On the ice, the Predators are a patient team. Barry Trotz's system relies on opponents to make mistakes, frustrate themselves on botched zone-entries, and turn the puck over. Nashville waits for a false move and strikes on the counter-attack.
As free agency opened, General Manger mimicked team. David Poile waited, while other teams gave out contracts.
My biggest criticism of Barry Trotz has always been that his coaching style is conservative to the point of putting impossible pressure on his players not to screw up. Down the stretch last season, Trotz banished offensively talented, but not exactly tight-checking players Colin Wilson and J.P. Dumont to the doghouse, giving more playing time to grinders like Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk.
While Trotz's criticisms of Dumont and Wilson may have been valid, whatever they lacked defensively, their replacements lacked equally in offense. And given the choice between two one-way players, one in either direction, I'll always go offense. The penalty for missing a shot or deke is not scoring. The penalty for a defensive screw up is letting in a goal. Trotz was trying to win 1-0 last year. And that kind of game is just one moment of bad luck from being tied.
I feel like David Poile is trying to win this offseason 1-0.
Yes, many of the contracts given out so far were risky overpayments, the unfortunate product of a weak UFA class, a bigger cap, and some desperate teams. In the abstract, the Predators may have been right to pass on every single demand they heard this weekend. Next year, however, is the contract year of Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne. It's the year before the two players with arguably the biggest potential on the roster--Colin Wilson and Cody Franson--need RFA raises. This coming season is a window to compete, not a transition year.
Many of this year's free agent signings are akin to David Legwand and Martin Erat's deals--overpayments for good, helpful players. The kind of high-risk, medium-reward signings that produce contracts too big to trade, but too useful to buy out. And given the way Preds fans hate Legwand and Erat's contracts, I can't blame Poile for balking at some of his options.
Medium reward, though, is always better than no reward. Sometimes you suck it up, take what the market offers, and deal with the consequences in two or three years. A few players were definitely fits for Nashville: Upshall, Fleischmann, Versteeg, and Ward and Goc. Others were decent low-risk gambles on desperately needed scorers: Ponikarovsky, Brunette.
At the very least, Poile should have gotten some return on Ward and Goc's rights. They got the money they were due (though Ward, for the wrong reasons). So pay up or stock up.
Perhaps, Poile, burned by the Legwand, Erat, and Lombardi deals, decided to get out of the business of stacking up second-line forwards on medium-sized deals. That's great news, if the alternative is paying top dollar and top assets for a true impact forward. Because that's the corner in which Poile has put himself: he has to make a trade.
And if that's the plan, I'll wait. Being a Preds fan has at least taught me patience. Everyone else made their mistakes. Now let's see the counter-attack.