[Ed: This is the second of two perspectives on David Poile's busy day yesterday. If you missed Adam's breakdown of the statistical merits of the trades, check it out!]
Yesterday the Nashville Predators acquired both Brian Boyle from the New Jersey Devils and old friend Cody McLeod from the New York Rangers. Two big bodies that have no issue playing a physical game, Boyle and McLeod should be bottom-six forwards for the Predators.
For an undersized Predators team, acquiring Brian Boyle makes sense on a number of levels. First and foremost, Brian Boyle is 6’6”, making him the tallest Predator, over even Pekka Rinne. Additionally, Boyle has fought far greater battles than those on ice; he recently beat cancer and won the Bill Masterson Trophy last season. Finally, despite being a constant thorn in his opponent’s side with his mean streak, Boyle has chipped in 13 goals and 19 points this season despite limited minutes. He immediately becomes the top scoring threat on the Predators’ fourth line.
Cody McLeod is a more puzzling acquisition, but he nonetheless was brought back into the fold for very specific reasons. With Austin Watson suspended indefinitely and Zac Rinaldo undergoing season-ending surgery, McLeod gives the Predators another player who is designed to play that same physical brand of hockey.
As Predators fans know, McLeod is not known for his offensive or puck-moving ability, but his teammates loved having him in the locker room. Although he may bring very little in terms of on-ice production, believing that you have a player on your team who would do anything for you is both comforting and a rallying point.
However, what these moves reveal the most is how general manager David Poile plans to beat the Winnipeg Jets.
At this point in time, there should be no secret that the Predators will have to get through Winnipeg to win the Stanley Cup, and everyone should expect for the two teams to play at least two more playoff series against each other in the next few years. Last year, the Predators stayed true to their small, speed-oriented style of play. While they scraped by the Colorado Avalanche, the Winnipeg made their seven-game series look very one-sided. Bruised and battered, the Predators limped back to their locker rooms knocked out by the Jets.
Something changed from the season before. In their 2017 playoff push, the Predators fought to game six of the Stanley Cup Finals. Earlier today, the Predators were second in the division and staring at a foe they had no answers for.
Whether Boyle and McLeod are answers or not is yet to be determined, but it shows that Poile has a blueprint on how he wants to take down the Jets.
He just pulled out his file on the 2017 St. Louis Blues.
In the 2017 Stanley Cup Finals run, something often forgotten is the great flexibility baked into the Predators’ roster. Cody McLeod never touched the ice in the first round against a talented Blackhawks team. Instead, Peter Laviolette ran with a fourth line of Pontus Åberg, Colton Sissons, and P.A. Parenteau. Then, against an enormous Blues team, Laviolette ran a fourth line of Cody McLeod, Colton Sissons, and Miikka Salomäki. Instead of sticking to his run-and-gun speed roster, Laviolette had the roster flexibility to change things up and put different types of players in against St. Louis.
The Winnipeg Jets are not the St. Louis Blues, but they share some similarities to the 2017 Blues that one would be negligent to ignore. The smallest player on the Jets is Mathieu Perreault at 5’10”. In fact, he is the only player on the Jets under 6’0”, which should surprise nobody who has seen the Predators play the Jets. Their dominating size is apparent, battering the Predators’ speedy, undersized forwards like paper planes in the sky. The same was true for the St. Louis Blues in 2017, who at the time were still young enough to have enough speed to compete with the Predators.
In 2017, Poile equipped Laviolette with the tools to defeat the Blues, whereas last season Laviolette found his power tool bin rummaged. Gone was Cody McLeod, while other members, such as Mike Fisher, simply aged out of relevance. No adjustments were made between the Avalanche and Winnipeg series; rather, the Predators stuck to their guns and were blown away.
Whether these moves today will be successful or not is a question to be determined in early May. However, the Predators now have a direction and plan for the Jets, and that is to turn the page back to the second round of 2017.