Molinari on the Penguins: The Ties That Bind
The Penguins are in the midst of a stretch during which they'll play seven of eight games on the road.
There are some obvious downsides to spending so much time away from home, but there can be a few benefits as well.
When teams are out of town, players tend to spend more time together than they usually do, and that helps to cultivate camaraderie and friendships.
Former Penguins center Petr Nedved was quick to point that out as the Penguins were preparing to go on a long trip back in the mid-1990s. And, while the thought he put forth hardly was original, Nedved expressed it in a way that likely never will be forgotten.
Discussing how the personal ties between his teammates were sure to get stronger during their extended time away from home, Nedved said, "There's going to be a lot of bondage going on."
Nashville has a relatively low payroll and likely a lower profile, at least on a league-wide basis.
The Predators operate in a non-traditional market and have players like defenseman Shea Weber, who would be major stars if they worked elsewhere, but tend to get overlooked in discussions about the game's top performers.
Nonetheless, Nashville manages to be quite competitive, year-in and year-out, and there likely aren't many people who appreciate that more than Penguins general manager Ray Shero. He spent eight winters as Nashville general manager David Poile's assistant before being hired to replace Craig Patrick in 2006.
"It's a challenge every year," Shero said. "I lived it. They've certainly done a lot with a little."
The Predators' success, he said, primarily stems from "great coaching and great scouting."
Specifically, Shero said, assistant GM Paul Fenton and head amateur scout Jeff Kealty deserve credit for routinely turning up prospects who are capable of eventually contributing, while coach Barry Trotz invariably manages to coax the most from his players.
"Barry Trotz does a great job," Shero said. "They've had a lot of buy-in from players."
The Predators got the nucleus of their current defense corps from the 2003 entry draft, when they added Weber and Ryan Suter, and they've turned up productive players like forward Martin Erat in the later rounds of the draft.
Nashville also has a knack for acquiring quality goalies, a key element for a team that traditionally is comfortable in low-scoring games.
"They've really had a good run with goaltenders," Shero said. "From Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun to Chris Mason to Pekka Rinne to this guy Anders [Lindback]. They find these guys."
And the guys the Predators turn up have a knack for beating the Penguins, whose 4-3 overtime victory at Bridgestone Arena Thursday -- a game in which the Penguins got their only lead when Kris Letang scored the winner -- snapped a six-game losing streak in Nashville, and raised their all-time record against the Predators to a decidedly modest 5-8-3.
"We haven't had much luck against Nashville since I've been there," Shero said, although it's worth noting the Penguins actually are 2-1-1 in his four-plus seasons as general manager.
Regardless of how his old team has given his current one fits, Shero readily admits to having a soft spot for the Predators and a deep respect and affection for a lot of the people on their payroll.
"I wouldn't, without a number of the people working there, have gotten a chance to be a general manager," he said. "I have some good friends still there."
Former Penguins equipment manager Steve Latin is back in the business.
Latin, who lost his job in an off-ice staff shakeup in 2006, is the equipment manager of the Charlotte Checkers, American Hockey League affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Checkers' head coach, Jeff Daniels, played for the Penguins during Latin's time with the team, and Latin also has professional and/or personal ties to three ex-Penguins in the Carolina front office: General manager Jim Rutherford, associate coach Ron Francis and goaltending coach Tom Barrasso.
First Published October 24, 2010 12:00 am