It’s safe to say 2012 was the most eventful calendar year in Nashville Predators franchise history. They gained many positive headlines league-wide in the spring, only to be followed by a sudden turn for the worse in May and the departure of a star in July.
What were the top 10 stories of the year? Where does the second-round turmoil in Phoenix rank? Here is our list…
1. Preds match Shea Weber’s offer sheet
On July 19th, Shea Weber and the Philadelphia Flyers threw a curveball at Nashville and the NHL when the star defenseman signed a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet. The Flyers thought they finally grabbed the stud blueliner they had coveted, but the Predators’ front office had other ideas. They matched the offer sheet five days later and celebrated the move with a press conference on the Bridgestone Arena plaza. An argument can be made that it was the biggest moment in franchise history.
Our story from July 25th: A shining moment for Nashville
2. Preds take down rival Detroit in first round
In both 2004 and 2008, the Predators were eliminated in the first round by a superior Detroit Red Wings team. This time, it was different. This time, the Predators were the better team. This time, the Predators took down their top rival in a tight-knit series. It only took five games for Pekka Rinne and company to deposit Detroit, but the contests were all nailbiters in a series that the Predators controlled throughout. The Predators won Game 5 on home ice, 2-1, to move on to the second round for the second consecutive spring.
Our story from April 21st: Preds finally get over Detroit hump
3. Ryan Suter’s bitter exit
Ryan Suter’s pending free agency was the elephant in the room surrounding the Predators for most of last season. Following a disappointing playoff exit, Suter took his time to ponder his future and decided to enter the open market on July 1st. Three days later, in concert with fellow free agent Zach Parise, Suter signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with Minnesota. Suter’s departure seemed inevitable, but Predators GM David Poile was taken aback that the All-Star defenseman didn’t give him a final chance to match Minnesota’s offer.
Our story from July 4th: Departure of homegrown Suter stings Preds
4. Alexander Radulov returns to Nashville
With no game that night and a day after an ugly loss to Edmonton, March 21st was a joyous day in Smashville. Why? 2004 first-round pick Alexander Radulov officially returned from Russia and was reintroduced at a press conference that day. Radulov ended a four-year Nashville hiatus by rejoining the Predators’ lineup with just nine games remaining in the season. After weeks of speculation and anticipation for his return, Radulov didn’t disappoint, statistically, as he compiled 13 points in 17 games including the playoffs.
Our story from March 22nd: Poile’s patience, anxiousness turns into joy – for now
5. Second round turmoil
The cheerful atmosphere surrounding the Predators, due to Radulov’s return and the playoff win over Detroit, quickly turned on a dime when the team went to Phoenix for the second round. In the wee hours prior to Game 2 in Phoenix, Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn were spotted at a hotel bar in Scottsdale, Ariz. The team’s hierarchy didn’t find out until after the Game 2 loss and suspended Radulov and Kostitsyn for Game 3. The suspension/situation was a distraction to the team, and it may have led to their demise in the five-game series loss.
Our story from May 1st: Radulov, Kostitsyn suspended for ‘selfish behavior’
6. Barry Trotz’s controversial decision
This is more of a follow-up to No. 5, but Barry Trotz’s controversial lineup decision for Game 4 of the second round became a story in itself. With Radulov and Kostitsyn sitting out, the Predators beat the Coyotes 2-0 in Game 3 but trailed 2-1 in the series. The suspension for Radulov and Kostitsyn were for one game each, yet Trotz decided to have the same lineup card in Game 4 as he did in Game 3 (Jordin Tootoo and Matt Halischuk were the Game 3 insertions). The Predators were shut out in Game 4 without two of their more dangerous offensive threats, leading many to second-guess Trotz afterwards.
Our story from May 3rd: Trotz faces lineup decisions for Game 4
7. David Poile active at trade deadline
In February the Predators were in contention for a division crown and the Western Conference’s top seed. Poile seized the opportunity to add to the team’s depth and ended up making a lot of noise at the trade deadline. The Predators’ GM did some shopping early when he acquired Hal Gill from Montreal. On deadline day, Poile grabbed Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad. In all, the Predators made a statement and immediately bolstered a team that was already a threat to the rest of the West.
Our story from February 27th: Preds ‘cover all the bases’ on deadline day
8. Shea Weber vs. Henrik Zetterberg
The aforementioned first-round series win over Detroit didn’t come without controversy. In the final seconds of Game 1, Weber shoved Henrik Zetterberg’s head into the glass, which triggered a fracas. Weber was fined – not suspended – for the incident, much to the dismay of just about every hockey fan outside of Nashville. Expectedly, Weber had to face the music by dropping the gloves with Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi in Game 2 and hearing the boobirds when the series shifted to Motor City for Games 3 and 4.
Our story from April 11th: Trotz on Weber hit: ‘There wasn’t much there’
9. Standout month of January
The first real sign that 2011-12 was going to be a special season was the pair of momentous comeback wins against Columbus in December. Those victories were followed up by a month of January that was arguably the best in Predators history. Trotz’s club went 11-2-0 in January to climb within three points of the NHL’s standings lead. The Predators had a memorable comeback win in Minnesota, Rinne was named the NHL’s third star of the month with a 1.92 GAA in 12 games and, don’t forget, Mike Fisher scored the first GooGoo Goal in franchise history.
Our story from February 1st: Trotz: ‘This group has that special feel to it’
10. Jordin Tootoo signs with Detroit
Jordin Tootoo, a fan favorite since the day he arrived in Nashville, fell out of favor with Trotz and the staff late in the season when Poile brought in extra talent at forward. Tootoo played in only three playoff games and voiced his frustration through the media. Last summer, Tootoo and the Predators parted ways. But not only did Tootoo sign elsewhere, he controversially signed a three-year contract with the enemy Red Wings. Those cheers he had heard for eight seasons will suddenly turn into boos once the NHL starts up again.
Our story from June 3rd: Balancing Tootoo’s popularity and on-ice value