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Paul Nicholson
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Monday, September 08, 2008

Preds May Need To Tank

I looks like everyone else is chiming in with what they think the Predators should do with the open roster spots, so i figured it was time for me to cast my vote.

The discussions center around whether the Preds should sign a big name free-agent (Sundin), mid-level veteran talent (Parrish), or just go with the prospects we have in our system (Hornqvist, Jones, etc).

Moy vote: I think the Preds should go with the young talent. Don't spend a dime more than you have to on the roster this year. Invest the money in the marketing, hype these youngsters and most importantly, pick a personality on a long contract to build the fans around (Dumont, Weber, or Erat seem logical).

Some are saying the team can't afford to take a year off - that from the financial and fan-base building point of view we can't afford to go a year without making the playoffs and being competitive. But i think history proves that wrong. The Preds best attended season was 2001, when the team was well below .500, and wouldn't see the playoffs for years to come. Likewise the Blackhawks and Capitals have proved that a well marketed, unbalanced team with just a few talented players can draw crowds and attention, win or lose.

As much as i am a Preds fan and want few things more than seeing Lord Stanley's cup hoisted at the Sommet Center, the one thing i might want more is the promise the the team will be here for my kids to enjoy in 10-15-20 years. What do we need to ensure that? A profitable team and butts in the seats.

News flash: Crowds don't follow wins. They follow stars, excitement, and only then, yes...playoffs and championships. Over and over again teams in the NBA and NHL have proved that stars and hype fill arenas and sell TV ads. Period. If those stars make it to the playoffs, so much the better.

So i think the Preds options are one of two things*: Either do another roster purge and sign Mats Sundin or trade for Evgeni Malkin, or stay low with the roster we have and do the best we can to hype the young talent - and don't worry about our record. Win where we can, but by the half-way point if we aren't in the playoff hunt - tank. Go for the draft spots and go for broke next year.

Balanced, above average players great for fantasy rosters and winning hockey games, but they don't sell tickets. We need hype, we need tickets, and we need them this year and next.

*Obviously i don't think the Preds are going to go with either of these routes exactly, and I'm not sure if i was Davids Freeman & Poile that i would have the guts to actually do either option - but if i was a high-priced consultant brought in to give my completly uneducated opinion, this is what i'd say.

Update-
To put this more clearly (thank you JC for helping me get to this point of clarity in my argument):
For this team right now, $1mil spent in advertising gets them a decent bump in attendance. $1mil spent on the salary gets them...? At best another point or two in the standings? This team isn't going to be significantly better and their playoff chances will not improve that much with ANY player they could sign (even with $10mil a year for Sundin). So don't bother. The team as it is right now will be competative and entertaining enough.

Take a "building year" on the ice to develop young talent that has been stuck in Milwalkee and Europe for too long, while pumping big dollars into marketing. Then next year, with your nice, shiny high draft pick thanks to a bad record, you'll have a marketable star (who cares if they are really game-changing, Stamkos is selling tickets in Tampa Bay and he's yet to step on the ice for them) at rookie-discount pricing who you can hype the snot out of.

The Preds have had teams in the past that were successful on the ice but didn't have any mega-stars that were well marketed. They went strong into the playoffs, then fizzled - and never drew huge crowds until the very end of the season and playoffs, which is something Nashville has always done. What they need is someone that a marketing effort can use to get people into the seats while football season is in full swing. Invest in marketing and hope for a great draft pick.

Oh - and i don't care if he's horrible - get Blake Geoffrion playing at the NHL level as soon as possible. Local boy makes good is a great story for the news.

6 comments:

jc said...

wow, really Paul?

those are both terrible ideas. I dont think the players payroll is tied to marketing in any way, perhaps I am wrong but that just seems out of whack.

You think the no namers that the Preds have now are going to put butts in seats? I dont care how much marketing you do, if you dont have a name people recognize (besides loyal Preds fans) you arent going to get butts in seats that werent already going.

You need a name, someone to hype, not young prospects. They havent done anything to hype, and the talent you have currently, sorry but they arent really hype worthy, outside of Nasvhille.

You want to sell tixs? Put a team on the ice that has a chance to win every nite, offer up ticket specials, and advertise advertise advertise.

I had a partial season ticket package last year, I went to the rally, I bought additional tickets outside of my package last year. I wont be buying any tickets except the 2 Sharks games this year. I even plan on travelling to St. Louis & Columbus to see Sharks games.

I am a hockey fan and a Sharks fan, in no particular order. But I wont be going to Preds games to watch hockey, just my team.

this guys $.02

The Forechecker said...

I see your point, Paul, but first, even if they go with Hornqvist and Jones this won't be a basement-dwelling team by any stretch, I think they'll probably be about the same as last season; not a Cup contender, but more of a playoff lingerer.

As to the question of which makes a better draw, I'll have to dig around for some evidence to be sure, but I believe it comes down conclusively towards a winning team over flashy stars. The exception might be for the truly great generational players like Yzerman, Lemieux, Gretzky, etc., but there's no surefire route to finding those guys.

All told, I still go back to wishing the Preds had gotten better present-day value for trading Marek Zidlicky, perhaps packaging him with a high draft pick and a good prospect for a top-notch forward like Olli Jokinen, Marion Gaborik, or someone of that level.

Paul Nicholson said...

I think the recent history of Chicago and Washington would be good examples of star-driven mediocrity drawing crowds in the NHL. LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Carmello Anthony, and Vince Carter are all examples in the NBA.

You can't have an absolute bottom dweller, but the team doesn't really have to be "good". Just in that range at or below where the Preds have been the last few years.

I don't think that i'd really want it to happen, but when you look at the history, it kinda makes you wonder if we'd have been better off tanking last year rather than barely making the playoffs. If we'd been a seller (saving money) at the trade deadline and gotten a big draft pick of our own...etc.

Just throwin' ideas out there.

My real thesis that i do believe is that right now $1mil with this team is better spent in marketing than in player salary. Or better put: $5mil would bring more butts-in-seats if it was spent on a slam-bang marketing campaign than $5mil of salary (which still probably wouldn't put this team into the second round).

jc said...

sorry, I still disagree.

1M spent on marketing a team that doesnt have any "real" talent to market, in my opinion, isnt going to net you a good ROI.

& the "tank & get a 1st round draft pick" is nice a few years from now. That draft pick isnt going to play anytime soon.

And your comment about decent teams, making the playoffs, and not drawing a crowd? Come on man you know they havent even done a piss pour job of marketing this team. If they actually did some decent marketing and made it seem fun to the not so avid hockey fan, you would put "butt in seats"

& you just contradicted yourself here:

"What they need is someone that a marketing effort can use to get people into the seats while football season is in full swing."

that is my point, you need some players that can be marketed.

Paul Nicholson said...

I agree that the ultimate goal would be someone that could be marketed - but the best hope for this franchise to get that type of person is by drafting them with a top-3 pick. Towes and Kane in Chicago and Stamkos in Tampa are the prime recent examples. Who knows if they'll turn into long-term successes on the ice, but they are players you can build marketing around.

As you say - right now we don't have anyone worth marketing and we aren't going to be able to afford one on the open market anytime soon. So my suggestion is rather than get more middling talent on the roster, use that money to start marketing the team effectively, let the team do what it will on the ice this year, and hope for a high draft pick next year. Of course this plan would have been best done last year when we could have had a shot at Stamkos, but it still may apply.

Or they could add one magic missing piece, get great chemistry, stay healthy for once and go deep into the playoffs and this all doesn't apply.

It's all speculation and tea leaves.

Matt Evans said...

I'm confused jc.

First you said:
"1M spent on marketing a team that doesnt have any "real" talent to market, in my opinion, isnt going to net you a good ROI."

And then:
"If they actually did some decent marketing and made it seem fun to the not so avid hockey fan, you would put "butt in seats""

soooo...which is it?