Predators reaffirm desire to do even better during 'Skate of the Union'

Monday, August 20, 2012 at 10:50pm

Status quo just won’t cut it for Tom Ciggaran anymore, particularly after a banner year.

As he addressed Nashville Predators fans at Bridgestone Arena on Monday night during the team’s annual Skate of the Union town hall meeting, the franchise’s chair revved up the crowd of 300 by rehashing the facts. 

“By any measure last season was the best in the history of this franchise,” Ciggaran said. “We got to the second round of the playoffs for the second year in a row — the only team in the Western Conference to do so.”

But instead of building off the loud cheers and heavy applause, Ciggaran, in a soft tone, used this as a segway to expand on a well-known expectation within the Bridgestone Arena walls.

“The players and coaches and all of us expected more and were very unhappy with how the season ended,” Ciggaran said. “Their disappointment at only getting to the second round shows the kind of progress we are making on our hockey side. Our whole organization is not satisfied just with making the playoffs. We’re here to win the Cup.”

After a question-and-answer session with Predators players Colin Wilson, Hal Gill, Mike Fisher, Chris Mason and Paul Gaustad, five team officials briefed fans on the franchise’s affairs.

Joining Ciggaran were chief executive officer Jeff Cogen, chief financial officer Sean Henry, general manager David Poile and associate head coach Peter Horacheck.

Among the notable moments and remarks from the session, which lasted nearly two hours and featured questions from the audience and via social media:

• Poile said he has had weekly conversations with Phoenix Coyotes forward Shane Doan and his agent. The 35-year-old Doan has been an unrestricted free agent since July 1. And his status is in limbo as the Coyotes seek new ownership. “I think we have a good chance if he wanted to sign with another team but his true preference is to stay in Phoenix.”

• Three key Predators figures were not in attendance. Head coach Barry Trotz was reviewing game rules in Toronto with other NHL coaches and executives. Captain Shea Weber was attending the NHL Players Association meetings and holding a hockey school in British Columbia. Goalie Pekka Rinne was back home in Finland.

• Horacheck on replacing defenseman Ryan Suter’s minutes: “You do it by committee. You’re going to see [Roman] Josi taking up some extra minutes and play in some strong situations. You’re going to see [newly signed defenseman Scott] Hannan who has played over 20 minutes almost every year. You’re going to see Hal Gill and Kevin Klein’s minutes [increase]. So you’re going to see a lot by committee.”

• Henry said $6 million will be spent on adding de-humidifiers, cooling systems, the HVAC system, lighting and plumbing. “When I met [center] Mike Fisher a year and a half ago, the first thing he said was ‘I heard the ice wasn’t as good as it could be here.’ … Every touch point that our fans have, our players have and our performers have is going to be enhanced.”

• Henry also said the Predators are partnering with the city to build a new ice rink in Davidson County. “When that one is successful, we’ll build another one and then another one which will allow us to grow the sport to so many more people.”

• Three months after Poile suspended Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals due to a violation of team rules, he pleased the crowd when he said he didn’t have any second thoughts: “It was very unfortunate, very regrettable, never should have happened and it possibly hurt us but it was the right thing to do. ... Someday we’ll be rewarded for that decision.”

• With the deadline approaching for the NHL and the players to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, a lockout could be on the horizon. But Cogen said it is business as usual with an emphasis on selling more tickets, driving TV ratings and rounding up corporate sponsors. “I don’t want to be misleading either,” he said. “We do have ‘what if’ conversations. I would characterize our day-to-day as 90 percent getting ready and 10 percent on ‘what if.’”

If a lockout unfolds, however, Cogen said plans are on the backburner to give season-ticket holders “value for their payment without hockey for the short-term.”

But he’s hoping it doesn’t reach that point. Cogen expects season ticket sales to surpass 10,000 for the upcoming season and hopes to build off a franchise-record 25 sellouts.

“While there’s room for improvement,” Cogen said, “we feel like we’ve created some momentum and there is some momentum to build upon.”

Ciggaran couldn’t have said it better.

Briefly

• Poile announced that center Mike Fisher has agreed to a two-year contract extension worth $8.4 million that will keep him in Nashville through the 2014-15 season.

The 32-year-old assistant captain scored 24 goals and had 51 points in his first full season with the Predators.

“Obviously that’s a big plus as we move forward to keep our team intact,” Poile said.

• The Predators announced a five-year extension with the Cromwell Group Inc., keeping them on 102.5 FM, The Game, through the 2016-17 season.

In addition, former Predators forward Stu Grimson will join the radio broadcast for his first full season. He’ll serve as the color analyst while Tom Callahan will continue with play-by-play duties.