The Nashville Predators have now passed the quarter pole with 22 games under their belt and a very average 9-8-5 record that is good for 23 points and a firm hold on 13th place in the Western Conference.
At home, where the Predators are playing before over 95% capacity crowds and have already had four sellouts, they have a very odd looking 3-1-5 record and six of the nine contests have gone to a shoot out or overtime.
They remain only four points out of eighth place and a playoff slot in the Western Conference and no one is panicking at this point. The smartest guys in the room on what the future holds are the sports betting prognosticators. I checked the futures site at Betus.com to see where the Preds currently stood.
The Predators are currently at 60-1 odds which is the same figure assigned to the New Jersey Devils, Atlanta Thrashers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. The only teams that are bigger long shots at this point are Buffalo, Calgary, Minnesota, Florida, Edmonton and the Islanders.
These are not teams that the Predators want to see themselves compared with. From the beginning of camp, the Preds have had the best team "on paper" since the beginning of the franchise.
The Preds have struggled in scoring goals (2.18 goals/game - 28th) and on the power play (11.1% - 27th) but other teams that are in the top eight have also struggled in those areas and have still managed to win games.
Injuries to key people have also contributed to the mediocre record which was highlighted by a 5-2 loss in Detroit on October 30 when they could barely put a full squad on the ice and dressed Wade Belak as a sixth defenseman and he never set foot on the ice.
The most frustrating thing for coaches, players and fans is that the team has found a variety of ways to lose games, which is frustrating, because it has been different issues in each loss.
A week ago after the 2-1 shoot out win in Carolina, Trotz commented on the five game losing streak. "It wasn't one thing or one part of our game. We got away from a tight defensive game and pucks were flying in the back of the net. We weren't playing poorly but pucks were just going in."
After Wednesday's 2-1 shoot out loss to the Blues, Trotz focused on the formula needed for the Predators to win games.
"The biggest mistake that the Nashville Predators can make is when we say that we have to score lots of goals and all of a sudden we are non Nashville Predator-like and we will lose 6-4 and that's not the way we need to play."
"Our identity is that we play solid team defense as a group and piggyback some of our offense off of that and become a hard team to play. It doesn't matter what rink we go into, when we do that, we are hard to beat."
After Saturday's 2-1 shoot out loss to the Rangers, Trotz further explained the frustration of the team going 4-8-2 since October 24 when they were the last undefeated in regulation team in the NHL.
"You have to stay positive. You look back at some of the events of the last two weeks, There was talk in Toronto that he power play could get us back in the game, but it had nothing to do with it. It was all about taking bad penalties."
"You have to dissect each game and say what did we do well and what did we do not well. A lot of times you forget what happened in the first, second, and third periods, you just remember the outcome."
"Every game has its own storyline. Sometimes you have happy endings and sometimes disappointing endings and sometimes they are in between. This one was disappointing because I thought we played real solid, just as we did in the St. Louis game."
"You go in after the game and say we did a lot of good things. Everybody's mad and unhappy that we lost which is a great sign, but at the same time I'm not going to brow beat anyone for giving me a complete effort and playing a real solid game. I'll brow beat them when we don't play well like in Minnesota. We're a pretty good solid team."
When you listen to Barry Trotz, you see a man focused on the end of the season, a man who never waivers from the ultimate goal. There is a reason that he has been the Predators only coach and that is consistency. He has few highs and lows, only a focus on long term success.
The next few weeks will be critical for the Predators to turn things around and start finding ways to win, instead of ways to lose. To this point, they have done nothing to take themselves out of position to compete for a playoff spot. However, it's time for the Predators to start putting together a string of victories to make a statement that they belong in the playoff picture.
The Predators have been beating the odds-makers for years, so once again, the march to prove them wrong needs to begin now. I personally will take some of the 60-1 action because I still believe in this team and in Barry Trotz's ability to be there in the end.
Here is our game story from Saturday night and a follow-up post about Jordin Tootoo becoming an NHL hero for whipping Sean Avery.
The Tennessean had Bryan Mullen's game story and notes column and Josh Cooper had quotes from the dressing room.
David Boclair has his story with a focus on Jordin Tootoo's victory over Sean Avery.
From the blog world reports come from Ryan Porth at Inside Hockey, Amanda DiPaolo, Mark Willoughby, Dirk Hoag (with his advances stats), Jeremy Gover, What the Puck, and Hockey Night in Nashville.
HockeyFights.com has video of the Tootoo Avery bout as well as the O'Brien-Prust scuffle.
The winning side of the story comes from New York Post, News Day, North Jersey, BlueShirt Banter, SYNRangers Blog, Ranger's Report, Ranger Rants, Ranger's Review, Ranger's Tribute, and BlueShirts Blog.
POTG Radio Tonight...
Tonight we are pleased to have a couple of guests that should be fun to talk with. We will start off with Steve Stirling from the great web site, Intent To Blow. We had Joe Bechtel and Josh Burnett on last February when the site first kicked off but we've been slow to get Steve on due to his busy schedule.
Our second guest is Aaron Wood, who we met in Las Vegas at the NHL Awards Show in June. The Aaron is the Owner of AZ Vibe Entertainment that covers all forms of things to do in the Phoenix area. They also do a good job of covering the Coyotes at AZ Vibe Sports so we will discuss the Yotes great start to the season and preview tomorrow night's Predators - Coyotes game at the Bridgestone Arena.
Join us at BlogTalkRadio with the player below or on iTunes.
In Pred Nation...
Cal O'Reilly will appear on NHL Live today at some point between 11:00 and 1:00.
After Saturday's game, Amanda DiPaolo talked to the Rangers about the Predators.
Jim Diamond talked to Frankie Bouillon about is recent trip to Montreal and captures the Cube's thoughts about was the visit meant to him. Jim also analyzes the Preds recent run at the Examiner.
Josh Cooper point out that the Predators are getting bunches of shots but few goals.
Jas Faulkner has a great story about the tribute to Andrea Conte at the governor's mansion that the Preds put on to honor a great Predator supporter from the infancy of the franchise.
Mark Willoughby has his quarter pole report card and I would beat my kids if they came home with grades like that.
Dirk Hoag paints a bleak picture of the Nashville Sports scene and gives you a chance to vote on the most anemic offense in the city.
Robbie at Hockey Night in Nashville gives more detail to his previous call for change.
Seth Lake has a comprehensive plan of action for the Predators at On The Forecheck.
Admirals Roundtable has a look at all the weekend's action in Milwaukee that included the benching of Linus Klasen which may have paid dividends.
The NHL Examiner looks at the Preds at the 20-game mark.
Here's a story from Detroit about Hannah Osbeck who interned with he Predators over the summer and relates some of her experiences.
Around the NHL...
Dustin Byfuglien had a four point day (1 goal, 3 assists) in the Thrashers 4-1 win over Boston yesterday. According to Thrashers radio, the game's first goal by Evander Kane, and assisted by Anthony Stewart and Byfuglien was the first time three African American/Canadians had ever scored a goal together in the NHL.
Ryan Porth caught up with Derek Stepan on Saturday when the Rangers were in town.
Pat Burns' funeral will be today in Montreal.
ESPN has the story of Semyon Varlamov's shootout win over Carolina and his winning three in a row after his return from a groin injury. Why did I drop him in one of my fantasy leagues?
Matt Reitz would like to see fans shake up the All-Star voting with a few write-in campaigns.
NHL Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly questioned the viability of Atlanta as a hockey market on the Illegal Curve Radio Show over the weekend.
Chuck Gormley looks at bargain players and some that aren't.
From over the weekend, Chris Chelios confirmed that he has had discussions with a KHL team about playing this season. In another report he also said that it would be unlikely.
Dangerous Hockey had a run in with Matthew Barnaby on Twitter and lives to tell about it.
Odds and ends...
Tons of shaved ice were brought to the Cocoa, Florida Riverfront Park for the city's Christmas tree lighting ceremony so local kids could play in the "snow."
Whenever you are in Sedona, a must visit for a meal is Dahl and DiLuca's which is an excellent restaurant. I have met Chef Lisa Dahl and she is a very nice lady. Here is a Q and A with her.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass