by J.R. Lind
This Week In The 'Drome: Playoff pushes, single-color collars, green jackets, green infields, and your weekly dose of photographic non sequiturs.
Suits vs. Sweaters : Early last season, I examined Barry Trotz's use of the doghouse to get his players' attention.
At the time, the resident member of Le Chateau Bow Wow was one Jean-Pierre DuMont, now bought out and plying his trade in the Swiss League. One of the "beneficiaries" of DuMont's reduced role last year was Colin Wilson, who took over the spot as the team's designated sitter.
Later last year, Wilson, too, found himself relegated to the press box during the first round of the playoffs. And it seems he's found himself back there again.
A storyline for much of the year was how those playoff scratches got young Wilson's attention and he developed a more consistent game. In past years, Wilson was as apt to inspire as many negative "Holy cows!" as positive ones. For every dazzling dangle, there was a baffling lapse.
And now Wilson finds himself on the scratch list more often than not. The stat nerds are appalled. Wilson's Corsi On — basically a measure of shot differential while the player is on the ice — ranks fourth among Predators forwards (and one of those ranked ahead of him is Alexander Radulov, beneficiary of small sample size). For those who worship at the High Altar of The Shot, a Wilson scratch is blasphemous.
Fancy stats or no, a healthy Nashville line-up is going to be hard for Wilson to break into. With Paul Gaustad, Andrei Kostitsyn and Radulov, the team basically added a full-line of forwards in the past month and a half, leaving precious few spots for Wilson to fill.
Wilson heads for restricted free agency in July, and even if he and his agent think his best opportunity may be elsewhere, it's in his best interest to not mimic another Colin Wilson and be an Angry Young Man.
If he does walk, gird yourself for him to join the ranks of Scottie Upshall, Mark Santorelli, Ryan Jones and Rich Peverley, similarly skilled forwards who disgruntled Preds fans trot out as examples of goal scorers who have "thrived" elsewhere, ignoring that only Peverley has ever scored 20 goals post-Predator (and he did that but once).
The Week Behind
One Love : The Predators are 6-4 in their last 10 games. Those 6 wins? They've given up one goal in five of them and Pekka Rinne earned the shutout last night. In the losses, they've given up an average of nearly five goals. See a pattern?
Despite finally putting together a team which can score with some briskness, the Predators are still a squad which relies on defense. Sure, they can mount furious comebacks — and nearly managed what would have been the most impressive fight-back of the year, tying Chicago after falling behind 4-0 before ultimately losing, exhausted late in the second half of a back-to-back weekend — and sure, they can rack up the goals. But keeping the other team off the board is still Priority One for this team.
It's almost as if the good defensive effort sparks the team to offensive explosions. In that same 10-game stretch, only once have the Preds needed a one-goal defensive effort: Anders Lindback's sweet goalkeeping got Nashville a 2-1 shootout win against Minnesota. Otherwise, it seems, when the other team doesn't score, the Preds do in bunches.
Snedly Whiplash : Nashville's Brandt Snedeker opened his Master's campaign with an even par, 72, finishing the first round five shots off the leaders, tied with — among many, many others — Tiger Woods.
Snedeker, who keeps inexplicably being left off the US's Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, is looking to A) make the cut for the fourth time in five tries at Augusta and B) to improve on his best-ever finish, a third-place effort in 2008.
He'll have to do it without the backdrop of the azaleas, but he certainly has the tools to be a factor when Jim Nantz cranks up the schmaltz and cliche from Butler's Cabin Sunday.
Plop in front of an HDTV, make a few pimento-cheese sandwiches and enjoy the show.
Garbage Time : The Titans will face Arizona, New Orleans, Tampa and Seattle in the preseason. They'll have the services of delightfully named defensive lineman Leger Douzable, who signed as a free agent. Special teamer Tim Shaw re-signed this week, as well. ... Speaking of names, please go vote for Predators' prospect and headline-writers' dream Ryan Thang in this best names poll from The Hockey News. ... It's a coin toss whether John Jenkins will leave Vandy for the NBA. ... Vandy will add hillside seating to Dudley Field this year. ... In his last game as Saints defensive coordinator (and let's be real: his last game coaching), Gregg Williams gave very explicit instructions on the injuries he wanted his team to inflict. ... Thoughts and prayers to the family of Vanderbilt baseball recruit Stephen Gant, who took his own life.
Blue-Eyed Soul : There's lots of history over at Fisk, the HBCU made famous by its Jubilee Singers and its art collection.
But now its basketball program is making a little more history. The school has signed Mike Smith, a 6-6, 200-pound juco transfer who has a sweet shot. Smith also happens to be white — the first Caucasian scholarship athlete in school history.
Smith's aware he's sort of fitting a stereotype here: hey, a white kid who can shoot from outside! But he's also got a good enough head to point out how ridiculous those stereotypes can be:
“I shoot 3s. That is what I do. I run off screens and shoot,” he said. “When you see a lot of white kids in basketball and in the NBA, I don’t want to say discriminated against, you assume they can do certain things differently. You assume. You assume most white guys shoot. They play smart. That is just what you assume they do. Of course there are plenty of white kids who can jump and are athletic, but that is not what you expect. …
“You’ve got [white] guys like Chase Buddinger who can fly, and you’ve got [black] guys like Ray Allen who can shoot. So it’s not to say it has got to be this way, but at the same time, it’s just how it kind of happens.”
While Not Mentioned, We Assume Anders Lindback Wanted To Be Willy Wonka : Jim Diamond asks the Preds what they wanted to be when they grew up. Pekka Rinne: Kindergarten teacher
And Now, Lacrosse Highlights : Apparently, behind-the-back goals are fairly common in lacrosse, but that doesn't make this sweet goal by Vanderbilt sophomore Katie Mastropieri any less impressive. Nice interview here, too.
Wilford Brimley Update: With the conclusion of the Predators' home regular-season schedule, an update on all the delicious goodies fans earned. Fans left Bridgestone Arena with free Frosties — for four or more goals — 13 times. The Frosty-clincher was scored by Patric Hornqvist and Shea Weber three times each and Sergei Kostitsyn twice. Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, Roman Josi, Mike Fisher and Martin Erat all added one Frosty goal.
Twice did the team score in the final minute of the second period, getting gratis Goo-Goos to the fans. Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn were the goal-scorers.
And Dunkin Donuts gave away free donuts for a home shutout twice. Pekka Rinne had both goalless games, in October against Anaheim and last night against Dallas.
The Week Ahead
Sell That Burma Shave Stock : Put away the razors, fellas. The NHL playoffs are upon us.
With the combination of results Thursday night, the Predators control their own destiny for the No. 4 seed and the all-important home-ice advantage. A win or overtime loss Saturday or a loss or overtime loss by Detroit against Chicago and Nashville locks up extra home game in the first round.
If Chicago beats Detroit in regulation Saturday, Nashville will play the Blackhawks with the home advantage. If Detroit wins or gets the overtime loss, the Preds will play the Red Wings with the extra home game. If Nashville loses to Colorado in regulation and Detroit gets two points, Nashville will be the fifth seed to Detroit's fourth and have to travel to Joe Louis Arena to play the Wings.
Got it? Good. Full playoff preview in next week's Scene dead-tree coupled with wall-to-wall coverage in Monday's City Paper.
Sounds of Summer : The Nashville Sounds kicked off their 35th season in Nashville Thursday night with a roster that features a slew of big league prospects.
Included among them is the Brewers' top prospect, pitcher Wily Peralta, along with two past winners of the organization's Minor League Player of the Year award, pitcher Mike Friers and infielder Taylor Green.
Perhaps the shiniest star on the roster is Corey Patterson, who has worn well the path from Milwaukee to Nashville and back. The 32-year-old is in his 14th season of pro ball and has played for seven different organizations.
Mostly, Nike focused on the collars. For the Titans, it means an abandonment of the Tom Brokaw experiment of multi-colored collars differently hued from the main body of the jersey. Now, it's all just love-ya-blue from neck to waist. In its slideshow, Nike also highlighted the belt, which The 'Drome assumes is an indication the Mighty Swoosh is bowing to the General Assembly's no-saggy-pants pressure.
The Titans' only major uniform change since the relocation has been a swap from a navy theme back to a light blue one, hinting at Bud Adams' never-to-die affinity for the old-school Oilers. Other than the occasional throwback and the infamous red jerseys, the Titans — to their credit — have eschewed the quick cash-grab of frequent uniform changes, a mainstay of several franchises you can probably name without much effort and also the MLS.
But is it time for a headline-generating, water-cooler-occupying alternate?
The reds looked too much like the practice jerseys worn by quarterbacks who can't get hit in practice, so that's out.
Adams clearly has a jones for the good-old days, incrementally pushing Tennessee back to the Oilers halcyon period. But he is also a fashion plate himself.
Perhaps the Titans could go for something in all-white?
And if the NFL is going to continue to subject us to full-priced pre-season exhibitions played with the level of effort and energy with which Roger Dorn gave fielding practice [mild but repeated NSFW language], at the very least they could outfit the teams in something interesting.
Those games are before Labor Day, after all. Why not seersucker?
Sartorial suggestions? Epic number crunching? Weird Cosby Show memories? E-mail me at jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. And be sure to listen at 4 p.m. every Tuesday to 102.5's Sports Revolution.