Go East young men.
That was the message Nashville Predators general manager David Poile gave to his professional scouts last week in a conference call. With Sunday’s announcement that the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association had reached an agreement in principle to end the league-imposed lockout that began September 15th, Poile and his staff have mobilized in order to quickly identify what pieces may fit into a roster that will be mostly unchanged from the 2011-12 Predator team.
“On Friday, in anticipation of this happening, I had another conference call with our pro scouts Nick Beverley and Shawn Dineen,” Poile said. “I gave them some direction as far as what we thought we would be looking for and what we wanted them to do.”
The schedule for the abbreviated season will likely consist of each team playing 48 games, all within their respective conference. While holding court with the media, Poile held a sheet with the statistics of the 1995 Washington Capitals squad he managed. 1995 was the last time the NHL played an abbreviated schedule because of a lockout.
“For example, we are going to have them pretty well scout the next couple of weeks just the Eastern Conference because we are not going to play them at all,” Poile said. “Because A – those are the teams we know the least, and B – those are the most likely trading partners that we would have.”
With such a compressed schedule, injuries and organizational depth will play a large role in the success or failure of a team in its quest to qualify for the playoffs. In addition to not having a schedule, Poile does not know when this season’s trade deadline will fall.
Poile was active in advance of last season’s deadline. He added defenseman Hal Gill a couple of weeks before the deadline and later acquired forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Paul Gaustad on deadline day.
With so many games against fellow Western Conference opponents, Poile indicated that he and assistant general manager Paul Fenton will do their fair share of scouting those teams.
“Paul and myself in the office will look at the Western Conference and the coaches like to do a lot of stuff there within our division, so we are going to get caught up on that real fast,” Poile said.
The last couple of days have been hectic for Poile. There are a lot of players who are still on the market and several others who could potentially join them very soon.
“This is going to be a different situation,” he said. “I see some rosters that are 25 or 26 players deep right now. Does that mean there are going to be some trades right from the get-go? Is there going to be players on waivers that may be NHL players? I have been on the phone with at least eight or nine agents today that have unsigned players or players that are coming back from Europe. These are NHL players that left the league for one reason or another and they don’t have a job right now.”
There will be considerable movement of players onto and off of NHL rosters in the coming weeks. Poile and his staff appear poised to get involved if one or more of those players fit a need for the Predators.