When NHL fans hear a certain player doesn’t want to join their team, they tend to react in several ways: either they yell “who needs him?!” or they wonder “why doesn’t he want to play for us?!” This week, Preds fans have been asking the latter of these two questions. How dare anyone block a trade to the Predators! Who wouldn’t want to come to the “It City”? We have a network show about us, for God’s sake! This stuff gets personal real fast, and those who snub Nashville automatically become villains. Add Jason Spezza to that list. As you may have heard, the talented center recently nixed a trade that would have sent him to the Predators, using his no-trade clause to prevent that deal from transpiring. Then we learned noted headcase Ryan Kesler also blocked a potential deal that would have shipped him to Nashville, utilizing the powers of his own NTC. The nerve of that guy. Twitter, message boards and blogs have been flooded with comments ridiculing Spezza, Kesler and David Poile. After all, the Preds are at risk of missing the playoffs for the third straight season, and the lack of activity isn’t sitting well with anxious fans. Thing is, this stuff isn’t personal. Could Spezza and/or Kesler have irrational disdain for Nashville? Sure, it’s possible; a recent tweet from former Vogue intern Sean Avery proves that. But it isn’t likely. Here’s what’s more likely: Spezza, who is 31 and understands his best years are in the rear-view mirror, wanted to find a place he can win now. Lo and behold, he ends up in Dallas — one of the most exciting and talented teams in the league. Kesler — who may be past his prime, as well — is still hurting from Vancouver’s loss in the 2011 Cup Final. Lo and behold, the ‘Nucks traded him in the freakin’ division to Anaheim, which came within a single point of winning the President’s Trophy in 2013-14. This isn’t about players not wanting to come to Nashville; it’s about players seeing 29 potential suitors and narrowing that group down to a select few. No team is always going to be among the select few, and Nashville is no exception. Take a look at what the Stars have done of late. Did Jim Nill step in last year and start spending like a maniac? No. He brought in a respected coach with a winning pedigree, traded for an oft-criticized yet talented goalscorer and built from within. Sound familiar? Now, suddenly, elite players want to come to Dallas. Keep in mind, this is the same team that finished 11th in the West during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign; and yes, this is the same team that barely made the playoffs last year. But the Stars have proven they’re moving in the right direction, and the hockey world has taken notice. As far as NHL towns go, Dallas is very much an “It City” at the moment. Nashville is getting there. The Preds have a coach who won a Stanley Cup less than a decade ago. They have a world-class defenseman, a world-class netminder and some good young pieces to build around. As of last week, they have an All Star-caliber forward, as well. I imagine there weren’t many guys who wished to go to Dallas last summer, but things change quickly. You have to prove that your team is on the path to success, and Nashville has some convincing to do. That said, the Preds appear to be well on their way. They missed the playoffs last year by only three points, falling just short despite Pekka Rinne’s four-month absence. Their roster has since improved, and they have a new (and more exciting) direction. Though the Central Division (and Western Conference as a whole) got even tougher this week, there’s good reason to believe Nashville can return to the postseason in 2014-15. If they can finish among the top eight in the West and make a little noise in April, it may not be long before UFAs and trade targets grow eager to hop aboard. Until then, most NHLers aren’t going to go out of there way to join the Preds. That’s the reality of this business, and it sure isn’t personal. 2 Responses Andrew Hirsh July 2nd, 2014 <3 notanashvilleresident,stillmad September 25th, 2014 Over the course of his rather unimpressive career, Sean Avery has denigrated his ex-girlfriends, mocked a teammate’s speech impediment, made derogatory jokes about the greatest goalie of our time, and, allegedly, taunted Jason Blake for having Leukemia. Forget about him, Nashville, as we all would if he didn’t keep violating norms of basic human decency.