Sorry I couldn't get to this sooner, life is busy in bear circles these days. The hardest part about reviewing what happened this season, primarily in the playoffs, is where to start with all of it. Assessing blame seems like as good a place to start as any, to which I would break it down to 60% Poile, 30% Trotz and 10% the teams leadership group. One word that would best describe all of them is this: arrogance. If one didn't know any better, you would think this group had previous Cup wins on it's resume. In reality, since their inception into the league, they have only the Blue Jackets as company for being the only two Western conference teams to not reach a conference final during that time span. They've also never won a division title. Seems like more humility is needed.
I give Poile the largest share of the blame for primarily two reasons. Number one is his repeated failure to bring in a legitimate scoring threat over the course of the past few seasons, an issue that led to numerous requests by his players to do so, including as we now know Weber's request to bring Radulov back (which I'll get to in a minute). The failure to do so will likely lead to both Suter and Weber taking off via free agency when all is said and done, not to mention playoff failures as well. When you add up all the draft picks/prospects, etc. that Poile gave up to acquire 3 average players like Gill, AK46 and Gaustad, you have to wonder why these assets weren't used instead on one truly solid forward who had a contract past this season? While one could make a decent argument for all those trades, the fact remains that what we needed was one true top 6 forward, not a bunch of band-aid fixes.
Some continue to say that Poile's acquisitions should be proof to Suter and Weber that this organization is serious about being a perrenial contender, but consider this analogy: you've worked for a company that annually leaves you shorthanded in staff to get the projects done that they want completed, so you finally give hints that you're looking at other opportunities. Getting wind of this, they go out and hire some temps to help you out on the next project. Would this keep you from leaving the company? I think you get the drift here.
This of course leads to the Radulov situation. While I fully expected it not to work out, I never thought it would implode in the manner that it did. There's no doubt that, when motivated, Rads can bring that offensive element to the team that it lacks. But what he also brings is a playing style totally at odds with the coach he's playing for and an "it's all about me" mindset that clashes with this organizations philosophy (I'll deal with "Preds hockey" later on). But maybe the most laughable aspect to this is Poile saying that he never puts a player ahead of the team. So that's why Poile waived all the rules (playing at least 10 games to fulfill a contract year among them) to get Rads back over here? Fact is, Poile did put one player ahead of the team, and did so because both he and his team knew they needed additional scoring if they were going to get anywhere in the playoffs. It should never have come to that. (As an aside, AK46 is probably hanging out with his brother instead of staying out late with Rads had we not brought back Rads to the team. Just saying).
As far as how the Rads/AK46 affair was handled, I think sitting them out for a game was the right thing to do. Either way, the series was lost at that point. You can't have a distraction like that and expect to beat a determined and focused team like the Coyotes were.
Where I blame Trotz, and oddly enough give Poile credit, is that Trotz finally had the talent to put out 3 scoring lines but instead sat players like Wilson and Smith in order to have 2 checking lines instead. This is Trotz' idea of "Predators hockey", which translates to looking good in defeat. It may get you into the playoffs, but that's as far as it goes. If Trotz is to continue as coach, his GM needs to make his player decisions easier for him. No more filling up the roster with 6 or 7 4th line types, make Trotz play the kids you've drafted. That's why they were drafted afterall!
While it's hard to argue with dispatching the Red Wings in 5 games, I think Trotz had the team play far more defensively than was needed in that series. The Wings are very weak in their defensive end and struggled when we did apply a heavy forecheck on them. That's the way Trotz has to get his team to play in the future, not depend on Rinne stopping 40 shots on far to many nights. The Coyotes didn't allow us to play a rope-a-dope kind of game and we were unable to adjust to that.
Where I blame the leadership group is in not keeping tabs on their two late night owl teammates and in having to cocky an attitude as to how good the team was (or they thought was). Unfortunately, this most recent playoff failure doesn't seemed to have changed much in that regard. Truth is, this is a better than average team that all to often relies on their goalie to win games for them. Far from being a serious Cup contender.
As to what to do this off-season to try and avoid losing Suter and right behind him Weber? At this point, throwing out a Hail Mary contract at Parise is about the only way I could see Suter sticking around. Maybe making a trade at the draft for a bonafide scorer might work (a deal that should be made regardless), but it's about a 10% chance of keeping Suter at this point. Bottomline is, we need a proven scorer up front to augment the lineup we do have.
As to who to keep and who to let go? Radulov should be traded for the best deal we can get for him. Sadly, AK46 will probably not be brought back, which is a shame because I think he played well for us. Had not Rads been around, he likely doesn't get into the trouble he did. As for SK74, Gill, Tootoo, Bouillion and Gaustad, you can bring them back as long as you're not overpaying them what they're worth. In fact, with Suter likely leaving, I fully expect Poile to overpay to keep guys like Gill and Cube. It's what he often does.
So while this summer looks to be even worse than the way last summer was (who could have imagined that!), I'll dream of a lineup with Parise leading the charge from up front while the newly resigned Suter and Weber play more often at the other teams blueline instead of back in their own Dzone.......with Rinne only needing to stop 25 shots a night (and Wilson being allowed to be the offensive player that he should be allowed to be!) That dream is preferable to the likely reality of this off-season, but a bear can dream, can't he? :)