In 33 years as a GM in the NHL, David Poile has never been afraid to wheel and deal. Now his bold moves with the Predators are finally paying off.
Over the course of his NHL managerial career David Poile has made a mind-boggling total of 293 trades involving 454 players and 205 draft picks. On his 10th day as a rookie GM with the Washington Capitals in 1982, he made a six-player blockbuster with the Montreal Canadiens that landed the Capitals a Hall of Famer in Rod Langway. And he hasn’t stopped since.
He’s made trades for Adam Oates, dealt for and dealt away Larry Murphy, traded for Dale Hunter in a deal that involved a draft pick that turned out to be Joe Sakic. He’s dealt Shea Weber and Seth Jones. Back in 1990, he made a deal with the Buffalo Sabres to acquire John Tucker in return for future considerations…which turned out to be John Tucker. He took Mike Sullivan in the expansion draft and traded him away four days later. That’s the same Mike Sullivan who coaches the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team Poile’s Nashville Predators could very well face in the Stanley Cup final.
He’s watched as prized players such as Ryan Suter and Scott Stevens were scooped away in free agency. In fact, instead of matching the offer the St. Louis Blues made for Stevens in 1990, Poile opted for five first-round picks, two of whom turned out to be Sergei Gonchar and Brendan Witt. After playing 536 games for the Capitals, Witt was dealt to – you guessed it – Nashville for a package that included the pick the Capitals used to select Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov was later dealt to Colorado for a package that included the pick they used to pick Filip Forsberg, a player Poile stole from the Capitals for Martin Erat and Michael Latta in one of the most lopsided trades in history.
Which is a longwinded way of saying that, simply on mileage alone, David Poile deserves this. After 33 years as a GM and 45 years after joining the Atlanta Flames front office, Poile was due to finally go to the final. And should he finally get his name on the Stanley Cup in a couple of weeks, he would deserve that, too.
And that comes on a couple of fronts. First of all, you may not meet a more decent individual in the game than David Poile. He’s accommodating, unfailingly polite, self-deprecating and has an incredibly keen sense of humor. In fact, you look at guys like Poile and wonder how they don’t get eaten alive in the hockey culture, with nice guys finishing last and all. Just over three years ago, Poile was hit by an errant puck during a morning skate and needed facial reconstruction surgery, ultimately losing sight in his right eye. That might have felled others who had been in the game as long as Poile, but Poile chose to continue on, serving both the Predators and USA Hockey with an unparalleled loyalty.
And let’s face it. The hockey world would be a lot less fun without David Poile in it. Look back to some of the biggest pure hockey trades that have been made in recent years and they have Poile’s fingerprints all over them. One thing Poile has never been afraid to do is make earth-shaking trades, whether it was the Langway trade he made before his feet were wet to trading Jones for Ryan Johansson. In a salary cap era when executives complain about the restrictions put on them preventing them from making hockey trades, Poile has proved to be the outlier.
And for much of his career, Poile seemed to be treading water despite all the moves, never being able to make his team an elite contender, but always being competitive. That’s nice and secure and all and provides a ton of stability and that’s why he was a GM with one team for 16 years and another for 17. But sooner or later you’re looking for results and they were never there for Poile’s teams, as evidenced by the fact that this will indeed be his first rodeo when it comes to participating in the Stanley Cup final.
But this season, in one of those goofy years where nothing seems to make sense, Poile has finally hit on the formula. He has a team that followed the Los Angeles Kings blueprint of just doing enough to get into the playoffs before going on a monster run. The Predators are full marks for being here. They beat two first-place teams, both of which were coming off 100-point seasons. So many years more was expected of both the Capitals and Predators under Poile’s leadership and they failed to get it done. Now, when the Predators were a second wildcard that won just three of its first 11 games of the season, they’re among the last two teams standing in the war of attrition that is the Stanley Cup playoffs.
There are a lot of fine people for whom the hockey world should be happy in Nashville. But David Poile stands above the rest.
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