The United States Hockey Hall of Fame has turned its annual induction ceremonies into a road show - and this year it comes to Nashville. That's right, Music City becomes Hockey City on Dec. 12. And one of the inductees is Predators General Manager David Poile.
He is already established as the GM with the most victories in National Hockey League history. Many things have led to this honor for Poile, but I want to look beyond the numbers and characterize the type of person he is.
Poile is extremely methodical in his approach. He learned from his father, hockey-lifer Bud Poile, and his mentor with the Atlanta/Calgary Flames, Cliff Fletcher. Poile has been running his own teams, beginning with the Washington Capitals in 1982, then moving to start the Predators franchise in 1998.
In Nashville, he knew from the outset that he had to build up a reservoir of assets. If you were to examine the team's expansion draftees, you would understand.
Just over half of the 26 players selected ever played for the Predators. Many of the others were turned into draft picks. Clearly, that June day in 1998 was only the starting point for Poile and the Predators. After the third season, one in which the team finished with 80 points, I spoke with David about the progress of the club and its prospects.
The fourth and fifth seasons were not as good. By the end of 2002-03, the only expansion choices still with the team were Scott Walker and Tomas Vokoun, and the team had yet to make the playoffs.
At that point, the Predators were poised to break out as a team. On Feb. 16, 2004, Poile traded two second-round draft picks to the Chicago Blackhawks for Steve Sullivan, which was a huge part of the team making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time.
So, while methodical as Poile appears, he had a history as someone who is not afraid to make a move. He has been incredibly decisive with those, from his first days in Washington to his time here.
But, in the season wrap-up media conference, we saw the humanity of Poile as he spoke of Brent Peterson's health situation:
Poile built a family atmosphere into the culture of the Predators from the earliest days of the franchise, and that was so evident in his voice and his comments that day.
Nashville then went to the postseason in four straight seasons, took a year off, then made it another three consecutively.
Following the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the Predators had the fourth pick in the NHL Draft. Heading into it, one year after losing Ryan Suter in free agency, Poile knew exactly whom he would select if he had the chance.
Very few draft observers thought that Seth Jones would last that long, but three forwards (Nathan MacKinnon to Colorado; Alexander Barkov to Florida, and Jonathan Drouin to Tampa Bay) went 1-2-3, so David was able to make his pick.
The 2013-14 campaign turned out to be a very difficult season. Pekka Rinne came down with an infection in his post-operative hip and was able to play in only 24 games. The team finished 19th overall in the NHL standings, so Poile felt he had to make a coaching change:
Again, he demonstrated his humanity while making such a difficult decision.
As determined as Poile had been to get Jones three years before, the young defenseman had not been able to break into the team's top two pairings (Shea Weber and Roman Josi on the first pair, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis on the second). Therefore, he demonstrated his ability to move on from his original plan.
With the team in need of a big first-line center, Poile found a trading partner in January of 2016. After 199 games with Nashville, Jones became a Columbus Blue Jacket, and Ryan Johansen came to Nashville. That allowed Mike Fisher, Mike Ribeiro and Paul Gaustad to play more to their strengths. Afterward, the Predators made it to the second round of the postseason for the second time, splitting their first two Game 7s, winning in Anaheim, losing in San Jose.
All of that set into motion what would take the Predators to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final and into the current period of high expectations. All of this has been the responsibility of David Poile - shrewd, calculating, a planner and a "hockey is a family" guy.