Predators players and coaches arrive Tuesday in Nashville after their season ended with a playoff loss to Phoenix./The Tennessean
By Josh Cooper, The Tennessean
The Nashville Predators are heading into perhaps the most pivotal and challenging offseason in the franchise's history.
is a sense of hope that they are on the right path. There is a sense of
disappointment that they squandered their best chance so far to win a
Stanley Cup. There is a sense of fear that some of their top players
will not be back, that the window of opportunity will slam as quickly as
"Every team goes into the season wanting to win the
Stanley Cup, and we were no different. We wanted to win the Stanley
Cup," Predators CEO Jeff Cogen said Wednesday. "The first-round series victory over Detroit was a tremendous accomplishment, and we wanted to build on it, and we fell a little short."
the Predators will try to build on the successes of the season and hope
that the fan base remains galvanized. There are positive markers such
as increases in season ticket sales and sponsorship deals over this time
last year, Cogen said.
Where Nashville's previous playoff exits
were met with optimism - small-market franchise making strides - this
time the ouster was bitter.
Ownership spent money and General Manager David Poile made deals to bolster the roster for a run at the Stanley Cup. Forward Alexander Radulov's
return after four years in Russia provided a late-season offensive
spark, and the Predators finished the regular season with 104 points -
third-most in franchise history.
Yet after one more big moment -
routing longtime nemesis Detroit in the first round - Nashville
struggled against Phoenix. Favored entering the second-round series, the Predators were eliminated in five games.
"The expectations really changed over the course of the season," said Dirk Hoag, who runs the fan blog ontheforecheck.com.
"In the immediate aftermath, it's absolutely a disappointment. We ran a
poll - it was about 2-1 with people saying, 'Yes, this is a tremendous
But there are no indications a significant portion of the fan base has given up.
some debate about whether Barry Trotz got out-coached; that certainly
has been played up," Hoag said. "Overall, I think there's a great deal
of backing for what David Poile and Barry Trotz have done. You'll have a
few critics pop up, but I think by and large those two saw tremendous
The Predators have 15 restricted or unrestricted free agents on the current roster, and all-star defenseman Ryan Suter's situation is the pressing concern.
Suter and the Predators must agree to contract terms by July 1 or he can sign elsewhere without compensation for Nashville.
There also are some questions about the lease negotiations between the Predators and the city.
sides are working on a deal that could give the team less taxpayer
money up front, but greater incentives to book more non-hockey events at
Bridge-stone Arena. The deadline for a new agreement has been pushed
back to June 30.
Cogen said he's confident the positive vibes of the season will help maintain the momentum needed to drive revenue.
ticket sales are up 20 percent to 25 percent compared with the same
time last year, and there's a chance of cracking 10,000 season tickets,
"We measure year-over-year renewals and new season
tickets, and it's up significantly over last year, which was up
significantly over the year before," Cogen said.
He added that sponsorship has followed the same track, increasing 20 percent to 25 percent.
you win games you create fan interest, and that fan interest turns into
increased attendance," Cogen said. "The sponsors want to associate
where the people are."
The Predators had a record 25 sellouts this season.
longer we go, the more fan excitement we create in terms of ticket
sales and television viewers and the like, and we won't have that
luxury," Cogen said. "On the other hand, we think we have a pretty good
story to sell and we're starting that right now."