Summer Trending: Central Division
July, 22, 2014
By Craig Custance | ESPN Insider
Karl Gehring/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesPaul Stastny's move from Colorado to St. Louis greatly altered two Central Division contenders.The Nashville Predators' trade for James Neal had only been official for a few minutes when the questions started as to who would be the center feeding him the puck in Nashville. In Pittsburgh, he had his biggest success with Evgeni Malkin. In Dallas, he played well with Brad Richards.
GM David Poile stood behind a podium at the draft in Philadelphia and explained that the Predators' focus would be shifted to the middle of the ice now that they had acquired the scoring winger they needed.
The problem was, that was also the focus for half of the Western Conference. Ryan Kesler went to Anaheim. Brad Richards went to Chicago. Paul Stastny went to St. Louis. Jason Spezza went to Dallas.
Making things worse for the Predators, Mike Fisher was lost for four to six months with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
So when Poile got a call from Mike Ribeiro's agent suggesting he’d be a good fit with the Predators, he listened with an open mind.
“Mike has been a top center, he’s a veteran in his experience. Equally and more important, he was looking for a place to re-establish with his family,” Poile said when we chatted last week.
The last thing Poile wanted for his young group trying to establish itself with a new coach was distractions. He was well aware of the off-ice issues that led to Ribeiro’s departure in Arizona. So this wasn’t a normal hockey transaction.