CENTER OF ATTENTION
Arnott Acquisition Evidence of Predators’ Cup Commitment
By Darren Lowry

The Nashville Predators have been paying their dues and biding their time, absorbing several lackluster seasons in order to build a team good enough to make the NHL Playoffs.

All that work has paid off the last two seasons, as Nashville broke through to qualify for post-season play, only to get bounced in the first round.

Still, that accomplishment vaulted Nashville past respectability into serious contenders, and put the spotlight on the Little Team That Could from the Music City.

But now, the Predators want even more. They want to advance beyond the first round. And the second. And the third.

They want a Stanley Cup.

Enter Jason Arnott.

The former Edmonton, New Jersey and Dallas centerman, for his part, kept his eye on Nashville during his last few years with the Stars, and liked what he saw.

“Nashville’s been an underrated team for a few years, and just from playing against them, I know they’re a tough team to play against,” Arnott said.

When Nashville general manager David Poile found out that his club was atop Arnott’s list of potential teams in the off-season, it didn’t take long for the Predators to snap him up.

That move helped make life for head coach Barry Trotz a bit easier.

“He gives us that big presence that we didn’t have,” Trotz said. “He’s a leader; he’s an offensive threat. He’s got great sense. He’s going to be a big part of our hockey team.”

Emphasis on big.

The 6-4, 220-pound Arnott, of course, knows how important his role on the team is, both on and off the ice.

“They needed a little size, and the team’s brought that in a little bit this year,” Arnott said. “It’s up to us to put it together now.”

Along with Josef Vasicek, who the Predators brought in from Carolina, Nashville is much less likely to be pushed around by bigger teams, like they were by San Jose in last year’s playoffs.

Of course, the players were excited to hear of Arnott’s addition as well.

“It was just as exciting when we got Paul Kariya the year before,” forward Scott Hartnell said. “We didn’t think that Nashville would spend that kind of big money, but they pulled him in. It gives everyone a boost of energy, like ‘Jeez, we’re pretty serious about winning.’ ”

Arnott’s also being counted on to add leadership, and to help certain players along the way, such as David Legwand. As a former first-round draft pick (7th overall by the Oilers in 1989), Arnott remembers going through the pressure of the expectations that come with a high draft choice.

 “It’s tough when expectations are set upon you and you’re so young,” Arnott said. “The expectations are there, and he puts it on himself. And I’ve been through it and come out of it, and it takes a lot.”

Perhaps Arnott’s influence is already paying off. In Nashville’s wild 8-6 season-opening loss to Chicago, Legwand netted two goals, including one that tied the game at 3.

Despite the inauspicious start to the season, the Predators expect to be contending for the Stanley Cup come springtime.

“We’re definitely not going to be the saviors of the team,” Arnott said, referring to himself and Vasicek. “We come in to definitely help as much as possible, but it’s gonna take 20 guys in here to win.”

Two Southern teams in a row have captured the Cup. With the addition of Jason Arnott, the Nashville Predators are doing their best to add their names to the list.






 
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