Centuries ago a wise man once coined the phrase, ‘patience is a virtue.’ And boy, has David Poile had to have a lot of it over his tenure with the Nashville Predators.
First he had to wait on this expansion franchise to clinch a playoff berth. Six seasons into their existence, the Predators snuck into the postseason in 2004.
Then he had to wait out a messy ownership situation – which is now resolved – that handcuffed his ability to do much else other than draft and develop, rinse and repeat.
Then he had to wait for the team he has carefully, strategically put together, win its first playoff series. With much glee from his perch high atop Smashville he watched his first draft pick with the organization, David Legwand, seal the series against Anaheim.
Then he had to wait on the prodigal son, Alexander Radulov, to come home. Somehow, someway, Poile’s hair isn’t gray after countless twists, turns and conversations with ‘Rads’ over the last four years. Heck, I don’t know how his hair isn’t gray after the last two weeks.
Poile finally saw the whites of Radulov’s eyes in the Music City on Tuesday night. As the Predators finished up their home contest against the Edmonton Oilers, Poile drove to the airport to pick up Radulov himself. They hugged.
Check off another long wait off Poile’s checklist.
“There was a daily anxious moment because of things totally out of our control; I didn’t really what and was not accurate,” Poile said to a group of reporters yesterday morning.
“I always said from the outset that he was going to come back here. I knew he was always going to come back. … We drafted him, signed him. He wanted to play so badly in the NHL, it flabbergasted me that he left to play in the KHL to start with.”
Wednesday’s press conference where the Predators re-introduced Radulov was one Poile had been waiting to be a part of for quite some time. You could sense the excitement from the longtime GM. He may not have worn a smile on his face throughout the entire 18-minute conference, but he was joyous that Radulov, a world-class forward and dynamic talent, was finally back.
Many wonder if there are still hard feelings for the way Radulov originally left the team. Poile is over it, as are the players that are still around from 2008.
“Everyone makes decisions based on themselves. He felt that was the best decision for him and you can’t fault him,” said Ryan Suter, one of Radulov’s better friends from the Predators team four years ago.
A main reason why the team has welcomed Radulov back with open arms is the opportunity they see this spring. This Predators team is good enough to represent a Murderer’s Row-like Western Conference in the Stanley Cup final. With Radulov back in the fold, can they win it all? Yes. As Poile learned with Peter Forsberg, though, nothing is guaranteed.
Most would say Poile has moved all of his chips to the center of the table to win in the playoffs now. It’s hard to disagree.
Poile, who recently moved into second place among games managed by GM’s in NHL history, treats draft picks like gold and he traded away three of value – including a first-round pick – at the trade deadline. With the uncertain future of star defensemen Suter and Shea Weber, it’s also hard to disagree with Poile’s approach. He has to go for it.
Thirteen players on the current roster, including Radulov, don’t have a contract for next year. To say the least, Poile’s work is cut out for him. This off-season (and postseason) could very well define his tenure with the Predators. If he doesn’t have one gray hair by the time July rolls around, I don’t know if he ever will.
Said Poile of the task at hand this summer, “That’s the job; it’s going to be very difficult.”
But the future is not the main focus here.
No one wants to win a Stanley Cup more than Poile, who first started out as an NHL general manager in 1982. His eyes are on the prize, and he so desperately wants to lift the 35 pounds of glory over his head for the first time.
He’s waited long enough.