A t 38 years old, defenseman Hal Gill is the elder statesman of the Nashville Predators’ locker room. He’s been around the block a time or two, playing in nearly 1,100 games and hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head in 2009 as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
On the other hand, he’s also been on a few teams that failed to make the playoffs, including a Boston team in 2000 that finished with just 73 points.
He’s been at the top and he’s been at the bottom.
Right now, he’s with a team that’s out of the playoffs and they are reeling.
With a 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars at Bridgestone Arena on Friday night, the Predators find themselves mired in a 5 game losing streak. The team has won just 2 games in their last 10 outings.
Nashville only has 6 games on the calendar and – while not mathematically out of the race – they sit closer to last place in the league than they do to the final playoff spot.
“It’s a tough situation to come in and it’s hard to play when the wins don’t mean anything, but you go out there and have pride,” Gill said. “Once you get into the game, you give everything that you’ve got and you want better than that.”
Gill stressed the need for the team to play with pride despite the fact that the outcomes of the games do not matter. It was a sentiment matched by Predators captain Shea Weber.
“Guys need to have pride in this room,” Weber said. “We need to play hard and it is not over for us either. The season is still going. We have to play desperate. Obviously they are fighting for the playoffs, but guys are fighting for sports in here for next year, for contracts, for whatever it may be. Like I said, the biggest thing is pride and not to quit and especially not quit on each other.”
After Friday’s loss, SportsClubStats.com gives Nashville a 0.009% chance of making the playoffs. If they somehow manage to win their last 6 games, they will still only have a 1.7% chance of making it. The team has resigned to the fact that they will not make it.
“It’s tough,” Gill said. “It is about pride and there are a lot of guys fighting for spots. You want to win that game; you want to get that next goal; you want to do something good. You want to feel good as a team and it is tough when you go out like that and not get the job done.”
As Weber and Gill both emphasize, there are several players who are utilizing the last few games as an audition of sorts. With Gabriel Bourque, Mike Fisher, Paul Gaustad, Colin Wilson and Brandon Yip out with injuries, there is now room on the roster for players like Daniel Bang, Taylor Beck and Austin Watson to showcase their abilities in the NHL. In addition, players like Bobby Butler and Matt Halischuk now have more chances to play without being healthy scratches.
In all, 10 skaters who played on Friday night for the Predators had appeared in the AHL at some point during the 2012-13 season. The games may not mean anything on paper, but for many of those players, their performance could be the difference between riding the bus and taking charter flights.
“Whether it means something or not, you still want to win,” Gill said. “There’s a lot of guys fighting for jobs, fighting for spots and showing what they can do. It’s a tough situation, but like I said, there’s a lot of pride. We want better than that.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua