I had the opportunity to join several of the outstanding bloggers that cover the Predators for a round table with Predators General Manager David Poile for a wide ranging discussion of various topics that covered the gamut from player development and negotiations on contracts to the impending expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.
Poile answered questions frankly and was candid about his assessment of the team and individual players. Here are some of the highlights:
On the Predators as a team
"Last year, we were one of the youngest teams in the NHL. This upcoming season, we will still be a young team, but more experienced. That experience, plus the presence of veterans like Hal Gill, Paul Gaustad, and others will benefit the team. When things go bad for a young team, it takes a while to get their confidence back. Veterans can provide the guidance to younger players to get them through those rough stretches, and this squad has a good mix of youth and experience."
"When you look at a player like Hal Gill, other players on the team gravitate to him. He is a great leader; he is steady and has seen it all. He is the only player on the team that has a Stanley Cup ring, and he knows what it takes to win the ultimate prize. That experience is invaluable to our team. Plus, he is a solid player. Having a veteran like Gill in the line up is important, especially with the departure of Ryan Suter."
The departure of Ryan Suter
"Right or wrong, I reacted when he called and told me he was going to Minnesota. I was emotional. When we discussed the variables about his decision, family was not mentioned as a critical factor. That was surprising."
When asked whether he had been mislead by Suter, Poile responded, "that is in the eye of the beholder."
Poile was asked if he would have done anything differently in his negotiations with Suter, he said, "No regrets. I really thought we were going to sign him. Our negotiations were positive and open."
"Now, it would have been better for the team if we could have gotten Suter and Weber signed earlier in the process, because the team was in limbo and could not go after other free agents that were on the market. As it was, they were our priority."
The effect on the defense
"Without Suter, defense combinations will be rotated to situation and to manage ice time. It will be up to the coaches to determine Weber's defense partner. It could be Roman Josi. Perhaps it will be Ryan Ellis. The team has the talent to replace Suter with current players, but we are still in the market for a veteran defenseman.
"This is a great opportunity for Ryan Ellis. If he is ready, he can secure a spot in the starting line up. He has to show the coaches that he is ready."
"Jonathan Blum has been in Nashville all summer working out and is looking to get his game back on track. This is a big year for Jonathan and it is time for him to prove that he belongs here on a regular basis."
"Joonas Jarvinen is a big body with potential. Mattias Ekholm can be a player for us. We made a mistake with Ekholm last season. We tried to force him into an NHL role even though we agreed when we signed him that he would go back to Sweden for another year because of his age and another year of development was needed. He played very well once he went back. His development will probably take him to Milwaukee first."
Anders Lindback and Chris Mason
"Lindy asked to be traded to a team where he would have the opportunity to be a starter. That was not going to happen here with Pekka. The trade with Tampa was good for us because we got draft picks back, and since we had traded draft picks for our acquisitions, it was important for us to re-stock our picks. We felt like we got good quality in this draft and we had the quantity of picks we needed."
"Having a veteran like Chris Mason is good for the team. He wanted to be here, he is familiar with the organization and many of the players, and is a good teammate. Last season, Pekka played 73 games. It is up to the coaches, but I would expect Mason to get in the neighborhood of 25 starts to keep Pekka fresh."
The Radulov/Kostitsyn playoff incident
"You just look at that incident and ask 'Why?' I wish it was something that never had happened. And you have to look at what occurred and balance the morals of the welfare of the team with a win at all costs mentality. We handled it in the way we thought was appropriate.That incident didn't cost us the series. We outplayed the Coyotes in several of the games, but Mike Smith did what a goalie is supposed to do- he won some games for them."
The impending expiration of the collective bargaining agreement
Poile had to be careful about what he said here, since both sides are in the negotiation process. His sense was that the CBA needed some "tweaks" to continue to make it workable for the players and all teams. He said that there was no sense that these negotiations were different from previous CBA negotiations, and that everyone was waiting to see the response from the NHLPA to the owners proposal on Tuesday (8/14).
After recently completing two high profile negotiations, Poile was asked about the team's relationship with the agents for players around the League.
"Agents know Nashville and how we operate. Sometimes, you can get a reputation, such as not having resources or a willingness to spend. At one time, that was how we were perceived. We don't have one owner with big money, but our ownership group has given me the resources necessary to build the team. Agents know that and that we are competitive when it comes to contracts."
On Shane Doan
"We all want to see Shane sign with the Coyotes. If that doesn't work out, though, we are definitely interested and in if he is available. And Shane has told us that Nashville is a team that would be on his short list."
Thanks, David, for your time and your insight into what is happening with the Predators.