Dear Nashville Predators (and their fans),
Recently, Hockey News scribe Adam Proteau wrote that you should have traded (and still need to) defenseman Shea Weber.
After getting past the shock of the suggestion and subsequent anger you may want to take a deep breath, step back, and review the situation again. Once done then ask yourself if the idea shouldn't be entertained.
The request isn't an attempt to tell another franchise nor their fan base how to act, feel, or think. It comes from the desire of those who have persevered through such dark days to share their perspective so that others may be spared some of the same pain.
Certainly the St. Louis Blues (and their fan base), among many others in the Central Division, would love to see the day when Weber no longer a fixture on the ice in Nashville. Less than 10 years ago the Blues were in the same position with another marquee defenseman in his prime, Chris Pronger. The writing was on the wall as to what direction the team was going. Exiting the 2003-04 season they were a bubble playoff team gathering only 91 points through 82 games. Organizational depth was anything but deep. The Laurie ownership era was coming to an end thanks to the 2004-05 lockout and the economic impacts of a failure to buy the Stanley Cup with a top heavy roster.
Though the Lauries felt they needed to trade Pronger, to strip out debt in order to sell the team faster, they didn't really need to. Then incoming owner Dave Checketts stated multiple times that he would have bought the team even with the heft contract on the books because of the player associated to it. However, divesting from condensed strength pointed an arrow in a new direction. Towards internal development, top to bottom depth, and fiscal responsibility leading to sustainable long term success. It's taken some time. Longer than anticipated (and proposed by a savvy marketing approach), but after a handful of seasons spent in the basement the Blues are riding the elevator to the NHL's penthouse.
The moral of the digression? Other teams have had to make tough decisions. How right they are isn't important, but some are better than others.
It's hard to see the forest through the trees when major change occurs. When Pronger packed his bags for Edmonton the fog was thick. Over time the fog lifted and a clear path to an end was found and followed. Had the Blues held on to the future Hall of Fame blueliner they would have only delayed the inevitable. Pavol Demitra was moving past his elite production years as were Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk. After those three there would have been a drastic gulf between the primary and secondary scoring. Maybe that would have been a better situation to develop top three round draft selections like Lee Stempniak, Petr Cajanek, Jay McClement, and Dennis Wideman. Probably wouldn't have mattered considering none have panned out as key parts of successful playoff contenders.
Bottom line, the Blues needed a fresh start. They got one, but it wasn't optimized.
This is where ya'll in Nashville could have been different.
Not that long ago your GM, David Poile, decided to grasp on to the dying vestiges of what he hoped to build as a long term competitor. Defenseman Ryan Suter jumped ship for Minnesota. The longest playoff run in your franchise's history and commitment to Pekka Rinne wasn't enough even though it probably should have been. Enter the Philadelphia Flyers and their mega offer sheet for his pairing partner, Weber. In the wake of such success Poile couldn't stand to face the truth. The plan didn't work. Worse yet, it was falling apart.
Instead of taking a king's ransom in future draft picks to restock the cupboard he matched the offer sheet.
In that instant the inevitable was delayed and the potential for suffering prolonged.
The decision was as bad as the return the Blues got for Pronger (Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, and some defenseman no one remembers).
As sub optimal as it was the new ownership group under Checketts and his right hand man, John Davidson, instituted an appropriate plan of action to counter the mistake. It would take quite some time to see the tree they planted bare fruit, but it has, bountifully.
Your brain trust has a rare second chance to correct course.
The salary cap will increase for the 2014-15 season. Additional space top teams will find to absorb the long term, high dollar contract will allow you the opportunity to host an auction for Weber's services. Any return will probably look less like the plethora of picks you could have had from Philly, but will likely mirror what Columbus got back for Rick Nash (maybe even a little stronger).
Pulling off the best trade possible at this point will mean more skilled depth coming on board which should help you score more at even strength. An area you have struggled for several seasons. Yes, concerns about preventing goals against is valid. With Pekka Rinne in for the long haul and Seth Jones looking like the new face of the franchise you have some flexibility to move on to a new era. Besides, assuming you hold on to Barry Trotz structuring a team competitive beyond it's ability is his forte.
Those of us in St. Louis won't lie. Change like this isn't easy to stomach. It could mean fewer butts in seats paying a premium for their ticket. As long as there is a method to your rebuilding madness and an exit strategy you'll come out leaner and meaner on the other side.
Don't believe me. Totally your prerogative. As of today you are just one point behind the Blues... having played three more games, scored the fewest goals in the conference, and are missing your Vezina quality netminder due to injury for a month. Yeah, that won't last. Flashes of grandeur come and go (see the 2008-09 Blues) Bite the bullet now.