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Team Architect Poile Savors Preds First Trip to Conference Final

At the Helm of the Predators Since Day One, General Manager David Poile has Shaped Team into a Contender

by John Glennon @glennonsports / glennonsports@gmail.com

Predators advance to first WCF

Preds oust Blues in six games, advance to first WCF

The Predators defeat the Blues in six games to reach the Western Conference Final for the first time in franchise history

  • 03:05 •

In his box high above the Bridgestone Arena ice, Predators General Manager David Poile allowed himself a rare premature celebration on Sunday afternoon.

When Calle Jarnkrok scored an empty-net goal to give the Predators a 3-1 lead over the Blues, even Poile could relax, secure in the knowledge that - though 60 seconds remained in the game - the Preds had earned their first trip to the Western Conference Final.

So, bear hugs and high-fives were exchanged by a group that also included Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton, Pro Scout Nick Beverley, Director of Hockey Operations Brian Poile, and Manager of Hockey Operations Brandon Walker, among others.

"That was a pretty good moment," David Poile said. "We sit up there every night and go through a lot of emotions - high and low. So that was a really good feeling."

As much as players and coaches are the focus of playoff achievements, it's impossible to overlook the significance of Sunday's breakthrough for Poile. He built this franchise's first team nearly two decades ago, kept it strong through some lean financial years and has helped turn it into one of the League's most consistent playoff participants.

But as successful as Poile has been in producing playoff teams - he guided Washington into the postseason in 14 of 15 years there, and Nashville has reached the promised land in 10 of the past 13 years - lengthy stays have proven more challenging.

The Capitals advanced as far as the Eastern Conference Final once during his tenure and the Predators smashed through the second-round barrier for the first time on Sunday.

Beating the Blues at Bridgestone in the clincher offered a huge contrast to the Predators' final game last year, when a Preds team that was exhausted by two-straight, seven-games series against West Coast teams, fell to San Jose.

"Were all the circumstances equal or fair?" Poile said. "That's hard to say. But I think you just have to keep moving forward. All that really matters is the present."

Indeed, Poile's personnel moves the last few years have played a huge role in the Predators' playoff success this season, one that's seen the eighth-seeded Preds stun favored Chicago and St. Louis:

  • Forward Filip Forsberg, acquired by Poile in a trade for aging Martin Erat four years ago, has piled up eight playoff points, tied for second on the team.

  • Defenseman P.K. Subban, acquired by Poile in a blockbuster trade for former team captain Shea Weber, has totaled seven playoff points, tied for fourth-best among all NHL blueliners. He and fellow defenseman Mattias Ekholm have turned into a shutdown pairing, one of the reasons the Preds have a League-low goals against average of just 1.40.

  • Center Ryan Johansen, acquired by Poile in another daring trade of former first-rounder Seth Jones, is tied for first on the team with nine playoff points. It was Johansen's slick deke and score in the third period Sunday that provided the series-winning goal, exactly the kind of big moment Poile had anticipated when adding a first-line center.

  • Even the Preds' final empty-netter could be traced to a Poile trade, as he acquired Jarnkrok for David Legwand three years ago.   

"I saw [Poile] right after the game, and you could see his expressions and emotions pretty clearly," Preds goalie Pekka Rinne said. "It was a pretty big moment for him.

"He's been here for a long, long time. He's done a great job, and obviously it's a job where you have to be willing to take a lot of heat. I couldn't do that. But for him, it's great to be in this position."

In the moments after Sunday's win, a part of Poile - always the planner - had already started to look ahead, discussing the typical questions with his coaching staff: When will the next series start against Anaheim or Edmonton? When will the team resume practicing? What day will the team fly out to continue its postseason journey?

"I'm still digesting all this," Poile said. "It's funny in this business. You already find yourself looking ahead. We don't want this to be the end for us."

Video: Preds celebrate berth into Western Conference Final

Still, with the Predators' 55th consecutive sell-out crowd standing and roaring its approval, and with thousands of jubilant fans swarming around the outside of Bridgestone Arena, Poile wasn't about to downplay the history-making moment.

The Predators, for the first time ever, had advanced to the NHL's final four.

"It's great for us to be winning because it seems like we're bringing the whole town together, which is cool," Poile said. "You can see that with our fans and the support we've been getting.

"I think it's all good for our city, for our community and of course, selfishly, for [the franchise] as well. This is what we do."

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