22 Nashville Predators A country-lovin' defenseman will feel at home, but there'll still be heartaches by the number

October 12, 2003

It's hard to imagine a better fit between a player and a team
than defenseman Jamie Allison and the Predators. Allison, the
former Blue Jacket who signed with Nashville as a free agent last
month, is an aspiring country singer who once considered quitting
hockey for honky-tonk. Now Allison can spend a lot more time at
Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, a legendary country-and-western bar
across the street from the Gaylord Entertainment Center. More
significant, the Predators' crying need for blueliners is worthy
of a country ballad: In the off-season they traded two defensemen
and let two more leave as free agents. "Whether we'll be better
or worse on defense can be argued," says G.M. David Poile, "but
it is time to move forward."

The signing of the 28-year-old Allison is symbolic of that new
beginning. Last season owner Craig Leipold promised 8,000
season-ticket holders a rebate of the 2002-03 ticket-price
increase if the team didn't make its first playoff appearance in
the franchise's five-year history. After a horrible start
(2-10-4-4) and a worse finish (0-10-3-2), Leipold had to dig into
his wallet. Now Poile is more committed than ever to youth with
only five Predators left who are older than 30. In addition to
Allison, Nashville is looking for help from the two defensemen
acquired from the Rangers last season for goalie Mike Dunham:
Tomas Kloucek, 23, a 6'3" 225-pounder with a mean streak, and
Marek Zidlicky, a skilled 26-year-old who will be making his NHL
debut after a successful career in Finland.

The good news last season was the emergence of 27-year-old Tomas
Vokoun in net; playing 57 of the last 58 games, he had a 2.20
goals-against average. Vokoun will have to stay sharp because the
Predators again look to be punchless on offense.

Coach Barry Trotz always gets Nashville to play hard, but if
better results don't come soon, he might be the one spending time
at Tootsie's, singing sad songs. --Pete McEntegart

COLOR PHOTO COLOR PHOTO: JOHN RUSSELL TOMAS VOKOUN

SI RANKING
( 1 Best - 30 Worst )

OFFENSE 24
DEFENSE 24
GOALTENDING 18
POWER PLAY 24
PENALTY KILLING 21
G.M. AND COACH 14

INSIDER

The Predators need superskilled and speedy fourth-year F David
Legwand to fight through traffic and play tougher on a
game-to-game basis.... If D Kimmo Timonen played for a
high-profile team, he would be touted as one of the better
blueliners in the NHL. He does everything well.... Irritating
rookie F Jordin Tootoo may be the most hated player in the league
by Christmas. He punishes the opposition with big-time hits....
Underrated G Tomas Vokoun keeps the team in many games.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)