Maybe it is Nashville or Bust.
The ongoing search for a Minnesota Wild rivalry that isn't "let's post about rivalries" seems to have hit a new snag Wednesday when Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz essentially called his former owner a carpetbagger. He definitely wants to kick Minnesota's butts.
Trotz, who has been the only bench boss in Predators franchise history, went on Nashville sports station 102.5 The Game this morning. While discussing prospects, Trotz also brought up a potential new Central Division rival.
"We've got to start new rivalries, like us and Minnesota. They stole Ryan Suter, so I want to kick their butt, plain and simple."
(The full interview is included in the On The Forecheck link if you want to check it out in its entirety.)
The two teams do share common traits. There were some great games between the Wild and Predators 5-6 years ago. Both have seen success since coming into the league together as part of the late 90's expansion. Nashville has gone to the playoffs in six of the last eight seasons. Minnesota, meanwhile, won a Northwest Division title and is coming off its first playoff appearance since 2008.
It's much better than expansion cousin Columbus still looking to win a playoff game and the Atlanta Thrashers going down in flames faster than anything Sherman did.
Of course, Minnesota owner Craig Leipold also previously was in charge of Nashville so there's that. More importantly than any tangential hatred is the fact that Leipold signed former Predators defenseman Ryan Suter last summer in free agency.
That still seems to be a major point of contention in the Music City. Maybe Suter signing in 2012 is a scapegoat* for a team that finished with the fourth-worst record in the NHL last season. Maybe Trotz believes Leipold twisted his mustache like a 19th Century railroad tycoon while holding a gun at Suter and forcing him to sign a 13 year contract against his will. Maybe the Predators stand for good and justice and by signing (not stealing) Moorhead native Matt Cullen in free agency away from the Wild that bit of justice shines through.
Either way Suter's exit continues to regularly come up.
Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that Barry Trotz didn't toe the line because it makes for an interesting discussion. That doesn't always happen when NHL coaches sit down for an interview although part of me wishes he went into more detail about what constitutes stealing and butt kicking. Where does Philadelphia signing Shea Weber to an offer sheet that was matched sit? Is trading Martin Erat for Philip Forsberg not stealing when Nashville does it?
Why can't Ryan Suter make his own choices and option to use free agency after the end of a contract he signed? Last I checked the reserve clause is a thing of the past.
Is anyone in the "State of Hockey" mad at Matt Cullen for leaving for Nashville? How about Erik Nystrom? This is a one-way anger train.
Trotz knew what he was doing when he said what he did. It's an easy mark to rally Predators fans around. Best of all it works. Rather than bemoan losing a star defenseman via free agency to a team that now plays in the same division, the allegiance to Nashville over its players becomes stronger. Ryan Suter is now the enemy. So is Minnesota.
Photo Credit: Tommy M. (@llamapalooza)
Follow First Round Bust on Twitter @FRBHockey. You can also follow Nate for Minnesota hockey updates and snark @gopherstate.
*On a different note, this story overshadows an actual financial penalty off the ice. Minnesota Wild minority owner Philip Falcone was fined $18 million by the SEC. In the grand scheme of things this is much more important than a radio station interview.