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The NHL’s Billy Beane: David Poile’s Wizardry Part One


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Much acclaim and adulation has been bestowed upon the general manager of the Nashville Predators David Poile…and for good reason. Every season, Poile seems to find the diamond in the rough and catch lightning in a bottle time and time again. Some wonder if it’s because of the amazing scouting and draft prospects that Poile highly covets. Some would say it’s an ability to get something for nothing like his moves to bring in talent with players that are already halfway out the door. One needs to only look up “shrewd” in the dictionary to see a perfect definition for David Poile and how he has taken a cash-strapped Nashville Predators team into a perennial playoff bound hockey club six out of the last seven years.

The focus of this article will be on defensive measures that Poile has brought in during the off-seasons over the last three years to help the Nashville Predators.

When the Predators picked up Francis Bouillon from the Canadiens in the 08-09 season, many were perplexed as to why Poile would go after such a small in stature defenseman such as Bouillon. What Bouillon lacked in size, he more than made up for in grit, determination and an uncanny ability to punish opposing players. He could also chip in timely goals by not taking too many low-quality shots on net. His shooting percentage the year before coming to the Predators was 9.8% which was the highest for a defenseman in Montreal and tied Nashville’s highest percentage that season. His Corsi rating against Quality Competition was a +.063 which made him the only defenseman for the Canadiens with a positive Corsi rating. He also pummeled opponents with 122 hits, 2nd on Montreal for a defenseman. All in all, Poile made a great decision to bring in some veteran experience on defense in Bouillon and his numbers show that Poile was looking for that special combination of toughness and offensive pop that are the cornerstone of the Predators defensive core.

Next is Shane O’Brien. In the 09-10 season in Vancouver, Shane O’Brien posted the second highest plus/minus rating for defensemen at +15, which would have tied the Predators top plus/minus for a defenseman that same season. O’Brien was also second on the Canucks in hits with 112 which would have him 4th on the Predators that season. Playing at least 50 games that season also has him with the least amount of giveaways with 24. On the downside, O’Brien was third on the Canucks in penalty minutes for a defenseman with 79. His contributions in Nashville came on the PK with the second most short-handed time on ice and dishing out more hits with 164.

Jack Hillen has been brought in this year to add some much needed help to a depleted and inexperienced defense. With Jonathan Blum being the fourth most experienced defenseman before this acquisition, Poile brought in Hillen to help advance the Predators defensive system. Poile used numbers again to find the most talent for the least amount (1 year-$650,000). While with the Islanders, Hillen was able to produce 22 points, 137 blocked shots, and have 39 takeaways. Those numbers would have been good for 4th, 2nd, and 2nd (respectively) among Nashville Predators defensemen. Hillen was also on the ice for 55 of the New York Islanders 229 goals, which is about 25% of their goal total.

David Poile over this past off-season has earned a lot of ire from the loyal fans of the Nashville Predators for his hands-off approach to the needs of the franchise. The proof of Poile’s master plan will be revealed further into the season when his so-called “lackluster” deals pan out to help build the system in which the front office and Head Coach Barry Trotz will utilize their individual talents to connect the pieces to the whole. By doing these small but effective moves, Poile can not only save money to keep the core intact, he can also only bring in the key cogs that help further along the defensive and cohesive machine which is the Nashville Predators.