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Photo Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Hits Oilers vs Predators: Poile matches Sather

The Nashville Predators are first in the Western Conference, and second overall in the NHL with 87 points. A stunning third-period comeback in Winnipeg on Tuesday was the Predators’ 39th win of the season, but it was also the 1,319th victory for general manager David Poile. With the win Poile tied Glen Sather for the most wins as a GM in NHL history.

Fittingly, Poile will go for the record tonight in Edmonton against the team Glen Sather built into a dynasty in the 1980s.

1. Poile started his career with the Atlanta Flames in 1972. He was 22 years young when they hired him as an Administrative Assistant. Poile played hockey at Northweastern University and was a prolific goal scorer, tallying 68 goals and 91 points in 46 games over two seasons (he played there for three years, but I couldn’t find any scoring totals from his first season). After five years with the Flames, he was promoted to assistant GM.

2. He left the Flames late in the summer of 1982, to become to the GM of the Washington Capitals on August 30th, 1982. He was 32 years old. The Capitals hadn’t made the playoffs in their first eight seasons in the NHL. Their owner, Abe Pollin, had threatened to leave Washington, claiming losses of $21 million in the first eight seasons. That summer Pollin got what he wanted: the first ten games were sold out, his rent was reduced, they sold 6,200 season tickets and they remained in Washington. Pollin then turned his focus to improving the team on the ice. On August 27th, he fired GM Roger Crozier, only ten months after he’d been given the job, and then hired Poile three days later. Poile’s Capitals made the playoffs for the next 14 seasons. They missed the playoffs in 1997 and Poile was let go.

3. Poile was GM of the Capitals for only eleven days before making a massive trade. He traded Ryan Walter, the second overall pick in 1978, and stay-at-home D-man Rick Green to the Montreal Canadiens. Walter was the Caps’ second leading scorer in 1981/1982, tallying 38 goals and 87 points. The Capitals needed help on defence and he acquired Rod Langway, Brian Engblom, Doug Jarvis and Craig Laughlin for Walter and Green. Walter scored 75 points his first year in Montreal, but never more than 49 in his next ten seasons. Meanwhile, Langway became a defensive stalwart for the Capitals. He won the Norris Trophy his first two seasons with the Capitals, even though he was mainly a defensive defender. He had three goals and 32 points in 1982/1983 and then nine goals and 33 points the next year. He was a very good defender, but it does seem odd he won in 1983/1984 when Paul Coffey produced 40 goals and 126 points as a young D-man in Edmonton. Coffey won the Norris the next two seasons. Poile made his mark very quickly in Washington. Only eleven days on the job and he acquired a defender who would win the next two Norris trophies. Not a bad start to his work as an NHL GM. In 15 seasons with the Capitals, he had a record of 594-454-132 (ties).

4. Poile was fired by the Capitals on May 13th, 1997, but he wasn’t out of work long. He had two job offers later that summer. He interviewed for the Toronto Maple Leafs job and felt he had that job, according to a this story by Steve Stimmons, but then the Predators offered him the GM job of their expansion club. He mulled over both offers, but choose the Predators. The Predators didn’t play until the following season and made their NHL debut in 1998/1999. The Predators, like most expansion teams not named Vegas, struggled their first few seasons. They missed the playoffs five years in a row before making the dance in 2003/2004.

5. After finally making the playoffs, the Predators fans were met with the 2005 lockout. But after the lockout the Predators continued to be good. They had their two best seasons to date, producing 106 points in 2006 and 110 in 2007. But they lost in the first round to the San Jose Sharks both times. Poile’s predators won their first playoff series in 2011, defeating the Canucks in six games, before losing to Anaheim in six games in round two. They won a round again in 2012, but then missed the playoffs in 2013 and 2014, yet ownership’s belief in Poile never waned. Poile endured some ownership challenges over the years, including in 2007 when then-owner Craig Leipold had a tentative deal to sell the team to Jim Basillie. But he had a change of heart, and was looking to sell the team to William “Boots” Del Biaggio III. Del Biaggio wanted to relocate the team to Kansas. A local ownership group stepped forward, similar to the E.I.G who saved the Oilers in the mid 1990s, and that group ended up purchasing the Predators. Del Baiaggio ended up with 20% ownership, but in 2008 he declared bankruptcy and he was charged with fraud and sentenced to eight years in jail. Poile endured the distractions and despite ownership changes he never lost his job, and he repaid the owners loyalty by building a dominant team.

6. After missing the playoffs in 2014, Poile relieved Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz had been the head coach for the first 15 seasons with the Predators. It is interesting to note Poile’s first gig with Washington lasted 15 seasons and so did Trotz’ with Nashville. Poile hired Peter Laviolette and the Predators won 47 games and made the playoffs with 104 points, but they lost to the defending Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. But Poile was building the Predators into a dominant team by making some bold trades.

7. Poile’s first NHL trade was massive, and in recent years he has pulled off some great trades as well. His most lopsided deal was when he traded Martin Erat and Michael Latta to Washington for Filip Forsberg on April 3rd, 2013. Forsberg was the 11th overall pick in 2012 and ripped up the World Junior tournament four months earlier, but Poile convinced Capitals GM George McPhee to give him up. Forsberg has the most goals, 108, from the 2012 draft and is easily the best forward. Since acquiring Forsberg, he hasn’t been afraid to make other big trades. He acquired Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones in January of 2016 and six months later he acquired PK Subban for Shea Weber. His moves have paid off. The Predators lost the Stanley Cup final last year and are one of the best team’s in the NHL this season.

8. This is Poile’s 21st year with the Predators and their 19th season. He was hired in 1997, but they didn’t play until 1998/1999 and missed the 2005 season due to lockout. He has a record of 725-574-145 (60 ties) with Nashville and his overall record as an NHL GM is 1,319-1,028-277 (192 ties). Like Sather, Poile has only been a GM with two organizations. Poile has never won a Stanley Cup, and only made the finals once, but he made the playoffs 14 of 15 years in Washington, and the year after he left they made the 1998 Finals with a team built by Poile (Olaf Kolzig was unreal for the Caps in 1998). He had some early and expected struggles with the expansion Predators, and after some struggles in 2013 and 2014, he rebounded and has built the Predators into one of the top teams in the NHL. Will this be the year he finally wins?

9. Poile, along with Paul Fenton and their scouting staff have done an excellent job of drafting and developing NHL players over the years. In 20 drafts with the Predators they have drafted 20 players who have played 400 games: David Legwand, Karlis Skrastins, Martin Erat, Adam Hall, Matt Hendricks, Scott Hartnell, Jordin Tootoo, Dan Hamhuis, Scottie Upshall, Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein, Shea Weber, Mike Santorelli, Pekka Rinne, Cody Franson, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling, Colin Wilson, Roman Josi and Craig Smith.

Other like Seth Jones (378), Ryan Ellis (376), Mattias Ekholm (370), Alex Radulov (293), Gabriel Bourque (287), Viktor Arvidsson, Auston Watson (200), Kevin Fiala (121) will likely get there as well. Their draft record has been great, especially with elite defencemen: Hamhuis, Suter, Weber, Josi, Jones, Ekholm and Ellis. They’ve never drafted an elite scorer though. Hartnell has the most NHL points of any Nashville draft pick, 703, but their drafting success for elite D-men since 1998 has been the best in the NHL.

10. The Predators have had 17 first round picks in franchise history. Only goalie Chet Pickard, 17th overall in 2008 never played in the NHL. Another goalie, Brian Finley, sixth overall in 1999, only played four games, while the rest up to 2015 have all played at least 100 games. Dante Fabbro, 17th in 2016 and Eeli Tolvanen, 30th in 2017, are both looked at as very good prospects. Tolvanen is having a great year in the KHL with 18 goals and 35 points as an 18-year-old.

11. The Predators haven’t won a Stanley Cup, but they have been a very consistent team. Since 2005/2006 they have amassed the sixth most points in the NHL with 1,208, trailing only Washington (1227), Anaheim (1242), Pittsburgh (1249), Detroit (1255) and San Jose (1276). Their lowest point total in a full NHL season was 77 in 2014 and 2009. They didn’t win a draft lottery like Chicago (Patrick Kane) or Pittsburgh (Sidney Crosby), which really changed the fortunes of those two organizations, but they have been incredibly consistent and competitive. Poile, along with the owners for being patient, deserve much of the credit.

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    • grumpyKoala

      Yeah Poile have also his share of mystake that this board would trash talk into oblivion.
      Passing on karlson for a 3rd rounder or Upshall a 1st round and sweetner. For a handful games of an aging Forsberg
      He then buy back the first round pick for Timonen and Scott Hartnell then proceed to select a player that never made it to the nhl

      Not picking on Poile.. every GM lose some trades. Most club suck at drafting

      • QuitForRealThisTime

        Agreed…Only in Edmonton is making mistakes regardless of how minor a world ending cataclysm and people should hang never mind just being fired. “Chia only got a 3rd instead the 2nd (I expected) for Maroon….AAARHGGG worst GM ever fire him” ugh. Most loyal and worst fans….Poile is the most winning GM…but no cups..would never fly here.

    • Redbird62

      May have the same total wins as Slats, but Poile’s career accomplishments as a GM still fall well short. One Stanley Cup Final visit in 35 years as a GM. No real success internationally either. There’s a chance that can change this year. Kevin Lowe has a visit to the Stanley Cup Finals on his GM resume. Peter Chiarelli, while GM of the Bruins has a Stanley Cup in one season, a Finals appearance in another season and a Presidents trophy in a third. He was fired for the team missing the playoffs by 3 points (had 96 – needed 99), for lingering cap issues and a few bad trades. The team he supposedly left in “cap hell” hasn’t had less than 93 points since , and only 3 years later is a top contender for the Cup. That said, past performance, is no guarantee of future success, and maybe the game has passed him by.

      • WHH

        If you hear McLellan speak he just said getting Lucic going is his top priority. He said Lucic is a long time Oiler. It also sounded like that meant a lot of time with McDavid. I really hope McLellan isn’t a long time Oiler.

        • Randaman

          He has five more years and is pretty much untradeable. If you were coach and had a player that needed to regain confidence (Name not important), who better than McDavid to help with that. Nuge is hurt (has great chemistry with Lucic) so where else would you put him? On the fourth line and totally wreck any confidence that he has left or would you try to uplift and support your player. You’re an Oiler fan so I know your answer already but the stupidity on here is rampant these days. Get over yourselves. You’re not that smart or you might just be a coach or GM. Sometimes I think Bradleypi has everybody on this site figured out. Morons

          • The Whispererer

            So a 29 year old professional Athlete, an 11 year NHL veteran is such a snowflake that he would melt if he had to spend some time on the 4th line ? Wow !

          • WHH

            Well, I don’t know who you are to be lecturing anyone on hockey I’ve seen some of your other posts. We are all entitled to our opinions. So to understand you, you would sacrifice McDavid’s last games of the season dragging a boat anchor along hoping he will find his game. A game that wasn’t good enough to play with McDavid when Lucic was going better earlier this season or last year. I would like to see some players get a chance to see if they will better fit with McDavid going forward (Nuge and Aberg to name two).

          • Kevwan

            @Randaman. Of course TMac wants Lucic to regain his confidence ( and scoring touch). He’s had Milan in a top 6 role for the whole season and we have come to this point. To put him on Khiara’s line in an “energy” role might spark his game.

            I don’t see how suggesting changes to things that aren’t working is moronic.

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    In my view, the only reason the Preds don’t have a cup is because of that Weber contract. Philly offered him the world, and they had to match it. Once they unloaded that…well, it’s just a matter of time until they bring home the silver.

    That was back when Philly would offer ANY player or UFA 10 years piles of cash because Philly.

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Fun fact: Poile was the first NHL person (player, coach, or otherwise) I ever interviewed as a sports reporter. I was working a weekly newspaper in the mid-1990s and the Caps drafted a local kid in the first round. A few days after the draft (but right before our deadline), I called the Caps office on a lark to see if Poile would be willing to talk to me and he called me back, like, an hour later. He was very courteous and professional – certainly more than a cub reporter at a little newspaper on the Prairies would have expected. It was pretty cool. My other interview for that story? Barry Trotz, who was Washington’s head coach with their AHL team in Portland, Maine at the time. He called back right away, too.

    Poile’s teams in Washington were almost legendary for not being able to make it out of the first round. They had all kinds of excellent players – Liut, Beaupre, Maruk, Langway, Gustafson, Gartner, Hunter, et al, but they could not get past the Islanders or the Flyers or even the Devils in the 1980s.

    That’s why it seems a bit funny that Poile would ever be mentioned as an “all-time-great” GM along with guys like Sather. Just goes to show what longevity will do for you – and his numbers don’t lie. But let’s not kid ourselves – neither Poile nor Slats own the title of best GM ever. That will forever be Sam Pollock, who pretty much manipulated the league – and two expansion drafts – during his time in Montreal.

  • “Poile’s predators won their first playoff series in 2011, defeating the Canucks in six games, before losing to Anaheim in six games in round two.”

    You have that backwards. The Preds beat the Ducks in 2011, and were offed by the Canucks in six games in round 2 as the Canucks went to the cup finals.