Last night the Phoenix Coyotes put the final nail in the coffin of the Nashville Predators, winning the series 4-1 to punch their ticket to the NHL Western Conference Finals. Critics will argue that the suspension of two key Nashville players by team management cost them a chance to win it all. Recent history suggests it could be the best thing to happen to the Predator franchise.
Nashville GM David Poile and coach Barry Trotz suspended Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn – statistically their two best players – in Games 3 and 4 for a curfew violation. ”The Nashville Predators have a few simple rules centered around doing the right things,” general manager David Poile reported Yahoo Sports, ”We have always operated with a team-first mentality and philosophy.”
With so much riding on team success – TV audiences, ticket sales, sponsorships, free agent signings and more – it’s rare indeed to see professional teams take action that could so obviously jeopardize team performance. What’s more, recent history suggests (Lebron James “The Decision”) that team management are increasingly forced to dance to the tune called by multi-millionaire athletes. Not in Nashville. Not with a franchise that has only won a single NHL Playoff round entering this year’s derby.
One night earlier, the Los Angeles Kings wrapped up their series by sweeping aside St. Louis Blues 4-0 in games. The Kings have been the surprise of the 2012 NHL post-season, boasting an 8-1 record while eliminating the top two seeds in the Western Conference. Interestingly, the Kings are anchored by two players who were reportedly a huge discipline problem only one year ago! Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were shipped out of Philadelphia by Flyer’s GM Paul Holmgren in set of trades that shocked the NHL. Carter was then re-united with Richards in LA via a trade deadline deal. Make no mistake. It was a huge risk re-uniting two players that were accused of disrupting the Flyers team chemistry with late-night antics, just as Radulov and Kostitsyn did this year with Nashville.
Or was it?
The drastic trade by Flyer’s GM Paul Holmgren suggests that it’s been a catalyst for Richard’s and Carter’s maturity, a personal revelation that sacrifice and commitment to team are the key components to NHL Playoff success. After all, knowledgeable followers of the game suggest that organizations need to “learn how to win” before they taste ultimate victory.
So, relax Nashville fans. This whole Radulov/Kostitsyn affair is just part of the grand plan.