Center Ice Hockey Magazine was able to sit down with Dave Poulin, former Philadelphia Flyers captain and now vice-president of hockey operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs, right before the season. The Reading Royals are affiliated with the Toronto Maple Leafs and he was in town this past August for a Royals fan forum.
Center Ice: How was the transition from the college game to the NHL?
Dave Poulin: The timing was right for me; it has been good, no problem.
Center Ice: Is this a new position for you?
Poulin: I am two years into it and it is a brand new position being back in the pro game and so far it has been great.
Center Ice: This off-season the Maple Leafs made two big moves. First the addition of John-Michael Liles has to be a real plus for you.
Poulin: Well I think we addressed more than two things. I think the power play was discussed. Special teams have not been where we wanted them to be and John-Michael Liles is a proven performer on the special teams in Colorado on a few different occasions; We had inquired about him in the past but the timing was not right. He is a good puck mover, a plus, smart, he is the right age and I think it is significant that he has been a part of only one organization. I think it will help recharge him. I know when I was traded at age 31 it helped me.
Center Ice: Now you also added two center men Tim Connolly and Matt Lombardi?
Poulin: Yeah if you break those deals down - Tim Connolly was a free agent, he is a top six skill player who can fit into our power play, plays the half-wall very well; highly, highly skilled.
In a trade we picked up Matt Lombardi and Cody Franz, the big defenseman. I think we made ourselves much deeper at defense; Cody has a big shot and has worked on the power play, as you can see the special team’s emphasis. Matt has had injury problems; he was concussed last year in the second game of the season and missed all of last season but medical reports are good right now and we are hopeful for the start of the year.
Center Ice: I believe you did not have a plus defenseman last season?
Poulin: You would know better than I, you being a stat guy. I think we break down our season in significant pieces. After the All-Star game we finished on a great roll, seventh in the East from that point, so we were a playoff caliber team playing against the best teams in the east. We would like to take it from that point; James Reimer (goaltender) started his first game on January 1st and he was very strong in net the second half of the year. As we know we need goaltending in order to be effective; I think the year broke down into two parts.
Center Ice: You mention James Reimer; obviously he is going to be a key for you?
Poulin: He will and the team played very well in front of him also; his numbers were great. He will be pushed by Jonas Gustavsson who was on and off last year with injuries plus his heart health issue; he has to push James. That position is so critical and we have had not a lot of stability there. J.S. Giguere did a good job with us albeit through his injuries but we are excited about James and Jonas as well.
Center Ice: How about the third goaltender Ben Scrivens? Did you get to see him?
Poulin: Yes I saw a lot of him; he played the majority of games down the stretch for the Marlies (AHL); he played very well and we are optimistic about his future. We also had signed as free agent from Finland Jussi Rynnas in April 2010 who also played down with the Toronto Marlies. He also had his share of injury problems; so we have four goalies that will compete very hard. I think we have some nice depth at that position and now they have to prove it now.
Center Ice: You have not been in the playoffs the last couple of years. Is this the year?
Poulin: We certainly hopeful; the management team has now been together for two years; Brian Burke got here before Christmas the year before. It is definitely tough to make changes; changes in cap system; it is not as simple as it sounds. We have made a number of changes; we are in good position as far as a financial stand-point but most importantly we have increased the depth in the pipeline to what is to come. We have some nice young kids that will start in the minors and a good group coming from juniors. It is a lengthy process.