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Instant Analysis: Poile A Finalist For 2011 GM of the Year Award

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
-Becomes the first two-time finalist after finishing in the final three for the inaugural award in 2010 -

Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile was recognized by the league today as a finalist for the NHL General Manager of the Year Award. The honor is especially gratifying seeing as it’s voted on by Poile’s peers – awarded by a vote of fellow league General Managers.

“It is a terrific honor, especially because it is awarded by my peers,” Poile said. “It’s something that I always try to appreciate every day; there’s only 30 of these jobs in the whole world, so I know I’m very fortunate to have this job, so I try to do the best I can every day.”

But the recognition is far from surprising and well over-due.

“I believe the success of any organization is dependent totally on the quality of the people in that organization and David Poile has done an absolutely spectacular job for a number of years,” Preds team Chairman Tom Cigarran said. “Our hockey operations are second to none. This year, with the injuries and all the stuff we had going on, what he did to keep young players coming in, finding exactly the right experienced players to join the team, has been truly remarkable. We owe him a debt of gratitude for the team being where it is this year; he and all of our coaches. We think it’s totally appropriate that he be nominated as General Manager of the Year and we’re proud of him and proud of our whole organization.”

The General Manager of the Year Award was added to the league’s post-season honors last season, and Poile was one of the three finalists for that inaugural honor, which ultimately was given to Phoenix’s Don Maloney. Maloney, however, praised Poile’s work, stating that he had include Poile on his ballot, “David Poile always does the most with the least. We all know how dangerous that team always is."

This year Poile again tinkered with the roster; after Dan Hamhuis opted for free agency, Poile filled the hole by acquiring veteran defenseman Shane O’Brien. O’Brien has fit seamlessly into the locker room and has added a physical element on the ice that has made the Preds a difficult match-up for opponents. Sergei Kostitsyn, an addition earlier last summer, has blossomed into a dynamic offensive player.

Nashville went 8-3-3 against the Western Conference’s three division winners, holding a 17-10 points edge in those 14 games.

And then, as the Trade Deadline was approaching, Poile made the bold move to acquire Mike Fisher from the Ottawa Senators.

“We paid a big price in our first-round pick, to get Mike Fisher, but having said that, it was one of the easiest trades we’ve ever made,” Poile said. “We were totally missing that piece in our hockey club, it stood out like a sore thumb from the second game of the season when Matthew Lombardi went down. I’m not sure we’ve ever made a trade that could fit as perfectly as Mike Fisher did to our team.”

The Preds went 15-8-4 after the Fisher Trade to earn the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, despite a spate of injuries to the team – Goc, Sullivan, Suter all were dinged up within a few weeks of the Fisher trade. Through the first six days of the post-season, Fisher is tied for the NHL lead in playoff scoring with five points in three games, including the game-winning goal in Sunday’s Game Three.

Still, the first-round pick is a heavy investment by a team that prides itself on its draft success. Jon Blum, the team’s 2007 first-round pick, has been a key element to the late-season push. Blum made his NHL debut on February 22 and has been a mainstay in the line-up ever since. Nashville’s 2006 second-round pick, Blake Geoffrion, made his NHL debut four days after Blum (February 26) and has solidified the team’s depth at center.

“There are lots of ways to put together a team – free agency, trades, but for us the path we’ve chosen to build our team primarily is through the draft,” Poile said. “And this year we set a franchise record with 19 of our own draftees on roster; you talk about a home grown team. Even though we’re the fifth youngest team in the league, all our guys have been together for several years coming through the system; they all know each other and I think that’s a great way to build a team.”

Poile, quick spread the recognition to his staff, is also appreciative to work from the ownership group and business operations staff.

“When you talk about a General Manager’s award, it’s a reflection on the success the organization is having. Our owners took a big step this past off-season in hiring Jeff Cogen from Dallas and Sean Henry from Tampa Bay, two guys with a lot of experience, two guys who have won a Stanley Cup in southern markets. The business side of our organization has really improved. A number of those things go in to what people look at when they vote; it’s an individual award, but there’s a team that goes behind this and here it starts with my Hockey Operations staff – Paul Fenton my Assistant General Manager and my whole staff.”

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