Emmy Award for her portrayal of All My Children’s Erica Kane after 18 previous nominations.
Win or lose on Wednesday afternoon, Poile believes the organization has more work ahead of it, both on and off the ice.
“I want to win a Stanley Cup, yes, but I also want to make Nashville a hockey city. This is the closest we have ever been to that point. In the last two years, the growth has been phenomenal. If this was a stock, I wish I had invested in it.”