Predators won't run or look much different when Henry becomes CEO

Sean Henry is waiting for a new suit to be delivered.

He thought it would have been here by now.

As long as it arrives by the end of the month, it ought to be fine. After all, that’s when Henry become the Nashville Predators' CEO and someone in that position can’t go around in the same clothes he wore the last five years as president and COO.

Up to this point, Henry has made a name for himself — in part — with a garish LoudMouth suit that presents the franchise’s recognizable colors in a decidedly unsettling pattern.

So naturally the one that is on order is … another LoudMouth suit.

“The problem with ordering the ugly suits online with great colors is they take forever to make,” Henry told the Post on Thursday. “I don’t understand it. Ugly clothes should come faster.

“I like doing it because it’s fun. Whenever you can make someone smile when they walk through the door, you’ve kind of won already. I’ll continue it.”

The truth is that Henry doesn’t plan to change of anything much when current CEO Jeff Cogen steps down at the end of November to take a position with Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays.

Most of the hard work has been done in the five years since lead owner Tom Cigarran hired both in August 2010 to improve the operation of the front office as it pertained to the NHL franchise and Bridgestone Arena. Ticket sales are at an all-time high. The arena has been recognized repeatedly for the number of events it annually hosts, and the front office has been restructured with an eye toward greater communication and creativity.

“Our styles are fairly similar on a lot of things and couldn’t be further apart on many other things,” Henry said of he and Cogen. “That complemented it pretty well. We were renovating a mindset within our walls and within the community — and I think it took both approaches to do it. … We had a better chance to be successful faster than if I only I was here or only he was here.

“… Five years ago when Jeff and I came here, there were fires everywhere. We had to change everything and work with our employees to take their handcuffs off and encourage trying new things, taking risks, being different.”

Now, instead of being a fireman, he plans to be a train engineer. He just wants to keep the operation on track and headed in the right direction.

He said he does not plan to name anyone to fill his current position. Those responsibilities, he said, can be handled by the existing executive management team of VP of Corporate Development Chris Junghans, VP of Ticket Sales and Youth Hockey Nat Harden, VP of Booking David Kells and Executive VP, General Counsel and CFO Michelle Kennedy.

“It’s a little bit easier when things are tough to improve them,” Henry said. “That being said, when things are going well and the machine is rolling, it’s easier to keep it running and make it more efficient.

“But you don’t have a lot of those ‘a-ha’ moments when things are going pretty well.”

He expects the next one to come next season. That’s when he plans for every one of the Predators’ 41 home games to be sold out for the first time, up from an anticipated 35 or so this season. In future seasons, he will want the sellouts to be assured days or even weeks in advance rather than in the final hours before faceoff.

“What’s nice is the stability that Tom provided by bringing Jeff and me in, and as we build this executive team, that stability will outlast me whether it’s eight years from now or 12 years from now,” Henry said. “Now, there isn’t that pressing need of trying to sell out virtually every game.

“Now it’s, 'How do we further weave ourselves into the fabric of our community?'”

Some funky-looking fabric on the franchise’s top executive never hurts.

Nov 5, 2015 3:12 PM

Rio Grande De-Fence Briefing: Weber on verge of offensive milestone for defensemen

Shea Weber just might return from the Nashville Predators’ current road trip with a milestone to his credit. Barring a complete disaster, he’s is going to get it eventually this season.

The captain and high-scoring defenseman had a goal in each of Nashville’s two games over the weekend – a 4-3 overtime loss at Los Angeles on Saturday and a 4-2 defeat at Anaheim on Sunday.

That gave him 149 for his career. With one more, he will become just the fourth active NHL defenseman – and the 38th all-time – with at least 150.

When he joins that group, he easily will have the fewest games played of the bunch, an indication of how productive he has been with his booming slap shot. His first opportunity to get there comes Thursday at Minnesota (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) in the final contest of the four-game road swing.

The leaders in career goals by active NHL defensemen:

Zdeno Chara – 170 (1,203 games)
Chris Pronger – 157 (1,167 games)
Dan Boyle – 153 (1,029 games)
Shea Weber – 149 (696 games)
Dustin Byfuglien – 135 (609 games)

It is not out of the question to think that Weber could finish this season as the NHL’s active leader in goals by a defenseman.

Chris Pronger is second on the list but has not played an NHL game since 2011-12. He is not officially retired, though, and the Philadelphia Flyers traded him to Arizona during the offseason. He is not going to add to his total.

Third-place Dan Boyle has averaged just over nine goals for the past nine seasons. So he is not likely to make a big move.

Weber, on the other hand, has three goals in the first 11 games, the first of which came in the sixth contest of the season (vs. Tampa Bay). Three times previously he scored his first within the first six games and he finished those seasons (2008-09, 2013-14 and 2014-15) with 23, 23 and 15 goals, respectively.

Indications are, therefore, that he is on his way to another big number. If that happens, the only question is whether 38-year-old Zdeno Chara can score enough to keep him at bay.

However many more he gets, the next one is a big one.

The group of NHL defensemen with at least 150 career goals includes some of the sport’s biggest names, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Bobby Orr, Brian Leetch and so on.

It won't be long before that group adds one.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Nov 2, 2015 10:51 AM

CMA road trip an annual thing for Predators; a win to start is not

Every year at this time the Nashville Predators are forced to make the best of it.

For the second straight season, their ‘CMA road trip’ got off to the best possible start.

When Nashville defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 on Wednesday it marked the second time in as many seasons under coach Peter Laviolette that they opened that lengthy run of road games. Prior to that, they started six in a row with a defeat.

“It's a 10-day trip and it makes everything easier when you win a game,” goalie Pekka Rinne said.

Just weeks in the NHL’s regular season the Country Music Association takes over Bridgestone Arena for an extended period leading up to, and including its annual awards show. During that time the Predators are banished to the road for more than a week for a trip that consists of five or six games. It has been the case every year since 2005, when the CMA Awards Show was held in New York at Madison Square Garden.

This year’s trip is different in that it consists of just four games. The next two are Saturday at Los Angeles (3 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) and Sunday at Anaheim (7 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee).

With the victory at San Jose, the opportunity still exists for the Predators to collect eight points along the way, which would match last season and 2006 as the most successful of the last decade.

A season-by-season look at the how the Nashville Predators fared in the first game of their annual CMA trip and their eventual record on the trip as a whole:

2015-16 – First game: at San Jose, W 2-1; Trip record : TBD
2014-15 – First game: at Edmonton, W 4-1; Trip record: 4-2-0
2013-14 – First game: at Phoenix, L 5-4 (SO); Trip record: 2-4-1
2012-13 – Lockout delayed start of season until January
2011-12 – First game: at Chicago, L 5-4 (OT); Trip record: 3-1-1
2010-11 – First game: at Detroit, L 5-2; Trip record: 1-4-0
2009-10 – First game: at Washington, L 3-2 (SO); Trip record: 2-2-1
2008-09 – First game: at Vancouver, L 4-0; Trip record: 3-3-0
2007-08 – First game: at Calgary, L 5-1; Trip record: 3-1-1
2006-07 – First game: at Calgary, W 3-2; Trip record: 4-1-0

“I thought we played well defensively,” Laviolette said Wednesday. “We got some big saves in the game. I like the way we started and I think we were ready when the puck dropped. That to me is always a big part of playing the game the right way.”

The same can be said about how to have a successful road trip.

Oct 30, 2015 1:11 PM

Cogen walks away confident in Predators' new leadership

Perhaps one day, Jeff Cogen will kick up his feet and simply relax.

Until then, he believes he still can put them to good use (figuratively speaking) elsewhere. So as he prepares to walk away from the Nashville Predators after five years as CEO, he does so with a certainty that the local National Hockey League franchise is in good hands.

Sean Henry will replace Cogen as Predators’ CEO on Dec. 1, when the latter leaves to take a front-office position with Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays.

Henry has been the Predators’ COO since August 2010, the same time Cogen was hired. For much of the last 12 to 18 months, however, Henry effectively has functioned as CEO, according to Cogen, who has focused on other projects.

The franchise formally announced the pending moves Thursday morning.

“As I think back on coming to the Preds, making wine is the analogy,” Cogen told the Nashville Post. “We just kind of jumped into the vats and started pounding with our feet. Sometimes we’d be in the same vat. Sometimes we’d be in different vats. Sometimes we’d be dealing with certain color grapes and other times other color grapes. But it was always we just jumped in and did it together.

“Then over time, what happened is it started fermenting and we thought we had a good batch or two. So I got out of the vat. Sean stayed in the vat and I started looking to expand our product line, which became the Ford Ice Center and the All-Star Game and things like that.”

The Ford Ice Center opened in August 2014 as part of an expanded lease agreement struck two years earlier between Metro government and team. Last October, the NHL selected Nashville and Bridgestone Arena to host the 2016 All-Star Game, which will take place Jan. 30-31.

Cogen, therefore, will divide time between the Predators and Rays for the first two months after he steps down so that he can remain Nashville’s point person for the All-Star weekend. His departure from the Predators will be complete as of Feb. 1.

“In my conversations with Tampa and in my conversations with [head of the ownership group] Tom Cigarran here, it was always, ‘… And I really want to fulfill my obligation for the All-Star Game,’” Cogen said. “I’m going to fulfill those obligations and I’m going to dual-task that while going down to the Rays.

“It’s extremely important. Organizationally, we went out and got the All-Star Game for the community. While it’s beneficial to the Preds, clearly our motivation was to do it for the community. I’ve taken point on it because Sean has the day-to-day on the team and the building, as he has for the last year or year and a half.”

Henry’s formal ascension to that role comes a few months early, though.

Cogen said that his current contract called for him to retire on June 30, 2016 and continue as a consultant to Henry, who would become CEO. The schedule changed when Tampa Bay, last in MLB in attendance last season, expressed interest.

“My presumption is there will be very little functional change with Sean,” Cogen said. “He’ll get a great title, I know from experience. And my guess is he’s going to get a raise, which is all good for Sean and very deserved. He is the finest executive I’ve ever worked with in 35 years. I’m pleased for him. I’m proud of him. We’ve become friends.

“I get great satisfaction from what we’ve accomplished here. It’s very gratifying. … I was part of a team that did it. Sean and I have been great partners from day one. We just jumped in with both feet.”

More tidbits from Cogen’s interview with the Post:

On his position with the Rays: “We really haven’t even defined scope and function and title and all of those things. They’re just an organization that is trying to do the right thing, trying to fill the stadium, trying to build a brand. These are some of my expertise and I’m going to go take my skillset down there.

“I’m not going to be the boss. I’m going to support the boss, and I’m going to interact with their leadership team, to take my 30 years of experience and try to apply it there.”

On his role for the next month: “I’m still CEO of this organization until Dec. 1. We’re very fortunate that we have created a corporate environment and supportive and collaborative. … We’re all going to continue to do what we do.”

On preparations for the 2016 NHL All-Star weekend: “I think the All-Star Game is going to be an event that is going to make all stakeholders very proud. Who are those stakeholders? They’re the NHL. They’re our community. I want visitors walking away from here saying, ‘This isn’t small town, low payroll, non-hockey, Southern, non-traditional market’ — all the things people say. I want people to say, ‘This is a great hockey town.’ … I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to put on the best events the NHL has ever seen.”

Oct 29, 2015 10:57 AM

Cogen to leave Predators for front-office position with MLB team

Chief Executive Officer Jeff Cogen will leave the Nashville Predators at the end of next month and will take a position with a Major League Baseball franchise.

He will remain involved with the Predators and the local effort to host the 2016 NHL All-Star Game through Feb. 1, at which time he will transition fully to his new position with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Sean Henry, will be elevated from Chief Operating Officer to CEO on Dec. 1.

The Tennessean first reported the move Thursday morning.

Cogen and Henry were hired together in August 2010 and increased the attendance, revenue and marketing efforts. The Predators sold out 30 of their 41 home games and played to more than 98 percent capacity last season.

The Nashville Post named it’s 2015 Nashville CEO of the Year.

“I have never seen a marketing person who is as thorough and organized and as systematic as Jeff,” lead owner Tom Cigarran told The Tennessean. “That is now part of the DNA of the whole sales team. He can tell you every little thing that we sell, how is it trending. I’ve seen a lot of good marketing people … but I’ve never seen anyone as good as Jeff.”

That being said, he does not see Cogen’s departure as a setback for the team, which currently has the NHL’s second-best record (7-1-1).

“The Predators’ success has not been because of any one person, including Jeff Cogen,” Cigarran said, according to the newspaper. “It’s been because of Jeff, Sean and a team of people who have worked wonders with this franchise, our building.”

Oct 29, 2015 9:30 AM

Ekholm deal enhances continuity of Predators' defense

To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. – Winston Chuchill.

David Poile would respectfully disagree.

The Nashville Predators’ general manager might not have the perfect group of defensemen, but it is hard for him to imagine a better one. Thus, he continues to do what he can to ensure that unit won’t change much, if at all, for the foreseeable future.

Monday, Poile signed Mattias Ekholm to a six-year, $22.5 million contract that begins next season, runs through 2021-22 and further guarantees continuity along the blue line. Four of Nashville’s top six at that position now are under contract for at least another three seasons beyond the current one.

It is no secret that he also wants to get something done with Seth Jones, currently in the last year of his entry-level contract, after this season — if not sooner. So the defense as it is right now is the Nashville defense of the future, unless something unexpected happens that prompts Poile to make a trade.

A look at contract status for each of the current Nashville Predators’ defensemen:

• Shea Weber (14 years, $110 million) – signed through 2025-26
• Mattias Ekholm (6 years, $22.5 million) – signed through 2021-22
• Roman Josi (7 years, $28 million) – signed through 2019-20
• Ryan Ellis (5 years, $12.5 million) – signed through 2018-19
• Barret Jackman (2 years, $4 million) – signed through 2016-17
• Seth Jones (3 years, $9.675 million) – signed through 2015-16
• Victor Bartley (3 years, $2 million) – signed through 2015-16

Weber, Josi, Ekholm, Ellis and Jones all were drafted by Nashville and have not been a part of any other NHL organization. Ekholm is the exception, though, in that he was the only one not selected in the first or second round. Ellis and Jones were first-round choices and Weber and Josi were second-round picks.

Nashville got Ekholm in the fourth round (102nd overall) in 2009. He struggled in his first attempt to play in North America (2011-12) and returned to Sweden for the last half of that season. He spent virtually all of 2012-13 at Milwaukee and has been a full-time NHL player for the last two-plus seasons.

In 152 career NHL games, he has registered 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) and 66 penalty minutes.

Nashville begins a four-game road trip Wednesday at San Jose (9:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)

(Photo: John Russell/Getty Images)

Oct 26, 2015 11:48 AM

Predators get one last look at Arvidsson before sending him to Milwaukee

Viktor Arvidsson’s return to the Nashville Predators was almost as brief as his stint in the AHL.

Friday morning the Predators assigned Arvidsson to the Milwaukee Admirals. Saturday morning, they recalled him for that night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Bridgestone Arena because Calle Jarnkrok was out due to illness. After that game he was sent back to Milwaukee.

Expectations were high for Arvidsson to start the season after he beat out top prospect Kevin Fiala (among others) and made the opening night roster.

He scored the game-winner in the Predators 2-1 season opening victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

The goal was the first of Arvidsson’s career but he has done little since. He was a healthy scratch in four of the first seven games and did not get significant ice time when he played. The 2014 draft pick was always at or near the bottom in minutes played with his season high of 12:42 coming against the Tama Bay Lightning.

In the 2-1 loss to the Penguins, Arvidsson had the fewest shifts of any Predators player (10) and had the second lowest ice time (7:40) behind only Austin Watson (7:13), who missed five minutes in the first period when he was assessed a major penalty for boarding..

Albeit a small sample size, it was no secret Arvidsson was trending down in the Predators lineup. In four games played, Arvidsson has only six shots on goal with a -1 rating.

The move to Milwaukee will allow him to get more ice time, which likely will lead to a longer stay with the Predators the next time he is recalled.

(Photo: John Russell/Getty Images)

Oct 26, 2015 5:15 AM

Short break results in breakout performance for Ellis

After missing Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, undersized Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis came back in a big way.

He had a three-point night (one goal, two assists) to lead the Predators to a 5-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. Those were his first points since he had an assist in the season opener.

“I felt like I got my legs back,” Ellis said. “I got a couple of days of rest and whatever it was it worked. Overall the team played probably our best game of the year and we needed it.”

In the second period Ellis took a Mike Ribeiro pass and buried it on a one timer past Ducks goalie Anton Khudobin to give the Predators a 2-0 lead.

The goal was Ellis’ first of the season and one of only two shots he got through to the net. He had another four tries blocked and another that missed the target, which tied him with Roman Josi for a team-high shot attempts.

“On the power play I got a lot of shot opportunities,” Ellis said. “Guys started shooting the puck, that’s what we have been talking about all year and we got rewarded.

“The first couple of games our team didn’t have a lot of shots. The last couple of games, whether its been on net or just an opportunity, we’ve been kind of having the mentality of putting pucks in the net and it seemed to work for our team.”

Fellow defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who contributed a goal and assist of his own, was glad to see his partner back in action. 

“He is a great player,” Ekholm said. “I’ve been with him for a long time now and when he is on his game like he was tonight he is obviously a very strong defenseman. He makes plays out there and he can shoot the puck. Obviously its great to see him back out there and its nice to have him back.”

With his first goal of the season finally in the books, Ellis is glad it came on a night when the Predators played seemingly their best game of the season.

“We knew they’d be hungry and desperate and we had to have the same mentality and desperation. I think we had it tonight, it was one of our better games and it was good to see.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Oct 23, 2015 10:40 AM

This season, Neal hopes hot streak extends beyond October

James Neal knows how to get going.

The trick now is to find a way to keep it going.

The Nashville Predators right wing scored twice in Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bridgestone Arena, which gave him back-to-back multi-goal games for the first time since November 23 and 25, 2013, when he played for Pittsburgh. He also had two Saturday night at Ottawa.

That surge has made Neal the Predators’ leader in goals with five in the first six games and made him one of seven players tied for second in the NHL, one behind Dallas’ Jamie Benn. It also has carried him to a fast start for the second time in as many seasons since Nashville acquired him in a trade with Pittsburgh.

“I think when you’re in that zone and you’re feeling good you want the puck at all times and you feel like everything’s going to go in when you shoot it,” Neal said. “I don’t know how you can keep that around all year, but I’ll definitely try to.”

He could not do it in 2014-15. Neal scored seven goals in 10 games last October, which turned out to be his best month of the season. He missed 16 games due to injury along the way and never had more than five goals in any month that followed.

In 73 games since he joined the Predators he has scored 28 goals, nearly half of them (12) in October.

A look a James Neal’s goals, month-by-month, during his one-plus seasons with the Nashville Predators:

October – 5 (6 games)

October – 7 (10 games)
November – 2 (13 games)
December – 4 (12 games)
January – 3 (7 games)
February – 5 (15 games)
March – 1 (6 games)
April – 1 (4 games)

The good news for Nashville is that there are four more games before the end of this month, the first of which is Thursday against Anaheim (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena). That means he has the opportunity to equal – or even surpass – what he did last October.

“For me, I want to score. I have to score,” Neal said. “When the opportunities are there you want to bury them and right now I feel like those chances are there. I have to take advantage of that.”

After all, he knows all too well that it won’t necessarily last.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Oct 21, 2015 12:01 AM

Predators fire away, fall for first time this season

The Nashville Predators gave it their best shot Thursday. And pretty much every other kind of shot they could muster.

Their season-opening three-game win streak ended with a 4-3 road loss to the New York Islanders despite the fact that the Predators had a 47-28 edge in shots on goal.

It was the second highest shot total in a road game in franchise history, one shy of the record (48) set Jan. 29, 2010 at Detroit. In their first three games they averaged 23.7 shots on goal and were outshot in all three.

"It was our best game of the year by a mile," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said, according to The Associated Press. "Worst result."

That hefty shot total was not born out of desperation either.

Nashville scored the first two goals, led from 2:14 of the opening period, when Austin Watson scored his first career NHL goal, until the Islanders tied it 2-2 with 8:04 remaining in the second period. The Predators trailed for the first time – for the first time all season, in fact – at 6:42 of the third period, when New York scored its third straight goal.

Yet the Predators outshot the Islanders in every period – 17-7 in the first, 17-13 in the second and 13-8 in the third.

“I thought we were obviously very good in the other games defensively we didn’t give up many goals,” captain Shea Weber said. “But we had more opportunities offensively and couldn’t capitalize, and they did capitalize on their chances when we made mistakes.”

Six different Nashville players had four shots or more on goal while the Islanders’ leader in that regard was defenseman Johnny Boychuk with four.

A look at the Predators’ shots on goal leaders in Thursday’s loss to the New York Islanders:

Craig Smith – 6
James Neal – 5
Calle Jarnkrok – 5 (tied career-high)
Shea Weber – 5
Seth Jones – 4
Ryan Ellis – 4

“It was a lot of shots, but a lot from the outside,” Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss said. “The guys did a good job of clearing the rebounds and keeping it away from the danger zones.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

Oct 16, 2015 5:10 AM