With the hiring of Head Coach Peter Laviolette, GM David Poile made it very clear that there is a shift in Nashville. Laviolette brings an offensive style that the Predators are desperate for. He has a knack for developing young forwards, of which the Preds have many. Overall, he is a great person that can really produce the type of hockey Predators fans have been craving.
But, if Poile thinks he does not need to do any more improving, he is dead wrong.
There are still many more steps the Predators have to take to put out a Playoff-caliber roster this fall, as well as ensure the public that this culture change is real. So, what are Poile’s next moves?
First and foremost, Poile needs to do everything in his power to keep goalie coach Mitch Korn in Nashville. His contract is up, and his future is uncertain. Korn has been a “goalie wizard” of sorts. Most recently, he developed Carter Hutton into a reliable backup and a solid fill-in when Pekka Rinne went down. He also helped Rinne along with his recovery. He also worked with some of the best goalies in Predators history, like Dan Ellis, Tomas Vokoun, and Chris Mason. If the Predators want to ensure success at the goaltender position, Poile needs to keep Korn in Nashville.
Next, Poile needs to draft a solid forward with that #11 overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Not only would this be a practical pick for Laviolette’s new system, but it would also truly signify a culture change in Nashville. Poile is notorious for selecting defensive players in the draft. Selecting a great forward would be a sign of real change. There are a few great options at that #11 spot, although a trade may be needed to get them. Options include William Nylander of Sweden ( he especially may require trading up), Jake Virtanen, or Brendan Perlini.
Also, there are a few key players that need to be kept in Nashville. The Predators have a couple of young defenseman that could really help the franchise build for the future. Players like Ryan Ellis, Michael Del Zotto, and Mattias Ekholm need to be re-signed. Poile also needs to snag one or two prized free agents. This is easier said than done, but it would do wonders for a struggling offense. One very plausible choice is Avalanche forward Paul Stastny. He has insinuated in an interview with The Denver Post that he would be open to leaving Colorado. With Team USA connections galore in Nashville, Stastny could be the perfect player to bring in. Other options include a trade with Toronto for Nazem Kadri (this almost happened last year) or players like Ales Hemsky and Matt Moulson. Change is generally a good selling point to bring in free agents, and the excitement around the future of the Predators could bring in big names.
Finally, as Stacey Hopkins pointed out on Twitter, the Predators need to open up roster spots for these young forwards. Players like Filip Forsberg, Simon Moser, and Miikka Salomaki put up outstanding numbers at the AHL level, but they barely saw any action at the NHL level. If Poile is serious about letting Laviolette develop young forwards, Forsberg, Moser, Salomaki and Calle Jarnkrok should be on the roster towards the beginning of next season, if not for the very beginning. If Taylor Beck and Austin Watson show some more potential, they should be there too.
In all reality, if the Predators simply re-sign those defenseman, and draft Nylander or Virtanen, but do nothing else, they will still have a solid shot at the Playoffs next season. But, if they want to make any noise come April next year, they will have to bulk up. I have faith that Poile can do it. If he can’t, he may lose his job.