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The Missing Chapter, the Draft, and the Future

Posted By Mark Jasper On Aug 4 2010 @ 11:20 am In Nashville Predators | 1 Comment

He still holds the record for most career hat tricks at his alma mater Northeastern University. He was the team’s captain his senior year, where he led the team in scoring with 37 goals in 23 games. He finished his collegiate career with 82 goals resulting in induction into the Northeastern Athletic Hall of Fame [1]in 1997. Upon graduation in 1971, he went on to score 44 goals/40 assists in his first season in the New England Hockey League.

If you didn’t know anymore about this player, you would assume he went on to achieve some success in the NHL.  You would be partially correct.  David Poile [2] never played another game after the 1971 season playing for the Braintree Hawks in the New England Hockey League.  Instead, he jumped on an opportunity to join the Atlanta Flames in 1972 as an administrative assistant.  Five years later, at age 27, Poile became the assistant General Manager of the Atlanta Flames.  In 1982, Poile took over for the Washington Capitals as Vice President and General Manager where he remained for 15 years.  As General Manager, Poile guided the Capitals to the playoffs 14 years. While Poile was not with the Capitals when they reached the Stanley Cup Finals in1998, his footprint was throught the organization.

It should come as no surprise to fans of the Nashville Predators that David Poile was destined for success in the NHL.  After all, his father, Bud Poile [3] spent 42 years as a player, coach, and executive culminating in his election into the NHL Hall of Fame in 1990.  Stepping in as the General Manager for the expansion Predators in 1997, Poile has done nothing but field a competitive roster year in, year out, regardless of the financial restraints placed upon him.  He has won the Executive of the Year Award, the Lester B. Patrick Award, and sits on the competition committee for the NHL. He ranks 3rd all time in wins as a General Manager in the NHL He was the assistant GM for the 2010 US Olympic Hockey Team that brought home the silver medal.  As David Poile enters his 29th year as a General Manager, he ranks 6th all time in league history for continuous tenure as a GM. 

There is no doubt that David Poile is a brilliant and successful GM.  However, his career lacks the one trait that defines greatness.  Much like players and coaches, winning is the only thing that matters.   David Poile has never won the Stanley Cup and until he does, there will always be a missing chapter in his illustrious career. 

Today, however, we look at the opportunities that slipped away.  Not the games or playoff series that haunt Pred Nation, but the draft picks that could have been. 

For the purposes of evaluating the grade of each year, I will use the following formula:

(# of players making it to the NHL/# of players drafted)*100 = Base Score

1)      I add 10 points to the Base Score for each player drafted lower than the 2rd round that makes it to the NHL and plays more than 50 games.

2)      I subtract 10 points from the Base Score for each player drafted in the first 2 rounds that does not make it to the NHL and play 50 games. 

I capped this analysis at the 2005 draft as players drafted in future years are still developing.  Furthermore, I do not take into account the impact of trades on each year’s draft.  Instead, I focus on the number of players making it to the NHL [4] per draft year.  The additional points added or subtracted reward draft years where lower round picks succeed, and penalize those years where early picks fail.

Year Total Players Drafted Total NHL Players Base Score Bonus Points Final Score
1998 8 3 43% Karlis Skrastins (+10); Denis Arkhipov (+10) 63
1999 15 3 20% Brian Finley (-10); Jonas Anderson (-10); Andrew Hutchenson (-10); Ed Hill (-10); Jan Lasak (-10); Martin Erat (+10) (20)
2000 12 5 42% Daniel Widing (-10) 32
2001 9 4 44% Timofei Shishkanov (-10); Tomas Slovak (-10)Jordin Tootoo (+10) 34
2002 8 3 38% None 38
2003 13 4 31% Konstantin Glazachev (-10) 21
2004 11 4 36% Pekka Rinne (+10) 46
2005 7 5 71% Cody Franson (+10); Patrick Horqvist  (+10) 91

Looking at the table, there are a few years that stand out.  Between 1999 and 2003, Nashville drafted 67 players and only 19 made it to the NHL.  Of those 19 players, only 11 played 50 games, and only 9 of those 11 played for the Predators.  This 5-year stretch represents the low mark in franchise history.  Yes, there were success stories including Martin Erat, Scott Hartnell, and Dan Hamhuis. The 2003 class also included Ryan Suter, Kevin Klien, and Shea Weber.  However, when you consider Nashville drafted 16 players in the first two rounds during this period, only Shea Weber and Ryan Suter stand out as recognizable stars in the league. Only 28% of the draft picks during this period ever dressed in a Predators uniform.

The 2004 draft produced Pekka Rinne. Any draft year that results in a potential franchise goaltender is a good year.

The 2005 draft already has 5 of the 7 players with NHL experience, and with the reacquisition of Ryan Parent, Nashville retains the rights to all 7 players.  Next to the 2003 class of defensemen, the 2005 class of Parent, Laakso, Franson, O’Reilly, Maki, Todd, and Hornqvist ranks a close 2nd.

The 2006 draft included Blake Geoffrion, Mark Dekanich, and Ryan Flynn.  Time will tell whether Dekanich and Flynn make it to the NHL, however, you can argue Geoffrion has done everything a team could ask of a drafted player.  Geoffrion played 4 years at the University of Wisconsin, led them to the national championship game in 2010, and won the Hobey Baker Award as the best collegiate hockey player.  It is just a matter of time before Nashville makes room on their roster for the local prodigy from Brentwood, TN.  It also doesn’t hurt that his family is royalty in the NHL with both his grandfather (“Boom Boom” Geoffrion) and great grandfather (Howie Morenz) previously elected into the NHL Hall of Fame. 

However, the 2007, 2008, and 2009 drafts have Pred Nation licking their chops at the potential talent ready to emerge in the coming years for Nashville.  During this stretch, 26 players were drafted with 3 (Spalding, Thuresson, and Wilson) already with NHL experience.  Jonathan Blum, Chet Piccard, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Zack Budish, Charles-Olivier Roussel, Taylor Beck, and Michael Latta make up the group of young talent with a better than average expectation of making into the NHL in the next 3 years.  The next group, which includes Jeremy Smith, Ryan Thang, Robert Dietrich, Atte Egren, Anders Lindbeck, and Gabriel Bourque, are wildcards whose future will be determined by their development.  If you assume the entire first group and a third of the last group make it to the NHL, it brings the total to 13 of the 26 draft picks.   When you compare the 50% during this 3-year period to the 28% between 1999 and 2003, you realize why the future looks so bright for Nashville. 

All of this brings us back to David Poile.  The first 6 years (1998 – 2003) of the organizations history focused on building credibility as an NHL team.   This period included building the core of the organization including David Legwand, Martin Erat, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and the recently departed Dan Hamhuis.  Unfortunately, this period also highlighted the start of financial issues for the organization and its fan base. 

The next 6 years (2004 -2009) included a work stoppage, the Jim Balsillie and “Boots” del Biagio fiascos, the Alexander Radulov defection, and enough financial issues to make Wall Street cringe.  Fortunately, a group of local business owners [5] stood up for the city and the organization and saved the Predators from financial ruin.   This period introduced Pred Nation to Pekka Rinne, Patrick Hornqvist, Cody Franson, Blake Geoffrion, Jonathan Blum, Colin Wilson, and Ryan Ellis. Furthermore, this period witnessed the Predators making the playoffs in 5 of the 6 years. 

Heading into the 2010 season, the expectations are at an all time high.  The fan base is strong; the ownership group is committed to not only making the playoffs, but also winning the Stanley Cup.  Most importantly, the Predators are fielding one of their most talented rosters in the organizations history.  Moreover, the pipeline of prospects ready to emerge in the next few years is equally as talented.

For David Poile, the next 6 years represent his best opportunity to add the missing chapter to his illustrious career.  He has all the pieces necessary to win the Stanley Cup.  How he manages those pieces determines his ultimate place in history.  Will he promote the right prospects, make the right trades, and retain the talented core players?  If so, his career journey will take him from the Hall of Fame at Northeastern University to a seat next to his farther in the NHL Hall of Fame.

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URLs in this post:

[1] Northeastern Athletic Hall of Fame : http://www.gonu.com/hof.aspx?hof=84&path=&kiosk=

[2] David Poile: http://predators.nhl.com/club/page.htm?bcid=tea_sta_poile

[3] Bud Poile: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bud_Poile

[4] number of players making it to the NHL: http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/draft/teams/dr00007024.html

[5] local business owners: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20100722/NEWS01/7220337/2164/SPORTS02/Predators+buy+Del+Biaggio+s+shares

[6] Subscribe to author's RSS feed: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/author/hockeyguy/feed/

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