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Trotz: Poile always forward thinking in Nashville

First Predators coach says GM, who tied Sather for NHL wins record, big reason for his success

by Barry Trotz / Special to NHL.com

Nashville Predators general manager David Poile tied Glen Sather for the most wins (1,319) by an NHL GM on Tuesday. Poile, the Washington Capitals GM from 1982-1997, is the only GM in Predators history. The first coach he hired in Nashville was current Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who shares his thoughts on Poile.

Everything I've done in the game or have been a part of, I owe so much to David Poile.

I first met David when I went to training camp with the Washington Capitals in 1982. I was 20 years old and he had just been named general manager.

I saw Jack Button, who was director of player personnel, up there watching and David sitting with him. I didn't even know who David was. At the end of training camp, I was let go. I went back and played junior with the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League.

A few years later, when I was coaching at the University of Manitoba, I got a phone call from Jack Button and he said, "I'm looking for a part-time scout in the Manitoba area and we'd like to see if you'd be interested in doing some part-time work. We can't pay you much." That's how I got in with the Capitals.

When I went to the 1988 NHL Draft in Montreal, the Capitals asked me if I would be interested in coming on full-time. That was the first time I started to interact with David. The scouts would go out for dinner, David would join the scouts and I got to know David a little bit.

As we went along a little bit more, I got to know David, his wife, Elizabeth, and his family.

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He always was very family oriented. Everything was culturally to do it together. He was meticulous in so many ways. There wasn't a stone left unturned. David and Jack were the type of people who really drove you to get better.

When I became coach of the Capitals' American Hockey League team, I ended up talking to David a lot more. The team moved from Baltimore to Portland, Maine, in 1993 and Jack and David extended my contract, and asked me to be the director of player personnel.

We had great success. We won the Calder Cup that season and we had a great run. When David was let go by the Capitals in 1997, I said to David, "If you latch on somewhere, I'd like to work with you again."

So, when David got the job as the general manager of the Nashville Predators expansion team later that year, he hired me to be their first coach, which was against all traditional rules for expansion teams. He was told, "Get the most experienced coach you can find because it's going to be hell the first year and you won't have much talent." He went the opposite way, which I thank him for that.

In Nashville, we started from the ground up and David included me in everything. When he was talking with other teams in terms of trades, I was on the inside of that. When we were talking to contractors about finishing the rink, we were a big part of that.

We were a big part of hiring every person in there. I wasn't in on the scouts, but I was in on the trainers and all the hockey operations type of people, setting up everything from uniform design to ordering carpet to figuring out where the wives were going to park.

And I got to go and scout the team.

The NHL Expansion Draft rules weren't the same back then as they were for the Vegas Golden Knights this season. It was very difficult. I applaud the NHL for changing the rules and allowing a non-traditional market like Vegas to have a good team. They did a fantastic job. But in those days, everything was new. We had to build one fan at a time.

 

[RELATED: Hartnell: Poile ahead of his time | Poile ties wins record for GM]

 

We did things the Nashville way and I learned so much about the game, the people, setting up, and it was all due to David allowing you to have a say. I learned a lot organizationally about how to run a hockey business from David, and about how to treat people. I think that's David's strength, that he always treats people with a lot of respect.

In this business, you get a lot of pressures at certain times. When the team maybe wasn't going well and everybody was piling on me, David wouldn't only say, "He's got my support," to the press, he'd come down to the locker room and say, "Listen, he's not going anywhere. We fix this here."

Getting support like that meant a lot because sometimes it's easier to scapegoat someone. David was good at recognizing that there's some guys underperforming and it's not necessarily something systematically. He knew teams would sometimes go through tough times and he never panicked.

I think that was from David's experience from being in the game so long, having been in so many situations and being very meticulous and thinking about where he wants to go. You see that there now.

You look at how the Predators are set up. Their core people are all under extremely good contracts. He's done that very meticulously because he's always forward thinking, not reacting.

Anybody who was in Nashville, the one thing they will tell you is they enjoyed it, it was culturally strong, it was very organized and they stretched a dollar as good as anybody. They used to do points per dollar spent and we always were at the top because we had good decision makers and we had a good culture and ran a good program.

That's what made them so successful for so long.

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