(photo by Nick Wass)
A crazy thing happened this week, when it was announced that the Washington Capitals had made a last-minute trade with the Nashville Predators — Caps fans, almost universally, were irate.
Once the news broke that Capitals general manager George McPhee had traded away top-prospect Filip Forsberg for veteran forward Martin Erat and minor leaguer Michael Latta, the majority of D.C.’s hockey-loving fanbase seemed completely distraught over the move.
But why was everyone in town so cranky about the move? After all, Erat has been one of Nashville’s most consistent and productive players for more than a decade. By all accounts he’s a hard working, blue collar kind of player who can help a team in myriad ways.
As a quick refresher, Erat was tied for first in points (21) and led the Predators in assists (17) at the time of the trade. More importantly though, the 11-year pro ranks second in Nashville franchise history in career points (481), goals (163), assists (318), games played (723), game-winning goals (26) and third in powerplay goals (42).
It’s also worth noting he recorded a career-high 58 points (19 goals, 39 assists) last season for Nashville and has eclipsed the 50-point plateau in five of the last six seasons. The three-time 20-goal scorer has represented the Czech Republic in the World Championships (three times), World Junior Championships (twice) and the Winter Olympic Games in 2006 and 2010.
Erat is a top six forward who logs heavy minutes in all three phases of the game (powerplay, penalty kill and even strength). He was well respected by management, his fellow players and Predator fans in Nashville (he was made an assistant captain this season). And let’s not forget, the 31-year-old was a seventh-round draft pick who put in the blood, sweat and tears to establish himself as one of the best players to ever for the Preds.
On paper, this guy plays hockey the right way and does everything that’s ever asked of him without issue.
It’s not a stretch to say Erat would be a much bigger deal if he played in a larger market or had a more recognizable last name, so maybe that’s one of the primary reasons for the negative reaction — Caps fans just don’t see much of Nashville, so Erat is a bit of an unknown even though he’s been in the NHL since 1999.
While that may play a part in the backlash though, there’s more to this story. For my money, the public outrage has much more to do with who is leaving the organization as opposed to the new guy in town.