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Unpacking The U2 Debacle: ‘This Is About The Predators And Their Fans’

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Photo of Luke Evangelista, left, by John Russell/Nashville Predators

When Nashville Predators head coach Andrew Brunette told reporters his players were more focused on vacation than winning games following the team’s embarrassing 9-2 loss to the Dallas Stars last Thursday at Bridgestone Arena, it sparked many debates about what he actually meant.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman cleared things up on his “32 Thoughts” podcast on Monday morning when he detailed the situation after speaking with Predators general manager Barry Trotz.

“The players had asked for permission to fly to Vegas after (the St. Louis Blues) game on Saturday and go see U2 at The Sphere,” Friedman said. “…They paid for the staff to go and it was going to be a big event, and after that 9-2 loss, the Predators canceled it. … It was a big, big deal internally.

“Barry Trotz, when I spoke to him, he was careful to say, ‘We don’t have bad culture.’ He said, ‘Our standards had slipped below expectations.’ And he says when you have young players, especially, you have to send them a message that you can’t be rewarded if your standards and your preparation slips below your principles. And he said to me, ‘Particularly at home.’ This is not about the Predators and their players, this is about the Predators and their fans. …The Predators are going through a rebuild or a retool or whatever it is, and you’re asking your fans to buy into that. You’re asking your fans to believe in what you’re trying to build.

“…What Barry Trotz is telling the fans, and not only his players is, ‘We will not tolerate those efforts in front of our fans paying their money to see us play.’ …What Trotz is really going is sending a message to the fan base that ‘If you buy a ticket to our game, we’re going to demand the best out of our players.’”

Nashville’s 15 home losses is tied with the Buffalo Sabres and Montreal Canadiens for the second-most in the NHL, behind only the Anaheim Ducks (18). It also ties last season for the most home losses (though that was through all 82 games) since they went 19-17-5 during the 2013-14 season.

The Predators haven’t had more regular-season home losses than wins since the 2000-01 season, their third year in the NHL.

The practice the day after the loss to the Stars at Centennial Sportsplex was one of the Predators’ more physical and grueling of the season — an apparent punishment for the performance they put forth nearly 16 hours earlier.

Brunette stated after Thursday’s loss that the team’s issues could only be addressed so many times, and he hinted Friday afternoon that until they finally fix those underlying issues, practices like that day’s would be the norm.

The Predators seemingly responded to Brunette’s challenge the following day with a 5-2 win over the Blues in St. Louis. It was just the second time since the New Year (18 games) that they’d scored more than four goals in a game.

While Trotz’s message was presumably heard loud and clear, fans will have to wait until the Predators host the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 27 to judge for themselves.

Follow Michael Gallagher on X/Twitter @MGsports_

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