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The NHL’s Billy Beane: David Poile’s Wizardry Part 2


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Part one of this three part series dealt with defense and Poile’s ability to plug and play, like a USB adapter, NHL players into the Predators system with moderate to astounding success. The focus of part two is offense, one of the main points of interest when discussing the Nashville Predators and where they stand during the regular season and the playoffs.

In the 2007-2008 AHL season, a player by the name of Joel Ward led the Houston Aeros in goals and points. Ward had an 11 game tryout with the Minnesota Wild the year before but only produced 1 assist in that time span in which Minnesota sent him down to the minors to stay. That is until David Poile brought him to Nashville where Ward had an immediate effect.

In his first season with the Nashville Predators, Joel Ward played in 79 games and posted 17 goals, 18 assists and 35 points. Not a bad move for someone that another NHL squad had seen enough of and sent him down to Houston and a shrewd move by David Poile to see the latent talent just waiting to be utilized.

In the 09-10 season, Poile made another move to get Marcel Goc, a utility player formerly on the San Jose Sharks whose highest output was 22 points in 2005-2006. What the San Jose Sharks weren’t paying attention to was the little things that Poile has a knack for finding in unused talent. In 08-09, Goc was second on the Sharks among highly regarded centers (ahead of Thornton and Pavelski) in Face-off Percentage at 58.2%. Another of Goc’s attributes was staying out of the penalty box with an amazing 18 PIM in 55 games played. This stat shows how much control Goc has in defensive situations by not playing out of position or getting lulled into taking a dumb penalty.

Goc would go onto having his highest production point-wise in his first season with the Nashville Predators with 12 goals, 18 assists and 30 points in 73 games played. Also Goc managed to have only 14PIM for those 73 games and his face-off percentage tailed off slightly at 51.2%, 2nd highest on the Predators behind Smithson.

For the 10-11 season, Poile would make one of his most savvy moves to date picking up a highly talented, but seemingly perplexing player in Sergei Kostitsyn. No one around the NHL could knock the talent that Kostitsyn possessed but after countless spats with the coaching staff in Montreal and being under the microscope of the Canadian media and the shadow of his brother Andrei, Sergei could not break into the top scoring role that many believed he would achieve coming out of junior hockey.

Kostitsyn put up trivial numbers in 09-10 for the Canadiens with 18 points. With only 7 goals in 47 games along with constant benching and trips to the Hamilton Bulldogs (their AHL affiliate) made many in the media think he could not push through as expected and become an elite scorer. Since Kostitsyn and the coaching staff of the Canadiens could not get along, Poile snatched up the younger Kostitsyn for the 10-11 season in a one year, $550,000 contract which was the league minimum and $25,000 less than Wade Belak, the Predators enforcer.

Poile gave Kostitsyn a trial run for that season and it proved to pay huge dividends. What is tantamount in the book “Moneyball” is the fact that you don’t want to buy players, you want to buy runs or in this case goals. Poile was able to do this cheaply on a low risk, high reward scenario that played out as such:

Season | GP | G | A | P | +/-

09-10 | 47 | 7 | 11 | 18 | +4

10-11 77 23 27 50 +10

Now Poile has gone to the well again for the 11-12 season by picking up a very talented forward who has the potential to do great things on the Nashville Predators: Niclas Bergfors.

Throughout the 10-11 season split between Atlanta and Florida, Bergfors would score 12 goals and 24 assists for 36 points. Decent numbers for a player who was bounced around from line to line and team to team. But as Poile delved into some of Bergfors’ other stats, therein lies the true merit for which the Predators GM so highly covets. In 72 games played, Bergfors only committed 4 minor penalties for 8 PIM. He had 48 takeaways (2nd on team) and although his +/- of -9 would assume that he doesn’t play a lick of defense, his Rel. Corsi rating of +12.1 proves otherwise. His points per 60 minutes are also an astounding 1.75 (

It is safe to say that Poile has over and over again taken players that many have scoffed at or thought they would be perennial AHL’ers and brought them into a system that can utilize their strongest attributes for the good of the system. That system is the “Predators way” of hockey where each individual’s talent works as a gear in the machine known as the Nashville Predators to push into the playoffs and above the hockey pundit’s expectations 6 out of the last 7 years.