How long is good enough good enough?
With the Nashville Predators set to open training camp later this weekend, it’s a question worth asking.
And the one who ought to ask is the same person who ought to ponder the answer.
General Manager David Poile has proved he can put together a team that’s good enough to make the playoffs, even though most years at this time in the season it doesn’t look that way to the rest of the world. He has done so five times in the past six seasons, including four of five during the salary cap era. Not a lot of other teams can say the same thing.
Of course, as any fan can attest, none of those Predators teams were good enough to get beyond the opening round.
So let’s ask again: Is that good enough? Because the reality is that there’s every reason — or 26 of them, at least — to assume that’s about as good as it’s going to get.
Poile has been a general manager for 26 NHL seasons, 15 with the Washington Capitals and 11 with Nashville. In that time he has assembled 19 playoff teams, but only six managed to win a series, and only one (the 1989-90 Capitals) won more than one. He never has presided over a team that competed in the Stanley Cup finals.
It’s important to stop here and note that Poile rarely, if ever, has been on an even playing field with some of the NHL’s more celebrated franchises. The financial constraints with which he has operated since he’s been in Nashville are well documented. It was not much different in Washington, where he worked for famously frugal owner Abe Pollin.
There’s no doubt that he’s consistently done more with less over that length of time than most others would — or could — have.
And, clearly, this is a man who values consistency.
His message, in fact, has been nothing if not consistent from the earliest days of the franchise. He’s never said anything other than that he wants to make the Predators a team that goes to the playoffs every year, because the only way to have a chance to win in the postseason is to be in the postseason.
He resists changing coaches, something so many others believe is essential to keep a team competitive and relevant. He re-signs players with the belief that they will do better, rather than cutting them loose and trying to find someone who actually is better.
It’s a formula that has served him well in that it has earned him respect throughout the NHL and the entire hockey world.
But at some point, his competitive nature has to rage against a steady string of minor victories. There must come a point when he’s no longer satisfied to do what many thought he couldn’t, the one thing anyone and everyone in the NHL wants to do: hoist the Stanley Cup.
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Poile gives the impression of one who is overwhelmingly sane. He speaks in measured tones. He thinks first. He works tirelessly to prepare himself for anything that might confront him.
Call me crazy, but sooner or later he’s going to have do something different with the Predators. Something dramatic. Something dynamic.
Maybe this is the season. Maybe not.
If he doesn’t, they’ll always be a team that’s just good enough to make the playoffs — and there’s no way that can be good enough for him or anyone else.