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


Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

If the novel “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis taught the sports world anything about the tactics and stratagem applied by the Oakland A’s organizations front men Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta, it is that drafting talent is the key ingredient to staying cost effective and productively viable in the below average salary cap status of the Nashville Predators.

It is crucial to stay under the salary cap mid-point to gain the much needed revenue sharing to keep the Predators and the new local ownership group making money while expanding the fan base due to the on-ice product making the playoffs six out of the last seven years.

Many big names in the NHL are cultivated in the first and second rounds of the draft. This is where the more elite and soon-to-be NHL ready players are picked up by teams looking to get younger and better, but for the Nashville Predators, it is later in the draft that many of the now top line talent has been located.

Dating back to 1998, the Nashville Predators have had mostly great success in the first 2 rounds of the NHL draft. Some of the notables up to 2010 are:

David Legwand-1st
Adam Hall-2nd
Scott Hartnell-1st
Dan Hamhuis-1st
Scottie Upshall-1st
Ryan Suter-1st
Kevin Klein-2nd
Shea Weber-2nd
Alexander Radulov-1st
Blake Geoffrion-2nd
Jonathan Blum-1st
Nick Spaling-2nd
Colin Wilson-1st

The only huge bust in the first round was Brian Finley in the 1999 draft drafted 6th overall.

But what many do not realize is that the Predators have found many other staunch contributors much further down in the rounds. Many are still an integral part of the Nashville squad and some are contributing to another NHL team’s success.

Here are some examples:
Karlis Skrastins-1998-Round 9
Martin Erat-1999-Round 7
Jordin Tootoo-2001-Round 4
Alexander Sulzer-2003-Round 3
Pekka Rinne-2004-Round 8
Mike Santorelli-2004-Round 6
Patric Hornqvist-2005-Round 7 (last pick)
Cal O’Reilly-2005-Round 5
Cody Franson-2005-Round 3
Teemu Laakso-2005-Round 3
Mark Dekanich-2006-Round 5
Anders Lindback-2008-Round 7
Mattias Ekholm-2009-Round 4
Craig Smith-2009-Round 4

“Moneyball” teaches that in order to compete with those who are spending to the very top of the salary cap and above and beyond anything the Nashville Predators and those of their ilk can afford, that team’s GM has to play smarter than the rest of the league.

As many fans in and around the Nashville Predators have complained, this also means that when the big name talent on the Predators roster comes up for a new contract and the Predators cannot pay them, that is the moment Poile ships them out for draft picks and prospects to rebuild the farm system and keep a fresh supply of younger, cheaper talent on entry-level contracts to fill these needs.

After this most recent off-season, Poile has done as such to rebuild from the inside many of these needs when players such as Dumont, Sullivan, O’Brien, Goc and many others were not in the GM’s grand scheme. Only time will tell if this was a correct move to go with the youth and through the farm system and cheaper acquisitions such as Bergfors and Hillen.

The proof is in the results and judging by the last six out of seven years, it seems that Poile has modeled the Nashville Predators from a mold that has worked before for another low budget team, the Oakland Athletics.t