Andrei Kostitsyn, letting down his team.

It is not entirely clear what happened. The Predators described it as a violation of team rules. Radulov implied, slightly more specifically, that it was a violation of curfew- “Like I didn’t come back that late as we say” is the exact quote, and worth remembering for those of you who still believe the Russian-English language barrier isn’t significant. Reports suggested that the two players had been seen out at 4 am in Scottsdale on the night preceding game 2. Other rumors of nonspecific origin have referred to drinking. Whatever the exact cause, yesterday morning, the Nashville Predators announced that they were suspending forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov for the third game of the Western Conference semifinals.

The responses across the hockey world to these suspensions have been mostly positive. The Preds organization has been applauded for their consistent application of rules and their commitment to team culture. Even those who acknowledge that there is troubling trade-off inherent in suspending two of your more effective offensive players for a playoff game, such as our glorious leader Bourne (and if you haven’t read that article yet, do so immediately), still ultimately feel that the suspension was necessary for the greater good of a peaceable locker room.

Now, one must of course respect that this is the way things are done in hockey and that this is the way the Predators prefer to run their organization. Nashville is a smart franchise. They’ve been able to get good results out of a budget roster for many a year, and their positively eternal commitment to a single coach and a single GM does suggest that they have a set of long-established team values to look after. So I fully admit that there may well be factors here that have not been made public which, if released, would make this a more obviously right decision.

Unfortunately, unless such information is confirmed, it isn’t real, and justifications that rely on unsubstantiated gossip and imaginative details for their strength are not valid justifications. Based only on what we know, without making up any additional details or ascribing any personal motivations, there are some legitimate questions that should be asked about the rationale for these suspensions and the compromise it represents. They need to be asked because this decision represents an organization making a trade-off between a demonstrable on-ice value (the scoring potential of Kostitsyn and Radulov) and a more nebulous off-ice moral principle (players must all obey the same curfew). Coaches and managers make these kinds of trade-offs all the time in hockey- think Laviolette’s Dry Island or Burke’s Pre-Deadline Deadline- and in every case they should be questioned. Every time a team decides to put ideology ahead of pragmatism, every time they put something ahead of winning, we should ask why. Just because it’s customary doesn’t make it smart, and if it isn’t smart, maybe it needs to go.

So here are seven questions for the Predators organization:

  1. How important are these policies? When Poile described the suspensions, he talked a lot about ‘doing the right thing’, which makes it sound as though Kostitsyn and Radulov were out beating nuns rather than just allegedly drinking. But whatever policy the team has should be rooted in what makes good player performance, not an abstract sense of ethics. Yes, in general, going to bed early is a good thing for player performance, and yes, Radulov did play poorly in the subsequent game, but Kostitsyn didn’t play significantly worse than any number of other full-night-sleep-getting Predators players. Whatever Kostitsyn did out that night, he didn’t compromise himself so badly that he let down his team. It’s not entirely clear if, had they not been seen out at 4 am, anyone would have noticed anything was wrong. What is the point of punishing people for breaking rules that have no impact on their performance, other than pure symbolism?
  2. How consistent are these policies? Again, Poile said he’d never seen anything like this before in his career. Really, David Poile? You’ve never seen players stay out past curfew allegedly drinking? This is a totally foreign concept to you? I don’t buy it. Whatever team policies may be, these kind of public suspensions are very rare in the NHL. To my knowledge, the Preds have never used one before. But I am willing to bet cash money that lots of players get themselves up to all sorts of after-hours nonsense in the course of the season and pretty much all of it gets gently swept under the rug, handled internally through peer pressure from teammates and coach’s punishments. Teams almost never choose to make a public stink about a broken curfew, but does anyone really believe that broken curfews never happen? This suspension get heralded as an example of ‘consistent discipline’, but what exactly is it consistent with? Not the past, certainly- nothing like this has happened before. It’s not as if the Preds have been suspending third-liners and fourth defensemen all season long. This gesture doesn’t look, sound, or smell in any way like ‘consistency’. It’s more like message-sending.
  3. What is this suspension supposed to accomplish? It hurts the team on the ice, so if it’s still worth it, then it must make the team better in some other way. How? By teaching Radulov and Kostitsyn a lesson? They’re both UFAs next year and it’s uncertain whether Radulov will even stay in North America. Neither of these players need the Predators organization to do anything for them, which makes it unlikely that they’re going to be whipped into shape like timid children. If it’s supposed to send a message to the rest of the team, why bother? The rest of the team is already playing by the rules, they didn’t do anything wrong. Why punish them by making it harder to win?
  4. Isn’t it the responsibility of the Predators organization to build the kind of team culture they want from the beginning, over the course of the regular season? I believe that team culture is important. I believe that character and personality and getting everyone on board with a unified vision can make a huge difference in the quality of a dressing room, and that can certainly have a positive impact on the ice. But team culture is something that takes careful building, starting with the kind of players you acquire and continuing through a process of education and bonding. It takes months, maybe years to do it right, and the time for that building is before the playoffs. It’s not created by abrupt punitive gestures in game 3 of the conference semis, and the maintenance of it shouldn’t be heavily dependent on how harshly you handle a single curfew violation. If the camaraderie and good behavior of their room is so fragile that seeing Kostitsyn and Radulov not get suspended will undermine everything the organization has built thus far and send everyone from Weber to Yip running straight for the clubs to spend all their nights snorting coke off hookers, then it wasn’t a much of a team culture to begin with.
  5. What did they expect when they brought Radulov back from the KHL? This is not, mind you, a Russian thing. It’s a Radulov thing, and I don’t think culture plays any role in it except insofar as it made going to the KHL a more cozy option than it might have been for a discontented American or Swede. If you’ve paid any attention whatsoever to the career of Alexander Radulov so far, you might have observed that this is a man with a long and proud history of telling everyone from the Preds to the NHL to the IIHF where exactly they can stick their precious rules. This is not Mr. Yessir Whateveryousaysir. You would think the Predators themselves might have noticed this quality when he, uh, ditched their team to go play in another league for four years. Where, incidentally, he once hit his own coach with a stick. Radulov, being a rich and complex human being, is many things- ‘gifted at hockey’ is one of them; ‘easily disciplined’ is not. And yet the Preds happily lifted the suspension they themselves had levied against him (broke their own team policy, mind you) to get him back just in time for the playoffs. If a unified team culture is such an essential and fundamental value for you that you’re willing to suspend players in the playoffs over it, I would suggest that perhaps bringing back a man who’s most famous interaction with your franchise was that one time he told it to go f*#k itself is not the ideal course of action.
  6. What is team culture for, if not winning? When people talk about player discipline, they often reference child-rearing and animal training- if you don’t punish consistently, how will they ever learn?!?! Even if one concedes that the analogy holds when it comes to NHL-level discipline- deterring head shots and high sticks in the offices of the good squire Shanahan- it breaks down on the team level. The point of child-rearing is to raise morally-upstanding children. The point of animal-training is to create well-behaved pets. But the point of a hockey team is not to create morally-upstanding, well-behaved hockey players. It’s not to create an awesome dressing room culture. It’s not to get 23 men to all go to bed at the same time. It’s to win hockey games and, if you’re talented enough and lucky enough to be playing in the NHL, to win the Cup. Now, team culture may help you win the Cup, but when the goal of creating the right team culture comes into direct conflict with the goal of winning the Cup- for example, when team culture asks that you suspend two of your best offensive producers when down 2-0 in a playoff series- you have to ask yourself what exactly you’re in this for. If you’re not going to cultivate your team-culture garden zealously, if you’re going to bring in deadline rentals and dudes who’ve been playing on the other side of the world lo these many years, you’re going to get people who go off the rails from time to time. How many Cup runs is it worth compromising to make guys who might not even be yours next year feel bad?
  7. Is this just a public relations gesture? Look at where the Predators are: they’re down 2-0 in a series. Their $49 millon goalie, who carried them through a first round where they were outshot, outchanced, and outplayed in pretty much every area, just put up a .872 save percentage in the last game. This team is in a tough spot. The storylines, especially if the next two games go ill, would not have been kind to a management team that heavily invested in a run this year. Making a public spectacle of suspending Radulov and Kostitsyn, however, redefines all the narratives. The Preds management is already being commended for their courageous stand against late-night drinking. If the team wins game 3, the story will be that they all rallied behind the moral courage of Trotz and Poile. If the team loses game 3, the story will be that Kostitsyn and Radulov screwed their teammates by creating a distraction and getting themselves suspended. Either way, the pressure is now entirely off management and it will be for the foreseeable future. Remember: the only reason we even know this curfew-breaking happened is because the Predators decided to make a show of it. Rule number #57 of the NHL: No GM ever went wrong scapegoating enigmatic Russians to the media.

Getting to the second round of the playoffs is no easy thing. Getting through it is even harder. The Predators cannot count on being able to do even the first next season, much less the second, no matter what their team culture is like. This is not a moment to be taken for granted, as if the franchise could just summon it up at will through sheer force of moral virtue. It’s a rare opportunity made even more precious by how heavily the Preds went all-in this year. They invested big in Rinne, they’re hoping to invest bigger still in Weber and Suter, they traded for Gill and Gaustad and Kostitsyn, they made the compromises necessary to bring Radulov back. They geared up for a run, but now their gears are grinding and it’s hardly only Radulov and Kostitsyn who are the trouble. In fact, these two problem children have been their best points-producers in the playoffs so far. They’re not getting offense from the rest of their dutiful roster, and against the Coyotes, they haven’t been getting goaltending either. Suspending these players has a very real chance of losing them this game and putting them down 3-0 in the series. Only maybe three teams in the history of the NHL playoffs have come back from a 3-0 deficit. This is not some tiny dent in the Preds hopes of Cup-hoisting; it’s a rather large hole. It shouldn’t be made lightly.

We like to believe that teams that win the Cup do so because they’re in some way right, that they found some magical chemistry or mystical unity that catapulted them to a preordained victory, that they ‘came together’ in a way the losing teams did not. That’s not how it goes. There is no teleology to winning the postseason. There is no destiny. It’s a messy business, full of near-misses and weird bounces and might-have-beens. As we’ve were all too often reminded in the first round, it’s also full of misbehavior, of lost tempers and broken composure, dirtiness and disrespect and dishonesty. This time of year, a lot of rules get broken. A lot of games are scraped through rather than decisively taken. A lot of series are won on wings and prayers. For every rift in the room that gets publicized as an excuse by a losing team, there are doubtless plenty of conflicts and screw-ups behind the closed doors of triumphant squads. But, of course, nothing erases intra-team tensions more quickly and thoroughly an ending which features champagne and engraving.

Ultimately, a lot of the symbolic gestures that coaches and managers demand from their players are just that: symbols. They’re token behaviors that look good and feel right, but they’re not necessities, and sometimes, maybe, they should be scrapped. Because, after all, why is it only players who are supposed to show that they will do whatever it takes to win? What about coaches? What about GMs? Are they willing to do whatever it takes? What if what it takes is the ability to compromise? What if what it takes is putting your best players on the ice even when they’re not quite toeing the line? What if what it takes is leaving aside some symbols for two games so that, should that moment come when you’re down a goal with five minutes left and an O-zone faceoff, you have the players in your organization most likely to score all available on your bench?

Is winning so cheap that it’s worth sacrificing over a strongly-held moral stance on the issue of bedtimes?

For many NHL teams, the answer might indeed be “Yes, absolutely.” But the question still needs to be asked.

Comments (39)

  1. So, essentially, your argument is that you don’t know the details, therefore there aren’t any details to know therefore David Poile has to be lying or mischaracterizing the event for the sake of public relations therefore it was dumb.

    Seems to me that if there was nothing there–just a few drinks after curfew–that it would have been dealt with internally. The very fact that the team spoke first means there’s something else going on. The details may not be known. But that doesn’t make them irrelevant or nonexistent.

    Poile’s no dummy. He knows the potential that those two guys have and what they might mean to the team. He knows what extra playoff games mean to the franchise and his future with it. He also knows that the team could have easily swept it under the rug. So why didn’t he? Because it was important enough not to.

    • I’m doing the opposite of accusing him of lying and mischaracterizing. I’m taking him exactly on his word, based on exactly what he chose to disclose. If there’s other information that validates this move and he’s choosing to keep it secret, than- again- he deserves to be questioned. That’s the price one pays for keeping information secret.

      I would argue that “because it was smart PR” is exactly as probable of a reason for the suspensions as “because it was important enough not to”, based on what we know.

      • “Again, Poile said he’d never seen anything like this before in his career. Really, David Poile? You’ve never seen players stay out past curfew allegedly drinking? This is a totally foreign concept to you? I don’t buy it.”

        I don’t buy that that’s all there is to it. I don’t buy that just because no one is divulging details that there has been no impact on the team already. The farthest I’m willing to go with the evidence in hand is “we don’t know.” We have evidence that there *is* more than has been divulged. We just don’t know what it is.

        You could easily have raised the same questions you raised without drawing the conclusions you did.

        • What conclusions did I draw? How is not believing in something I have no evidence for a conclusion? It seems like your counterpoint is that you trust Poile. That’s fine, you’re absolutely allowed to. You can say that it is enough for you to assume that he has good answers to all these questions. But I don’t think that makes the questions themselves unreasonable or unworthy of discussion.

          • The conclusion you drew was that this was about a minor curfew violation vs winning a game. You don’t know that this is only about a minor curfew violation and “message sending” and UFA contracts.

            I’d say the conclusion is that we don’t know what happened, but every party involved has said that something happened that they aren’t going to talk about. And it’s not fair to the evidence or to your readers to assume that the only part of Poile’s (or any GM’s) decision-making was that a rule was broken.

            You are also concluding that Poile decided to risk losing a game because the rules are worth it., despite this being nothing but a curfew violation. You say we don’t know what went on, and then you draw conclusions about what Poile was thinking and what he meant by it based on evidence with known gaps in it.

          • By the way, the questions you asked are fine and good questions to ask. But surely you can ask “what is the balance between team culture/the locker room and winning?” without presuming that Poile made a specific decision based solely on the details that have been made public.

  2. the #MNWILD suspended Setoguchi this season for violating team rules. (Oddly enough, out partying with ex-teammates. Rumor/scuttlebutt had him missing the morning meeting).)

    So other teams have done this during the season. Since I don’t follow other NHL team news as closely, I can’t easily reference who else has done so. (Google turns up Shannabans when searched for NHL suspensions.)

    Gamesmanship needs to be factored into this decision, for certain. Both rallying the team, as well as perhaps driving down the cost of resigning. Of course this also diminishes the trade value for Radulov, so results may vary…

  3. I suppose it’s all about making money, but there’s a part of me that thinks taking pride in your craft is equally important as “winning”. Maybe it will come down to a face off with 5 min left, down by a goal. Perhaps it will come in the first 5 min of the game when one of them just doesnt seem to be on the same page as the rest of his line. Maybe it will come mid way through the game, when one of them just doesnt seem to have their legs under them and gets caught trailing the play.

    More likely though, it will come down to an entire 60 minutes, in which two guys are quite possibly not playing their best and possibly don’t have the level of focus that the rest of the team expects them to have and it costs them at both ends of the ice. This team has earned something just by making the playoffs, but there are two guys that possibly don’t deserve to be out there.

    • That’s a valid point, but it gets into another question I have (yeah, I know, it’s kind of obnoxious the way I always have another question… sorry): some coaches will favor less-talented players who put in the necessary symbolic effort over more talented players who do small things that irritate them. Think Randy Cunneyworth sitting Eller and Subban in favor of pluggers like White and Blunden. Now, some coaches really believe in this kind of ideal, but it’s the same thing: sacrificing your chances of winning for the sake of a principle. The Habs aren’t better with Blunden instead of Eller, no matter how much harder Blunden hustles. If most effort meant winning, fourth-line grit and heart guys would be first line superstars. Similarly, I don’t think the Preds are better with Tootoo instead of Radulov, even if Tootoo goes to bed at 9pm every single day.

      • Sure, but my own personal experience has been that, guys who hustle (even if they aren’t as talented) bring an energy that’s contagious. Maybe the guy only gets a few minutes. Maybe he doesn’t necessarily create as many opportunities. But his energy IS contagious. I’ve seen it first hand. Sometimes a spark comes from watching a guy bust ass, even if he doesn’t score.

        More importantly though, sometimes it sets a tone and sends a message. “I expect you to play hard or you won’t play”. So maybe the team isn’t better on that one game where they sat a skill guy who was slacking, but in the long run they are because the team understands what is expected and what the repercussions are going to be. It gets ingrained. It becomes part of the culture.

        Last, and i know this is sort of stretching your point a bit, but I think you are underestimating how essential “effort” is winning. You’ve written a lot about the luck factor and how millimeters mater, and I think it’s essential that guys put forth the effort and “hustle” to get themselves into a position where luck goes their way. Taking away that extra split second, getting back in the nick of time, being a half step ahead of the defender. It all matters.

  4. Have you ever actually been in a hockey locker at a level anywhere close to the NHL (say prep school, juniors, college, minor pro, etc.)? First, if this was only a minor violation of curfew, they wouldn’t be suspended, end of story. Clearly there was something more than them just being out at 4am. Second, in regards to consistency, missing curfew (and being out drinking) during the regular season is a much less egregious violation of team rules than it is during the playoffs. If you do something like in the regular season you get bag skated the next day and its handled because the season is long and every once in a while blowing off some steam happens. In the playoffs? If the player doesn’t care enough about winning to not be out at 4am the night before a playoff game, then frankly I don’t want that player on the ice at all, regardless of his offensive gifts. The fact that Kostitsyn didn’t play poorly in game 2 is irrelevant, he put his performance at risk be being out at 4am and that’s simply unacceptable from the organization or in the locker room. That’s what all these “team culture” rules are about, putting yourself in the position to be at the top of your game when it matters. Anything that puts that at risk simply doesn’t fly in a high level locker room.

    • So, in other words, if a player jeopardizes team success by staying out late, he’s committed an egregious violation and deserves to be punished no matter the consequences for the squad, but if a coach jeopardizes team success by replacing a first/second-line scorer with a fourth-line grinder, he’s completely justified? Apparently the importance of team success varies dramatically depending on who’s compromising it.

      • Team accountability is necessary for championship teams. There are no compromises, alternatives or anything. Players need to buy into the team, otherwise it is just a bunch of individuals. Don’t punish the players and they become entitled, even more so than Radulov probably was already.

        If you watched game 2, Rad and Kostitsyn played like crap. They didn’t look terribly interested or focused. They really didn’t want to play, and I bet every other player in that organization would have loved their shot to give 100% to win the game. The punishment shows that they are just another member of the team, and that they have to be focused and willing to win if they want to play. Having a focused 47 & 46 at the expense of having them sit one game is better than a hungover, disinterested pair for the rest of the playoffs, which wouldn’t have been long if they played like that.

        • “Team accountability is necessary for championship teams.”

          I think her point is that this decision may well cost them the championship. Holding players accountable when there’s lots of time left is fine, but this is literally the most important game of Nashville’s season to date. So they hold these guys accountable, and lower their chances of winning, thereby greatly lower their chances of winning the championship.
          Maybe it’s supposed to make an impact for next year, but then these guys may well not be around next year anyway. And neither might Weber, meaning this might be their best shot for the next few years.

          • If they don’t do it their chances of winning are next to none. Game 2 was the most important game of the season to that date, and Radulov and Kostytsin felt they should prepare by going out til 4 am. They played like crap that game and were more detrimental than positive. You can’t let this slide as a manager or coach.

          • “I think her point is that this decision may well cost them the championship.”

            The “decision” that may cost the championship is NOT that of the General Manager to suspend the players. It is the decision by the people that chose to break the team rules. They are the ones that made bad decisions.

      • Josh is 100% right.

        1) Hugely important. Staying out all night drinking before a game might not hurt a player’s performance, but it probably will.

        2) Yes, David Poile has probably never seen anything like this, because no player in their right minds would stay out all night drinking before a playoff game. Maybe a few decades ago, back in the day etc. etc., but not now.

        3) Beyond sending a message to Kostitsyn & Radulov, it sends a message to the team: Commitment matters. Caring about your teammates matters. Caring about winning matters. Failing to suspend them would send the precise opposite message.

        4) Actually they built this culture, and apparently the late-season additions didn’t get it. And this is a culture-building moment; you don’t just throw all your values out the window because it’s expedient for a night. Are you going to tell everyone who is working their proverbial asses off every day and night, even when they’re not dressing for games, “It doesn’t matter how much you care or how committed you are; the stars live by different rules?”

        5) Yeah, Radulov pretty much has “selfish primadonna” tattooed on his forehead. Shoulda seen it coming.

        6) If your team culture is based on selfishness and double-standards, you’re not going to win, no matter how talented you are.

        7) No, it’s not.

      • Have been thinking about this a little more, and just wanted to add another $.02….

        I think your analysis (in this specific case; I’ve huge respect for your work) is so off-base because you’ve fallen into a trap common to people who analyze the game from a distance: Forgetting that it’s played by people.

        Those aren’t pixels out there, or names on a fantasy hockey homepage, something to rearrange like so many puzzle pieces … they’re human beings, with feelings and relationships, with deep commitments to and expected from each other.

  5. This article is nothing like I’ve ever read on any hockey based website. I mean that in a bad way, and the response to the comments are worse.

    • The author definitely seems to be too invested in the outcome of the game to make a cohesive argument and to engage reasonably with the opposition. Too defensive in the comments about her stance and not open to the possibility that the readers disagreeing might be on to something.

      Deliberately missing the point? Not her best work.

      • She just wrote 2000 words making her point, and I don’t see any of the commenters approaching it with the same sort of thoughtfulness. I see people ignoring things she wrote in plain text, or saying blatantly silly things like “winning [in the NHL] isn’t everything” and “taking pride in your craft is equally important to winning” (again, in the NHL).

        • Maybe you missed the sentence right before that one that said, “I suppose it’s all about money”, indicating that I realize it is all about money and winning. Or maybe you missed everything else afterwards that explained why i think dedication and culpability is important for long term success.

          If you’re going to accuse us of not putting any thought into our comments, maybe you should put a little thought into yours.

  6. Somebody tell me this is a joke. This is The Onion, right?

  7. Awesome article, changed my mind about the situation to a large degree

  8. “Every time a team decides to put ideology ahead of pragmatism, every time they put something ahead of winning, we should ask why.”

    Because, contrary to some people’s opinions – Winning isn’t everything.

    • So the purpose of a hockey team is to make good men, not to win hockey games?

      • Did you see what happened in Philly with Carter and Richards? No accountability. Did they ever win the cup? How bout Ovie? He had no accountability. Any cups? You cannot let any player think he is more important than the team.

      • “The biggest disappointment you can have is when you have an expectation from someone who you want to go to war with every night, and they’re letting you down,” Trotz said. “Too many passengers, not enough guys pulling on the rope. I mean we’re in the conference semifinal. Are you kidding me? Not acceptable.”

      • “So the purpose of a hockey team is to make good men, not to win hockey games?”

        The purpose of a hockey team is to win hockey games. Not to win one hockey game.

  9. It gets covered over if it’s the night after a game and not the night before. Otherwise, the team only takes action if it’s a repeat occurrence.
    What is this suspension supposed to accomplish? Any bets on whether they talked to Weber and Suter before the decision? They are the two people Nashville wants long term. That’s the only team culture they care about.

    • All of the articles have said that Poile talked to Trotz and they talked to all the captains which includes Weber and Suter before making the decision. Maybe the culture of being accountable is important to those four.

      • Exactly, two of those four want the other two to stick around. That’s worth losing the series over.
        And then Radulov can be the escape goat.

  10. Beautifully written article. Very in depth analysis. I do believe that winning is everything, but there is two general paths to achieve it. A team could take a pure strategic approach, playing the right players in the right situations, increasing their chances to win one game at a time. On the other hand, a team could go for the team culture path. A way to do things, a right way to play the game. That path depends on a rock solid core of players and a considerable amount of time to build that culture. The best example in NHL is the Detroit Red Wings, of course. As we all know, David Poille admitted to admire Detroit’s management. The breaking point for me was Poille going all in with Radulov and at the trade deadline. He sent out a message: he wants to win now. Suspending your two best offensive players it’s not the best way to do it. If Poille wanted to built a team culture, he should have kept Radulov in KHL. If he wants to win now, he should have his best players playing.

  11. How much less attention would have been brought if the team had scratched them because of undisclosed “upper body injuries”? This would have accomplished the same outcome in a far less public way… but what if this was actually meant as a public shaming for the players and their actions? No one ever really questions injuries, but maybe we should if we see someone sat for a game and then right back into the line-up the next game.

    What about the history of the Preds as a franchise with Tootoo and McGratton who have both battled alcohol problems in their past. The organization stood by those players, and with one of them sitting at this point in the playoffs, isn’t it hypocritical of the organization to let the two guys play in game three for violating team rules?

    Also, how much of the play in game two where the Preds were absolutely horrible at times (When have we seen public displays of anger from Rinne?) can be attributed to these players knowing something happened with Radulov and A.Kostitsyn the night before a game? Players are human, events like this can get into their minds and can affect the performance on the ice.

    There are a handful of people who know the whole story and they aren’t talking to the media at this time.

  12. All the little aspects of team culture, of “doing the right thing”, those things are what makes the Predators win over the long haul. Emphasis on “the long haul”. As in long-term, multiple seasons. As in, not one game. Things like drinking and staying out late the night before a game do not. Without consequences for doing the wrong things, they become more tempting and more people will do the wrong things. This infects a team’s culture and compromises a team’s chances of winning in the long-run.

    Essentially, you are asking the Predators to put their culture (and by extension, long-term chances of success) at risk in order to help win one game. An important game, but not an essential game.

    You’re also asking the Predators to put their culture (and long-term chances at success) at risk only so these players can help win that non-essential game, not so that they can win it. Radulov and Kostitsyn are help at best (if Radulov, you know, feels like backchecking) and at worst (if Radulov plays like game 2) can be detrimental to the team. They’re far from a guarantee.

    Finally, you’re asking the Predators to put their culture and long-term chances of success at risk to win a game that is very, very winnable without those two in the lineup. Would those two help the Predators’ chances of winning game 3? Perhaps. If they play to their potential, yes; if they play like game 2, no. But the Predators chances to win game 3 are pretty good even without those two in the lineup. The Predators have been playing all year without Radulov and Kostitsyn and did just fine. This is a winnable game, with or without Radulov.

    You’re asking the Predators to risk the core, the very foundation of the franchise, for a slightly better chance to win a non-essential game that they can win anyway. The risk far outweighs the reward.

  13. Thank you for this post – it has sparked some interesting discussion and encouraged me look at this controversy from outside the box.

    But as I commented yesterday, it’s clear that there are several stories behind this story (as is almost always the case) and the fact that the background is not going to be readily divulged (if at all) is only going to make people have some lingering doubts about the integrity and ulterior motives of management. Here is what I know for certain:

    1) The Preds were a fantastic team before trade deadline and before Rad’s Return, largely because they had cultivated a quirky kinship as a hodgepodge of more experienced guys and younguns/newbies who had either played together for a while and/or had played together for a while in Milwaukee;

    2) They had a rocky season beginning, and everything started to shimmy Dec-Jan; Trotz had his lines pretty much figured out, and also didn’t hesitate to shuffle things up as necessary (offensively and defensively);

    3) The ASG happened, and Ryan Suter innocently commented to the media that he was probably not going to resign before the summer;

    4) Poile (then) grabs Brandon Yip off waivers and picks up Gill, AK and Gaustad at deadline. Everybody notices that Gaustad is a face-off specialist, and concludes that Gill’s playoff experience and PK acumen can only make the team even stronger;

    5) Trotz suddenly finds himself on Chopped All-Stars. His basket contains: buffalo ribeye, flowering kale, yukon gold fingerlings and a box of Little Debbies Zebra Cakes. Oh, the horror;

    6) Suddenly, guys who were playing purposefully and had a distinct role within the team’s culture and in their lineup were being healthy scratched; the word was Trotz now had the “luxury” of futzing with his lineups depending on their opponent, while also literally trying to figure out how the new guys would best assimilate into the picture;

    7) Rad Decides To Return; the Preds take him back; the League and opponents are pissed, but most fans assume that because Rad is a gifted player the Preds will of course want him back and will utilize his talents for a productive Cup run;

    8) See item 6, but with more feeling; the healthy scratch regulars continue to play musical chairs and fans wonder if these guys who were such an important part of the puzzle earlier in the season – guys who were rumored to be Trotz’s youngster works-in-progress, at that – will ever play with the team again; meanwhile, the elite acquisition players tend to be penciled into the lineup night after night with the exception of Yip.

    This is what I “know”, as a fan of this team. This is what I have seen, and what has resonated for me. If you use your imagination just a bit, it doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine that it must have been challenging for everybody to juggle items 4 through 8 prior to the playoff push; even if management was frantically committed to acquiring (random) elite guys to win the Cup and prove to players that they were serious about same, the onus was placed on the coaches and players to make it all work with little time to spare and when arguably, the basket ingredients weren’t exactly cut out for a 5-star main course. I’m extremely grateful for Hal Gill and for Paul Gaustad and to me it’s clear that they have already made a huge difference for the Preds, but I honestly could have done without the other acquisitions and I was always concerned that the lab test would implode right about now, actually…

    I’m sorry this is so long-winded. But this is where I’m at and again, I value posts like this because they force people to reexamine their views.

  14. It’s sad how much effort you put into writing such drivel.

  15. The only point I agree with is #5. The author’s problem is they don’t understand winning. If I was Nashville, I’d cut both of them tomorrow.

  16. I’m on the fence about whether it was the right move or not — my initial reaction was not unlike Ellen’s, and I would go so far as to transfer her sentence “Every time a team decides to put ideology ahead of pragmatism, every time they put something ahead of winning, we should ask why” to real life, as “Every time a person decides to put ideology ahead of pragmatism, every time they put something ahead of the best available outcome, we should ask why”. In this case, I think there are fair arguments either way.

    That said, I think the reason everyone is vociferously applauding this move has little to do with “fairness” or “the right thing to do”. I think it’s basically just because they are fans of other teams, and I’ll bet they would find the situation more morally ambiguous if they were Nashville fans. Look at the moral outrage when a head-shot happens around the league (nothing to lose by a rival getting suspended), yet how much people will backpedal once one of their own players is involved. It’s also the reason that members of a community or group who speak out against their own group are so beloved by others (Yankee-bashing Americans, secular members of a religion, the conciliatory Left in *other* countries, etc.), because they are essentially being “on your side” by doing so, reeling in some sort of rival. When your own @ss is at stake, people become much more self-interested.

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