Uncertainty at the start of a season is nothing new for the Nashville Predators.
The difference, with the 2009 training camp set to open in just days, is that the current areas of concern do not involve the Predators specifically or their long-term viability in the market. Instead, the biggest issues involve the league as a whole — from franchise locations to officiating and even the players’ union.
“Always, things happen in this business, which is part of what makes sports so exciting,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “There’s always news. There’s always issues, whether good or bad.”
On Tuesday, Terry Gregson, a long-time NHL official, was named the league’s senior vice president and director of officiating. He replaced Stephen Walkom, who decided to return to refereeing in a move that has been portrayed in some circles as the result of a difference of opinion with another senior league official over how the rules should be enforced.
The Predators were one of the least-penalized teams in 2008-09, with an average of 12.1 penalty minutes per game.
“I think it will be a smooth transition.” Poile said. “(Walkom) did a terrific job. … Terry Gregson was a top official and is a terrific person.”
Speaking of transitions…
Presumably, Jim Balsillie is not regarded nearly as highly throughout the league – and certainly in Nashville.
Balsillie, who once attempted to buy and move the Predators, increased pressure on the league and the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday, when he upped his bid to more than $242 million for the bankrupt Phoenix franchise.
If Balsillie acquires that team, he has said it is his intention to move it to the Hamilton, Ontario area as soon as possible. Some have speculated that could mean prior to the start of this season, which opens in less than a month.
The Predators are scheduled to play in Phoenix twice. The first is Jan. 21 and the second is April 7, which means they have time to adapt — if need be.
Poile said the league office has stipulated that no personnel from individual franchises are to comment on the Phoenix situation.
He also had little to say about the NHL Players’ Association’s decision to remove Paul Kelly as executive director a little more than a week ago. He called it a “players’ issue.”
Predators’ rookies will undergo physical tests on Wednesday and be on the ice Thursday. Veterans report Saturday and will begin workouts on Sunday.