Tuesday, June 21, 2011
NHL awards: Preds finally get recognition
By Scott Burnside
LAS VEGAS -- It was a pretty good day for the Nashville Predators on Tuesday as defenseman Shea Weber was answering questions about being nominated for the Norris Trophy, while head coach Barry Trotz was up for his second straight Jack Adams as coach of the year and GM David Poile was nominated for GM of the year.
Good work for a team that's seen its share of ups and downs.
"It really shows, obviously some success for the franchise. It's a recognition, if you will, that we're on the map, so to speak," Poile said.
For much of the team's early history, the publicity surrounding the team was negative and at the very least tinged with uncertainty surrounding the team's future in Nashville.
"It hasn't been an easy ride so to speak in Nashville because it's always been an uphill battle. The team doesn't have enough revenues, not a big enough city, a lot of those situations. But I think having a second chance, if you will, with new ownership, being able to bring the team back up again, making the playoffs six of the last seven years and this year winning the first round of the playoffs has probably given us a level of recognition we've never had before. It feels good right now," Poile said.
It's much easier to pull the plug than to stay the course in the face of adversity. That's reality. A team goes in a swoon or never gets its head above water and a coach is sacrificed to the clamoring media and angry fans. If that doesn't work, the GM falls on the sword and the cycle either repeats itself or there is a positive change. But sometimes, the conviction of believing in what you have is a more difficult road to follow.
Yet that is the path the Predators have blazed in the hockey wilderness.
Both Poile and Trotz have been on hand for every game in the team's history. They have weathered ownership changes and financial handcuffs that have made it difficult to sign and/or retain talent, and they have faced the prospect of the team picking up and leaving Nashville.
"A tremendous amount of satisfaction. If it was over for me today that would be one of my proudest accomplishments is that a lot of the staff has been there since Day 1, and most importantly, Barry Trotz has been there since Day 1. I think it's the correct way to do things," Poile said.
With that said, he acknowledged every franchise is not created equally and the pressures on other GMs are different than the pressures he's faced in Nashville.
"You can't walk in somebody else's shoes," Poile said.
It doesn't get any easier as the Preds must try and bring restricted free agent Shea Weber under contract, but don't look for anything to shake the longest serving coach/GM partnership in the NHL.
"We certainly have an opportunity here to be a real good team and a team that, if we can add a little bit more offense, may be a top team," the veteran GM said.
Norris Trophy finalistsThere are three new finalists for the Norris Trophy this season. Well, sort of.
Last year, Chicago's Duncan Keith was the runaway winner, capturing his first Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman over Washington's Mike Green and Los Angeles' Drew Doughty.
This season, there are some familiar faces as former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara (2009) returns to the final ballot along with Nashville's Weber, who is nominated for the first time, and, oh yeah, a guy named Nicklas Lidstrom.
The Swedish defenseman is a Norris finalist for the 11th time in the past 13 years. Mind-boggling, really, given that only Doug Harvey and Bobby Orr have won more Norris Trophies than Lidstrom's six.
What makes this awards event even more compelling is the news that Lidstrom will return for a 20th NHL season in 2011-12. Good news for the Detroit Red Wings, bad news for NHL defensemen hoping to get in on the Norris racket.
"Once I started talking with Kenny [GM Ken Holland] everything went pretty quick and pretty smooth. I wanted to get over the loss in the playoffs and start working out and making sure I had the drive within me to go through the taxing offseason, and go through all the hard work you have to go through to be ready for a long season. That's when I had the feeling I wanted to play again," Lidstrom said Tuesday.
On a related note, Lidstrom is also nominated for the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play. It is Lidstrom's sixth nomination for the award and his first in eight years. He has never won.