David Poile's shrewd decision to keep Predators together through tough stretch pays off
Nashville Predators general manager David Poile concedes this season has been difficult for various reasons.
But the ride the Preds (31-23-2) are currently on, heading into the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes, has been a breath of fresh air for an organization that just a few months ago was languishing in disappointment.
"Whatever I thought the season was going to be, if I was writing a book, I would be doing a lot of editing because so many things changed," Poile said Friday. "The pandemic, COVID threw a wrench to us right away during training camp. We've had seven or eight babies born on our team this year that was certainly a lot. The poor start that we had."
The opportunity to dismantle the roster and rebuild was a decision Poile faced prior to the trade deadline last month. The Preds struggled from the start of the season in January through the second week of March but turned it around with four weeks of play that saw the Preds win 14 of 16 games.
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Poile's patience proved shrewd allowing players such as Alexandre Carrier, Luke Kunin and Dante Fabbro to find their roles, build depth and develop chemistry. It has the organization back in the playoffs for the seventh straight year. Game 1 will be at 7 p.m. Monday in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Internal discussions earlier in the season centered around the future of the organization, Poile said. Those talks never materialized in significant roster moves as Nashville won 19 of its last 27 games. But they did give Poile an idea of how he'll shape the roster when the season ends, including allowing Juuse Saros to flourish as the No.1 goalie.
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"A lot of those things served a good purpose as it turns out, thankfully, for the rest of this year to get us into the playoffs but it also gave us a little more clarity for our lineup and who can play for us next year as we move on," Poile said.
In the short term, the focus shifts to next week's playoff series with the Hurricanes. The Predators are 2-5-1 against Carolina this season but have won two straight, including a 5-0 shutout Monday to end the regular season.
Both Poile and coach John Hynes talked briefly about settling on a lineup to take advantage of the Preds' momentum.
"Every guy that's been here has contributed to us being in this position," Hynes said. "I don't anticipate the lineup stays the same every game. Just because you win doesn't mean we'll stick with that same lineup. We've got to have everybody clicking on all cylinders, playing to their identity. That's how you have to go about making your decisions."
Reach sports writer George Robinson at email@example.com or (931) 245-0747 and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.