by J.R. Lind
This Week In The 'Drome: Edsall gets calculated, Fisher gets inoculated, TSU gets excited, Italian tempo markings, and more.
Randy Edsall vs. James Franklin: It remains unclear exactly how many prom dates James Franklin stole from Maryland coach Randy Edsall.
Declared by The 'Drome and numerous others as a jerk for his petty little power play preventing quarterback Danny O'Brien from transferring to Vandy to play for his former offensive co-ordinator, Edsall relented this week, freeing O'Brien to transfer where ever he pleases.
After an early morning meeting — described as brief and cordial — in which he informed the signal-caller he had carte blanche to use his graduate transfer, Edsall and Maryland via the ACC filed a complaint with the SEC, accusing Franklin and the Commodores of improperly contacting the players upon learning of their intent to transfer — "tampering" in the parlance.
Vandy acknowledged the accusation and said an investigation is underway.
So Edsall — pilloried in the court of public opinion for his intransigence — ostensibly releases his players, then sets the wheels in motion for an investigation into their transfer. The effective outcome here is that O'Brien and his compadres will no longer be Terrapins and while technically they can come to Nashville, they are essentially blocked from doing so. The accusation has a chilling effect: Vandy won't bring the players in, for if the NCAA and the conferences deem impropriety, the school faces sanctions. Vandy, nor the players, can't wait for the famously larghissimo investigatory arm of the NCAA to complete its work, because the inquiry won't be completed in time for spring practice. Or fall practice. Or the season. Or the 2016 Olympics.
Well played, Randy Edsall. You got your revenge and you can eat it, too.
The Week Behind
Sick Fish, Quick Dish: Whatever flu Mike Fisher caught over the weekend, he needs to give to everyone else.
A year full of crazy comeback wins by the Preds came crashing karmically down in the last five seconds of Friday's game against Detroit, a 2-1 loss to the Auld Enemy, both goals doozies best described as Pavel Datsyuk doing what Pavel Datsyuk does — which in this case was making the renowned Shea Weber and Ryan Suter look like plug nickels.
Sometime between that game and Sunday's win at Dallas, David Legwand threw up. A lot, apparently. And somewhere in there, Leggy gave Mike Fisher the flu (the two are row-mates on the team's charter). Fisher missed the Stars game and was a game-time decision Tuesday at home against Vancouver.
He chose ... wisely.
Fisher scored a goal and had two assists — including a pass so pitch-perfect it would make his wife jealous on a shorthanded goal — in the Preds' big 3-1 win over the defending Western Conference champions.
Fisher and linemate Marty Erat have been the team's best forwards this season and in this brutal race to the end of the year, Barry Trotz won't want to be without either for too long. But if a day with the flu produces performances like that? Maybe the time off isn't so bad. After all, he was held pointless in the Predators shootout loss to St. Louis Thursday.
Jammin' On The One: Barring graduations, not since a Stevie Wonder concert in the early 80s have their been so many people in the Gentry Center to see Murray State come to town, seeking revenge against TSU, the only team which has bested the Racers.
A repeat of the win in rural Kentucky was not to be, as Murray won 80-62, taking control early and never letting go.
But TSU has a real opportunity here. By most accounts, the Tigers put on a good presentation. The Gentry Center was loud; the Aristocrat of Bands brought it in the way which only it can do. Sitting in the middle of a major city — and a sports-mad one at that — and with a team seen on the up and with presumably good things in its future so long as John Cooper can keep things going the right way, TSU could carve a niche and create one of the toughest mid-major environments in the country.
Despite the loss, it's hard to overstate what Cooper has been able to do. People are talking about TSU hoops — and saying good things for the first time in decades.
Garbage Time: Former Middle Tennessee and MBA star Preston Bailey was allegedly using his scholarship as seed money — pun totally intended — for a pot operation. ... Vandy took two wins this week they both needed and expected: an easy one against Georgia and a weirdly sloppy one against South Carolina. ... On the diamond, Vandy took down Oakland after a weekend sweep at Stanford. Coach Tim Corbin was the Nashville Sports Council's Sports Person of the Year, too.
Hat Trick of Hilarity: A high-five from The Drome to the good folks at reigning Best of Nashville Best Sports Blog On The Forecheck for this trio of chuckles.
In the run-up to the trade deadline, hockey fans get a little loopy, as we've documented here. OTF main man Dirk Hoag, enterprising as ever, launched NHLFakeTrades.com, which basically takes a list of pending free agents and randomly pairs them with teams making playoff bids. It's just as reliable as the professional rumor mongers!
OTF's resident smart-mouth Merry Prankster (and what's more, bow-tie enthusiast) Sam Page set the on-edge hockey bloggerati into fits of knowing laughter with his E.K.L.U.N.D. System post, teaching everyone how to be an "insider" too. Hoag tells The Drome that the post did 17,000 page views. Average daily traffic for the whole site is between 8,000 and 10,000. The post spawned a hilarious piece of self-righteous chest-thumping from the insiders, who asked if Sam was so good, why did he have so few Twitter followers?
Perfect response from Scene-approved role model and Friend of The Drome Patten Fuqua: "Apparently credibility is related to number of followers. That's why I get my hockey rumors from @KimKardashian."
And then Sam made up a funny little parody Internet chat about the Preds. Come for the Anders Lindback candy jokes; stay for "HOW DO I DISLODGE A MELON FROM THE COMMODE?"
The Week Ahead
Signature Required: So here we are, the death throes of basketball's regular season.
Vandy's locked up a winning record and the SEC and an NCAA at-large bid. But for a team built on such promise, it still lacks a signature win. It has a chance this week, going to Rupp Arena Saturday before coming home for a game against Florida.
It's two great chances for Vandy to get that win that could raise the eyebrows of the selection committee, perhaps bumping them up a line or two on the S-curve. But can they do it? Vandy played well against Kentucky — before disappearing at the end of the game — but was largely bamboozled by Florida's press. Rupp's not an easy place to win — and Vandy's seniors know it, having never won there, which may serve as some inspiration.
Success in college basketball is largely measured in the month of March, but a successful March often means having a sterling February. The talented 'Dores have been underwhelming — even though success has come. A win or two this week might make people pay attention again.
Worthless Prediction: Tough luck on the trip to the Bluegrass, but Stallings will have his team ready to face Florida's press. It'll be a split but a satisfying one.
Look To The Middle: Both the Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley Conference basketball tournaments are this week. The former, featuring Belmont and Lipscomb, will be played in lovely Macon, Georgia (town motto: "Please Stop For Gas"); the latter right here at Municipal Auditorium.
Belmont has the best chance of local teams to win the automatic bid to the Big Dance. While a trip all the way to south Georgia is no treat — and Mercer has a good team to go with its home court advantage — the Bruins, after a relatively sluggish start, are playing superb basketball.
Meanwhile, TSU is all but the home team for the OVC tournament. Murray State is going to be a tough out, unfortunately, but never count out the hot team.
Worthless Prediction: Bruins punch the ticket. The Tigers are still a year away, not that it should take away from a wonderful year.
You Call This Easy? : We've spent weeks talking about the Predators tough recent schedule, but they get just a little break this week.
Saturday against nemesis San Jose, Monday at home against clinging-to-the-playoffs L.A. and Tuesday in Raleigh for a cross-Smokies showdown against the surprisingly bad Hurricanes.
Monday's trade deadline is sort of the line of demarcation, indicating the launch point of the run for home — and home-ice advantage. The Preds get a good kickstart here.
Worthless Prediction: Back-up goalie Lindback likely gets a start somewhere in here. Nonetheless, four points should be expected. Five should be achievable. Six will show, once again, the Preds are the truth.
He Has Seen Many Battles: Last week, Predators General Manager David Poile addressed a need by trading for gigantor defenseman Hal Gill.
To get his man, Poile gave up a draft pick, and two prospects, including Brentwood's Blake Geoffrion — once lauded as a potential next big thing, but having a tough go in his sophomore year, spending much time in Milwaukee, where, even there, he was frequently a healthy scratch.
Gill is big — 6'7" — and he is old — 36. Like Tolkein's Treebeard, he has seen many battles. And he's won a Cup. He likes drinking beer and grilling out and listening to classic rock and country music.
And he's really big.
He's already proving his worth. He's not a fast skater and he's not a dazzling puck-handler. His Twitter handle — Skillsy75 — is a tongue-in-cheek smirk. What he does is takes up space and there's few players in the league who can do it the way he can.
His worth comes in matching up with those larger, tough, scoring centers — guys like Vancouver's Ryan Kesler and St. Louis' David Backes — who often give the Predators fits. David Legwand is a good defensive forward but he isn't all that big; Colin Wilson is big but has defensive holes. When facing Kesler, Backes and Chicago's Marian Hossa — Barry Trotz often has to play Ryan Suter and Shea Weber for 28 or 30 minutes to shore up the defense when teams roll out their big, second-line guys. Now he has another option.
No, Gill isn't going to score much — if at all, although his long arms led to the Kostitsyn shorthanded goal against the Canucks — but he's going to kill penalties and stop goals. He's already proven he can do it.
Poile may have one more trick up his trading sleeve before Monday's deadline — one that may lead to goals — but if the early returns are any indication, the acquisition of Gill may be what the team needs to go deep.
The big guy has fought those battles before.
Questions, answers, statements, complaints? E-mail jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And, of course, listen in on 102.5's The Sports Revolution between 4 and 5 Tuesday afternoons.