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More than two decades ago, the Leafs nearly made a move that would have drastically changed the course of the franchise

Published March 30, 2023 at 8:10
BY DEAN CHAUDHRY

David Poile will forever go down in the history books as the architect of the Nashville Predators and he will very likely be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The 73-year-old Toronto-native took over as General Manager of the newly-minted Predators in 1997 and has been with the franchise ever since, spanning a tenure of 26 years.

He became the most successful general manager in NHL history in 2018 after collecting his 1,320th victory. However, the story could have been completely flipped had Poile taken the very same job, but for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Speaking with Frank Seravalli, Poile mentioned how he was offered the general manager's position in 1997 from the Maple Leafs but decided to go a different route - following in his father's footsteps - putting his fingerprints on an expansion team.

His father, Bud Poile, was the general manager for 2 expansion clubs in the Philadelphia Flyers (1967) and the Vancouver Canucks (1970). That alone was the driving force behind David's decision because he saw first-hand what it was like to build a team from the ground up. He wanted to get his fingerprints over the makeup of a team and it was a special moment for a variety of reasons.


Ironically, Bud Poile wasn't too keen on the decision that his son ended up making and a part of that was because he was a member of the Maple Leafs at the time as well. The job of an expansion general manager at that time was very difficult because they weren't given the same foundation as teams like Vegas and Seattle got.

He essentially questioned him with "Nashville, really?"

"Just the existing franchise... just the trials and tribulations of an expansion franchise, even in his own experiences, he didn't last that long in either of those jobs because teams aren't very good and go through a number of general managers, coaches, the players... because how the draft was at that time... they don't last that long, you aren't given players like Vegas and Seattle. I understood that but that's what I wanted to do and I am so happy that I did that and it probably fit my personality really well... I've been here for 26 years, if I went to a another franchise, I don't think that would've happened."

Nashville's first 5 seasons went as expected, missing the post-season in all of them and only crossing 30+ wins once. From the 2003-04 season onward, they ended up qualifying for the playoffs 14 times of the following 17 seasons, including the last 8. Even after selling at the trade deadline, the Predators sit 3 back of the Winnipeg Jets for the final Wild Card spot, while also holding 2 games in hand.

Poile announced in late February that he would be retiring and in his stead came the first ever head coach of the Predators, Barry Trotz. He had yet to take up a new coaching gig because many believed because he was looking to step into a front office position. Sounds like a match made in heaven for the all-time winningest coach in franchise history.

Nashville has been an excellent example of a successfully-run franchise and a lot of that has to do with David Poile. As he said himself, it would have been very unlikely that wherever he ended up going - whether Toronto or else where - that he wouldn't have lasted 26 years. In a very unprecedented move, especially in modern hockey, he remained in the hot seat for close to 3 decades - something not many people can say.

The Leafs hired Ken Dryden to be their General Manager after Poile went to Nashville. He lasted 2 seasons before Pat Quinn, John Ferguson Jr, Cliff Fletcher, Brian Burke, Dave Nonis, Lou Lamoriello, and Kyle Dubas each had their crack at the whip - at the while, Poile was in Nashville.

POLL
March 30   |   120 answers
More than two decades ago, the Leafs nearly made a move that would have drastically changed the course of the franchise

Do you think the Leafs would have made a Stanley Cup Final under GM David Poile in the last 26 years had he chosen Toronto over Nashville?

Yes6150.8 %
No5949.2 %
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