Opinion: Nashville’s David Poile Problem

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David Poile is the winningest General Manager in the history of the National Hockey League. He has led the Nashville Predators to a fair level of success, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Poile should be applauded for his time in Nashville, but it is time for the Predators to move on to a new GM.

A year ago, after the Preds were defeated by the Stars in the first round of the playoffs, I wrote an article breaking down Poile’s several previous transactions. To put it bluntly, none have worked as intended.

In the wake of that article, I was called an idiot, told I had no idea what I was talking about and told David Poile is the best GM in hockey.

One year later, the truth is clear. It is time to move on from David Poile. On the ice, the Predators have gotten consistently worse. Since their trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, the Preds have seen their exits from the playoffs consistently come earlier. In 2017, it can be argued the Preds did not deserve to go to the Cup final, as they were the last team to make the playoffs, and instead got hot at the right time.

In 2018, Nashville lost to rival Winnipeg in seven games in the second round.

In 2019, the Predators lost in six games against a Dallas team they were favored to beat.

In 2020, Nashville missed the playoffs entirely when they lost three out of four games against an Arizona Coyotes team that had no realistic shot to make the playoffs before the league shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the ice, the results are unacceptable.  So, who should get the blame? Several people have been scapegoated. For years, this Preds roster has been inconsistent with flashes of greatness mixed with moments of extreme disappointment. In 2019, Kevin Fiala was scapegoated as being one of the causes of the inconsistency. In 2020, Fiala tallied 54 points in 64 games. His more expensive, and older, replacement Mikael Granlund tallied 30.

Perhaps Poile’s most noteworthy and controversial move was trading longtime captain Shea Weber for PK Subban. Subban, who was another scapegoat, was traded away from the Preds in the 2019 offseason, and tallied 18 points and a -21 rating for New Jersey in 2020. Weber scored 36 points with a +8 mark for Montreal.

The powerful Nashville Predators PR machine sold the public on the Subban trade with the addition of star forward Matt Duchene. Duchene was touted as the savior of the Preds fledgling second line, but was largely invisible in the regular season. He tallied 13 goals and 42 points in 66 games. In the bubble, he arguably cost his team game 3 with a silly offsides penalty, and was largely invisible in games 1-3.

Another scapegoat for the Preds was head coach Peter Laviolette. Laviolette was fired midway through the 2019-2020 season after a very slow start for the team. It can be reasonably argued that the change was needed, as Laviolette’s impact was clearly dwindling, but instead of naming an interim and going through a thorough coaching search, Poile hired John Hynes. Hynes has lost 54 more games than he has won in his NHL career. While the team did show some signs of life after the Hynes hire, they quickly fell back into the same habits of inconsistent play.

A general manager should not be expected to get every move right, but at a certain point you have to get one right. I would argue Poile has not decidedly made a correct big move since he traded Martin Erat for Filip Forsberg in 2013.

The Preds hype machine was put behind a player like Eeli Tolvanen in 2018 upon his arrival to the organization. He was touted as the future top-six forward the roster desperately needed, but has been stuck in the AHL since. Players like Philip Tomasino, Alexandre Carrier, and Rem Pitlick have been in Milwaukee while veterans on the Preds roster consistently underperform.

At a certain point, enough is enough. There is a stigma around the Preds that they have been successful, and it is all due to Poile. One run to the Cup Final is not enough success. Losing a round earlier each season is not success. David Poile should be thanked for his years of dedicated service, but it is time to move on.

The time to have a roster for “potential” has come and gone. This team’s cup window slammed shut in Edmonton, and new leadership is exactly what the Nashville Predators need.

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Writer’s note: All stats courtesy of nhl.com