With the Predators roughly one-quarter of the way through the 2010-11 campaign, we check in with Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile to talk about the state of the team, the parity in the League, and the play of one of Nashville’s most prized prospects.
NashvillePredators.com: The Western Conference standings are extremely tightly packed this season (just four points separate nine teams in the middle of the standings). Have you ever seen a season where there’s been this much parity this far in?David Poile:
It seems like it’s been like that the past couple years. To me, the Western Conference is clearly deeper than the Eastern Conference, so that makes the conference tighter maybe a littler further down the standings. Every team talks about wanting to win the Stanley Cup -- and that’s our goal, as it is everybody’s, in hockey -- but I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is just to make the playoffs. We’ve made the playoffs the five out of the last six years, one of only eight teams in the league to do that. It seems like every night it’s a battle; parity is certainly at its highest level right now in the Western Conference. NP.com: Is this what you hoped to see coming out of the last Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations?Poile:
You get a salary cap situation where there are limits; it should give you more parity. I think under the old system we certainly had a lot more inequities and we certainly looked like we had the haves and have nots. Now with this cap situation we can certainly see by the standings that parity is here. There seems to be a different Stanley Cup Champion every year. This season the Chicago Blackhawks are finding that it’s hard to repeat. Due to the salary cap situation they couldn’t keep all of their team together.NP.com: When you look at the Central Division, is it developing as the toughest division in hockey?Poile:
It was the toughest division last year, even with Columbus not quite being there and St. Louis only missing the playoffs by a few points. With them, they’re both now looking like they’re competing with all the tops teams. It’s clearly the best division in the National Hockey League, and that makes our task in Nashville a lot harder just to get to the playoffs because we’re playing an unbalanced schedule and 24 of our 82 games are against teams in our division. I’m pretty sure at the end of the season if you don’t have a winning record in your division, you’re not going to make the playoffs. NP.com: When you consider the parity across the conference, and some of the injuries the Predators have gone through first quarter, is this one of the more impressive coaching jobs by this staff to have this team this far along?Poile:
The fact that we’re not where we want to be isn’t ideal, but we’re close. That’s good under the circumstances of injuries and the schedule. I think we’re a little road weary, if you will. I think that the coaches are doing everything they can to prepare the players and keep us in this playoff race. What really is preventing us from being successful is our goal scoring. Our work ethic is there; we’re in every game. It seems to be the last five or six games, other than one game, have either been shootout or overtime games. It’s ultimately down to winning or losing, and I know it’s only one goal, but it seems to be almost a half of a goal. As we get David Legwand
and Matthew Lombardi back and Ryan Suter
at 100 percent, we feel confident where we’ll be.NP.com: During Training Camp there was a lot of excitement with the play and potential of Ryan Ellis. How is he progressing?Poile:
I saw him play a week or so ago in Windsor when he broke the record for the most points for a defenseman ever in that franchise. I saw him after the game and he seemed to be in a real good place. He’s the captain of their team, plays the most minutes I’ve ever seen of any player in a game, his attitude is good, he looks good, he knows what he has to work on off the ice in weight training and nutrition and things like that. He’s just been selected to play for Canada’s World Junior Championship team at the end of the year, and is probably going to be the captain of that team. It’s the third time he’s played in the World Juniors which puts him in a select group there.
He’s had to deal with some adversity this season; a lot of the great players from his junior team are in the NHL right now and they’re middle of the pack in the standings. It looks like his team in Windsor has told him that he’s probably going to be traded, so once again he’s probably going to get a chance to play for an Ontario Hockey League Championship. But I always say that your attitude determines your altitude. With Ryan, he feels good about himself, is in a good place, and is maturing as a player and a person. I think he’ll be fine. He’s only nineteen years of are; we’re looking for a long-career from him.