Alex Radulov to the Nashville Predators just got real, yo:
(And really, who doesn't love flying next to someone who looks like someone that should be chasing after Jason Bourne on rooftops in Omsk?)
The talented winger's return to the Predators, after abandoning his contract with the team in 2008 for the KHL, had been confirmed by his agent and the Predators themselves expected him back "in the near future."
Radulov tweeting his picture from an airplane bound for North America … well, outside of playing in a jug band outside of the Grand Ole Opry, you'll not get better confirmation.
Are the Preds now the favorites out West?
Kevin Allen of USA Today asks if Radulov's return makes the Nashville Predators the best team in the Western Conference:
Radulov's arrival, and the re-shuffling of the deck, could mean that struggling Jordin Tootoo will end up as a healthy scratch. Even though Craig Smith is a rookie, the Predators seem to like what he offers.
To struggle with who needs to sit is definitely a good problem for the Predators, who have won only one playoff series in franchise history. Maybe with the frequency that Trotz changes lines or the frequency that teams now pile up injuries, this isn't that important. There is always going to be room to add a player of Radulov's skill level.
His arrival could be viewed as adding a late turbo-boost to a team that was already among the front-runners in the race. Some people might list St. Louis as the favorite, but Nashville is 4-0-1 against the Blues. Some will say the Vancouver Canucks were the favorite, but Nashville is 2-0-1 against them.
Quietly, GM David Poile has built one of the deepest — and deeply anonymous — forward groups in the NHL. Adding Radulov to an offense that ranks ninth in goals-for average (2.77) and first in power play conversion (21.6 percent) could turn a consistently good offensive team into a lethal one.
This assuming, of course, that Radulov is as advertised. He was the best offensive player in the KHL, which is a bit like being the sexiest guy at the "Magic: The Gathering" symposium at Comic-Con. He's played well internationally, however, and has matured both as a scorer and as an individual. He also had eight points in 10 playoff games with the Predators before his departure.
Are the Predators the best team in the West with Radulov?
Due respect to the St. Louis Blues, but you could have argued they were without him …