The Three B’s: Butler, Boychuk & Bartley

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Bartley, Boychuk, and Butler

It’s no secret the Predators have dug themselves into a deep rut, so it comes as no surprise that Nashville would make some changes on the roster front to freshen and revitalize the fast approaching finish line to the playoffs.

With Brian McGrattan back with the Calgary Flames and Hal Gill and Brandon Yip recuperating on the IR, the Predators found themselves in a position to give life to a lifeless group of guys.

Insert Bobby Butler, Zach Boychuk and Victor Bartley: Nashville’s new Three B’s.

Okay yay! The Predators actually took the initiative to make a change up this lackluster bunch, but what do these three guys have to offer that may bring the momentum back to the Predators? It’s already looking like these three will be in the lineup this weekend, with Bartley possibly making his NHL debut, so let’s take a look a these three newcomers:

Victor Bartley… along with the local news channel crew…

Let’s start with Victor Bartley, who is no stranger to the Nashville Predators organization. How so? He currently is a free agent on Nashville’s farm team, the Milwaukee Admirals. It’s no surprise that Nashville would finally call one of the hopefuls up, and, between he and Taylor Beck, Bartley was a no-brainer. Victor is currently in the Top 20 of AHL defensemen, with twenty-six points (7 goals, 19 assists) in 54 games. Sounds fantastic to any Predators fan, but though the game is relatively the same, the NHL is a whole new territory; similar to how significantly different the NHL and KHL are. A kid can be hot and at the top of his game in the minor league then get called up and just can’t quite get the hang of the NHL scene.

But hey, let’s not be Debby Downers, shall we? Bartley is good – he has proven that already. He’s paid his dues in Milwaukee and will not disappoint to only be sent back down. These kids know the opportunity doesn’t rear its head often and snuggling into a roster spot is a no-holds-bar kind of situation.

Oh, and did we mention he likes to dance to Gangnam Style?

Zach Boychuk

Our next B is Zach Boychuk, who Nashville picked up off of waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. Boychuk was a standout in the 2008 NHL Draft, being picked up by the Carolina Hurricanes 14th overall in the first round. Boychuk is now the third Top 20 first round pick of the 2008 Draft to join the Nashville Predators, along with Colin Wilson (7th overall) and Chet Pickard (18th overall). Boychuk hasn’t had too bad of a season, holding onto 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in just 37 games while he was with the Hurricane’s farm team, the Charlotte Checkers.

Here’s a video of him with a camera on his head:

 

Bobby Butler

Our final B is Mr. Bobby Butler, who Nashville claimed off of waivers from the New Jersey Devils late Monday morning. Nashville’s first waiver claim of the week had a few people scratching their heads, as Butler hasn’t made much of an impact to brag about. He does, however, possess the ability to hang onto the puck – nice puck-handling skills – which, if could not benefit Nashville in the long run, will help the Admirals greatly. In all honesty, Butler was more of a farm team trade to begin with, but his presence could rattle a few veteran feathers into remembering they are disposable, too.

Here’s a video of a nice goal while he was with the Senators. Oh hey! He knows Gill!

 

What the Predators gain with these new faces? None of them have made a huge impact on the game – if they had, would they have been on waivers? – but they are a threat to the veteran members on the team; especially Bartley. Perhaps the Predators are giving the rest of the team a gentle wake up call that, despite nestling comfortable into a cushy roster spot, there are plenty of younger, more eager talent chopping at the bit to nab that roster spot.

Perhaps the veterans have nestled too comfortably into their roster positions. This, my friends, is what we call a rude awakening. The Nashville Predators are about to get one before the ship to the playoffs leaves them standing on the end-of-the-season shoreline.

 

 

From AHL to College Teams; Where to Find Hockey during Lockout

From the Knoxville Ice Bears to the Mississippi RiverKings, there is hockey if you know where to find it.

Welp, Day 1 of the NHL Lockout is coming to a close and, as you might have expected, the NHL and the NHLPA are nowhere near coming to an agreement. Fans across North America are teary-eyed and sort of lost, not exactly knowing what to do without a hockey season to look forward to. Where as prominent hockey communities like New York and all of Canada have other outlets to cling to other than the NHL, those of us in non-traditional markets are left twiddling our thumbs, wishing on stars every night for the big wigs to come to an agreement… or are we?

Many would believe the South is a non-traditional hockey market and, in all fairness, it truly is. Baseball and college football rule this area, with hockey clinging like icicles in certain parts of the region. With Atlanta losing yet another NHL expansion team to Canada, it’s hard to believe hockey could survive somewhere like Georgia, Alabama, or even Mississippi, yet it thrives if you know just where to look.

For those who believe the South cannot withhold and establish a thriving hockey franchise, I give you the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL).

Yes, the South has its own professional league.

If you’re a devoted hockey follower, you have probably heard of the SPHL, but for all the newcomers that have never dealt with a NHL Lockout before, there is still hockey to be found! Teams in the SPHL include:

The Huntsville Havoc – Huntsville, Alabama
The Knoxville Ice Bears – Knoxville, Tennessee
The Augusta RiverHawks – Augusta, Georgia
The Columbus Cottonmouths – Columbus, Georgia
The Mississippi RiverKings – Southaven, Mississippi (Memphis)
The Fayetteville FireAntz – Fayetteville, North Carolina
The Mississippi Surge – Biloxi, Mississippi
The Louisiana Ice Gators – LaFayette, LA
The Pensacola Ice Flyers – Pensacola, Florida

Although there have been many franchises that have folded over the years, from the teams listed, hockey has managed to thrive in the South, even before the Nashville Predators arrived in the Music City. For Predators fans, the Knoxville Ice Bears, the Mississippi RiverKings, and the Huntsville Havoc would be the nearest teams to visit, with the Havoc being the closest (2 hours). Although it isn’t exactly the boys we are used to cheering for, you could end up finding your own Pekka Rinne or Shea Weber in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Let’s also not forget our college teams also have a love for hockey. Wether it’s an actual team or just a club, you’d be surprised who has a hockey setup on campus. Here’s a list of a few colleges with hockey outlets:

Vanderbilt Commodores – Nashville, TN
The Tennessee Ice VOLS – Knoxville, TN
The Ole Miss Ice Rebels – Oxford, MS
Georgia Tech – Atlanta, GA
–  Memphis Tigers Hockey – Memphis, TN
The Alabama Frozen Tide – Tuscaloosa, AL
Florida Gators Hockey – Gainesville, FL
The UGA Ice Dogs – Athens, GA

Who knew the SEC was prominent in sports other than football, baseball, and basketball? Now, that’s just a handful of colleges with hockey clubs and/or teams; we can’t list them all. Your best bet to see if your college (or one near by) has a hockey club or team is to check out your college’s website.

If the SPHL and the college teams just don’t do it for you, there are always the AHL and ECHL teams across the country, all affiliates with the NHL teams. As you know, the Milwaukee Admirals are the farm team to the Predators, but Wisconsin’s a good distance away from Nashville, Tennessee. The closest AHL team to Music City would be the Charlotte Checkers out of Charlotte, North Carolina. If you have a soft side for the Carolina Hurricanes, this would be the AHL team for you. For all of the AHL teams across the country and their NHL affiliates, just visit the AHL site here.

As for ECHL, the closest to the Nashville area are the Greenville Road Warriors of Greenville, South Carolina and the Gwinnett Gladiators of Duluth, Georgia. The Road Warriors are the ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and the Gladiators are the Phoenix Coyotes affiliate.

As you can tell, there’s still hockey to be found, even if the NHL and NHLPA can’t come to a logical agreement. And, may we add, the hockey to be found is not limited to this list alone. So plan a day trip, road trip, or whatever to support these minor league and college teams. Heck, even if the NHL Lockout comes to an end, it’s still a great idea to support these smaller, lesser known teams. Truthfully, they are the teams that keep hockey alive in the South.

What hockey team will you be supporting during the lockout?