David Poile has been here before, in the sense that he's built rosters that were in this position in the standings, and facing a likely push for the postseason and the prize that's eluded him during his career. He's been in here before in several different circumstances. But this year poses its own type of pressure, and a completely new deck of cards for the veteran general manager to hold, shuffle, or deal.
In 2012, he knew what he had. He had a roster that was coming off a trip to the second round for the first time in Nashville, and some very talented pieces all working on deals that were expiring that summer. Two of their three gems of the franchise were set to become unrestricted free agents that summer, and his team captain was on his way to another contract battle. While Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne had to be sorted nearly immediately, Weber just finished an arbitration agreement and likely wasn't in the best of moods. Poile was convinced that Suter would fall into place after Rinne was awarded his deal, and opted to trade draft picks and prospects to bolster the roster. The Preds went "all in", and shipped off Blake Geoffrion, first and second round picks, and the final year of Alex Radulov's contract for Hal Gill, Paul Gaustad, Andrei Kostitsyn, and well... Alexander Radulov. What happened afterwards was fun for a while, but the team that was built for the playoffs crumbled before the mighty Mike Smith in Historic Jobing.com Arena. Suter left. Radulov went back to Russia. Andrei and his brother went over there as well. Gill hung around, and was bought out. But hey, Goose is still here.
In 2007, the franchise felt a fledgeling rebellion. We all know the stories of Craig Leipold threatening to sell the team, and how close that threat became to reality. As perhaps the final bullet in the chamber for the team and its tenure in Nashville, Poile traded Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, and two picks for Peter Forsberg. How big of a deal was this? I was driving my truck around Panama City, FL and the local station was playing the Jim Rome show. Jim Rome was talking about it, and he loved it. The team couldn't capitalize on the situation, and were dispatched by the Sharks in 5, again.
The D.C. Years
Throughout his time in Washington, the Capitals were a model of consistency. The Caps made the playoffs for 14 straight years. Aside from an appearance in the conference finals in 1990, those appearances ended in the first or second rounds. He made his trades there as well, including trades that sent Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy for Bob Rouse and Dino Ciccarelli. Poile was removed from office in 1997, and landed on his feet in Nashville.
All of this nice history lesson leads us to this question: is this current team good enough to warrant an "all in" move? Well, a few things on that note.
- It's early. But the deadline is creeping on us, and the team is in great position. So it warrants a discussion. March 2nd is coming up, and coming up fast.
- Prices tend to go up closer to the deadline.
- Dominoes started to fall with David Perron going to Pittsburgh, who apparently is going up there replace James Neal, you guys.
- This team has some real needs. OK ok okay... one real need.
- The teams that are selling have have something in common- they're dumb and drafted a bunch of kids who like to score and play center and stuff.
Here's what is different about this team that many of those Caps teams, and the two prior Predators teams that were this kind of good- the 2014-15 Predators have their best days ahead of them, barring a tragic injury. The average age of the roster is around 27, and that number is inflated by Olli Jokinen and Matt Cullen who are both over north of 36. This team is depending on players under 30. Aside from Weber and Rinne, the core of this team is made up of guys who are in the mid-20s or younger. And they're only going to get better. That's the best thing about this team: they're going to get better in the coming years, and there are quite a few kids in Milwaukee that could warrant a call up before June.
Luckily for David Poile, there aren't many rental options this year to tempt him into shipping off a first for this year's Gaustad. However, the assets are here in Poile decided to go after a trade target. The issue is this:
The pieces that he wants to trade are forwards. The bad teams need defensemen (whether they are smart enough to know it or not is another matter). In true Nashville fashion, the Predators again have a surplus of middle line players coupled with the need of a true top-line center for this year, and coming years. For now, the team will likely keep on trucking to the All-Star break. We have no reason to think they won't, but there's going to be some tough decisions to be made about what to do about this team's lineup going into spring and beyond.
Thanks to years of good drafting and stockpiling, the respected general manager has set the table for perhaps his last charge to the top, and he may be building his best chance at a cup in the coming years. We're going to use the term "building" and not "built", because we all know he's not done with it yet.