It is no secret that the Nashville Predators felt wronged.
When Ryan Suter made his decision last July to accept a free agent offer from the Minnesota Wild, it scuttled the franchise’s long-term plans that were built on a foundation of him, fellow defenseman Shea Weber and goalie Pekka Rinne.
David Poile utterly villainized Suter in the days that followed. The general manager clearly believed he had been misled and stopped just short of calling the player a bold-faced liar. Coach Barry Trotz quickly tried to downplay the importance of any one player, even one the team was so eager to keep happy that it consulted him on his preferences regarding personnel matters.
We all understand that breakups create a unique set of emotions, particularly for the one who gets left. The feelings of Poile, Trotz and everyone else in the organization were genuine albeit somewhat immature. After all, how many decisions have those two made in the name of “business” that players did not like or appreciate?
That was then. Eight months have passed.
Now it is time to do the right thing.
Minnesota comes to town Saturday for its only visit of this abbreviated season, its first with Suter as a member of its roster. The Predators need to welcome him back in the same warm, classy manner that they have others.
Some of the nicest moments of the last month and a half were the first-period video tributes to Steve Sullivan and Jordin Tootoo when they came back to town with Phoenix and Detroit, respectively. The fans’ response and the players’ reaction were heartfelt.
Anything less for Suter would be disingenuous, not to mention petty.
After all, the franchise has seized upon any opportunity to celebrate the fact that Weber has a contract that will keep him here for the remainder of his career. Conveniently overlooked is that the deal originated as an offer sheet he signed with another franchise.
To think that Weber wanted to stay any more than Suter did and, therefore, deserves unfettered admiration while Suter ought to be despised and/or ignored is to believe that the earth is flat or that the moon is made of cheese.
It is similar folly to think that Sullivan and/or Tootoo are more deserving of respect and a measure of thanks. Both were important and popular players for this team. Their respective returns were cause for celebration and gratification.
This situation is no different.
Simply put, Suter’s contributions to the Nashville Predators are undeniable. Consider just a few:
• He played more games for them than any defenseman other than Kimmo Timonen.
• He is one of only four players, regardless of position, with at least 200 all-time assists for the franchise.
• He was the centerpiece of Predators’ 2003 draft class, a significant decision given all the talent that flowed into the team and the league that year when the selection process took place here in town.
• He was the only Nashville player ever selected for the United States Olympic team — and he was standout performer when the Americans won a silver medal in 2010 at Vancouver.
• He is the franchise’s only first-round draft pick to appear in an NHL All-Star Game and one of only two Predators to register a point in that contest.
Players like Suter don’t come along all that often, which is why it is so painful when they leave. Those bitter feelings should not overwhelm a decade of positive contributions.
It is not simply the right thing to do to recognize Suter and his many accomplishments as a member of the Nashville Predators. It is the only thing to do.