NHL.com is sitting down with newsmakers leading up to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24. Today, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile discusses how his team has not met expectations this season, whether it will be a buyer or seller, and becoming the winningest GM in NHL history.
NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators hope to determine what approach they will take ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline by the time their upcoming four-game road trip is completed, general manager David Poile said Saturday.
The Predators (24-20-7), who are four points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, play at the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, the Calgary Flames on Thursday, the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 8 and the Vancouver Canucks Feb. 10.
"All those teams were ahead of us in the Western Conference standings coming out of the All-Star break but were close enough (for the Predators) to be in the mix with them," Poile said. "These are all important games, classic four-point games for whoever wins those games. Undoubtedly, we will know a lot more about what our playoffs look like one we finish the West Coast trip.
"It's the time of year where we are going to be active like everyone else in terms of talking to different teams as a seller and as a buyer. The trip will help alter which way we go. The market too. Maybe there's a hockey trade out there to be made.
"The water is muddy right now for a lot of teams, but our recent road trip at least made things a bit brighter for us."
Poile was referring to a 5-4 win at the Washington Capitals on Wednesday and a 6-5 shootout win at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday that provided some optimism for a team he said underachieved before the break.
The win against the Devils moved Poile past Glen Sather for most wins by a GM in NHL history (1,507, regular season and playoffs combined). Poile, who was GM of the Washington Capitals for 15 seasons before joining Nashville in 1997, has 1,404 wins in the regular season and 103 in the playoffs.
"I didn't even know about it until (NBC broadcaster) Mike Emrick sent me a text after the Washington game telling me I was on the verge of doing it," Poile said. "Then, after the Devils game, (defenseman) Roman Josi presented me with the game puck in the dressing room in front of the rest of the players. It was a special moment."
Video: ARI@NSH: Josi fires home wrister from the point
Poile said he's received plenty of congratulatory messages in recent days, including one from former Predators coach Peter Laviolette, who was fired by Nashville and replaced by John Hynes on Jan. 7.
"It says a lot about Peter for him to do that," Poile said. "It's never easy to change coaches, but when you feel your team isn't living up to expectations, you have to make some tough choices."
You mentioned earlier you'll have a better idea of a game plan in about a week or so regarding the deadline. Can you elaborate?
"It appears that these races are going to be close. What we're looking for is consistency. We're looking for progress. We're looking to make a little bit of a move up the standings.
"The point for all of us is that we're below the line. We're not in the playoffs right now. We're not living up to expectations either as a team or as individuals. We have 30-plus games to see if we can rectify that. To loop back to your question: Again, the trade deadline is Feb. 24 and we hope we're in the position where we want to be buyers. But I will say that whether we win or lose in the next little while, we'd like to be active in discussions about possibly changing things up here."
You talk about not living up to expectations. A scan of your roster reveals a very talented team. How frustrating has it been to watch the inconsistency, and how do you get it to play to its potential down the stretch?
"Well, I mentioned the word expectations and you just mentioned the word expectations. It's really important that you set the expectations correctly at all levels. By that I mean not only for the coaches and players but for your ownership and for your fans. I think this year when [the NHL has] had seven coaching changes, that tells me that a lot of teams, probably including ourselves, maybe didn't have the expectations set correctly. So just because I feel we have a good team, doesn't mean we have a good team.
"The last five years we've played very well and for the most part we've lived up to or exceeded expectations. The year still has to be played out. And as I said, whether it be at the trading deadline or after the year, maybe it will be necessary in our team and our thinking and kind of resetting our expectations."
Video: TOR@NSH: Andersen sprawls to stop Turris' one-timer
Have you ever seen such parity in the League, where so many teams are scrunched together in the fight for a playoff spot? And if so, do you think that will result in a glut of teams seeking to be buyers at the deadline?
"We've talked about expectations, but maybe a stronger word is entitlement in regards to maybe we should be in the playoffs, or maybe we should be at a higher level of play. As I say every night when we play, the other team is trying to win too. I mean, they also think they're a playoff team. Our game against the Toronto Maple Leafs (a 5-2 loss on Jan. 27), for example. One team won, and they're probably feeling that's what should have happened. The other team lost, and they're going to be disappointed, and based on expectations it's going to be like, 'We should have won that game.' That's how tight the League is. That's how much parity it is. I feel we have a chance to win every game we play in. But right now, we're still not in a playoff spot.
"The thing is, right now there's a mentally where virtually every team thinks they can win every game. Thus you are going to have disappointments. And thus you are going to have coaching changes. And you are going to have rumors and speculation about trades. When teams think they are in the hunt, there can be at times the notion, rightly or wrongly, that adding a piece or two can give them the nudge they need."
Is there any specific area of your team you would like to address when it comes to adding?
"The more time I can give the team, especially with the coaching changes, I think the more clarity we will have. That might not line up with the timing of the deadline. So, we're like the army: We've got to earn our stripes every day and we have to evaluate our team every day."
Video: NSH@ANA: Smith buries redirection in slot for PPG
Can this team win the Stanley Cup right now, in terms of skill, with the roster as it is right now?
"I like our team. And we're all fresh in the memory of the St. Louis Blues and their worst-to-first run last year. And it's not just the St. Louis Blues. You can go back year after year and look at the teams that have won the Stanley Cup. And there is no team from my recollection that had complete smooth sailing or didn't go through some adversity. This year, we've been hard on ourselves. We've already made a coaching change, and now we have to see if we've gained anything from this adversity and see if we can rally around the fact that we've been through that. We do have a good team individually as players and we've had a good record as a team the past couple of years. As for now, play at a higher level. Give ourselves a chance to compete once again for a Stanley Cup."