The Nashville Predators went nearly 20 years without a player winning a major NHL award. Then in the last three seasons, they’ve taken home two of the toughest trophies in the sport.

First, Pekka Rinne won the Vezina Trophy in 2018, dominating the league from start to finish and pushing the Preds to a Presidents’ Trophy.

Then on Monday, Roman Josi won the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the league, collecting 109 first place votes in a contest that wasn’t even all that close.

One award winning player is impressive. Two award winning players is a trend.

But given the current state of the Nashville Predators, is this success indicative of David Poile’s ability as a general manager?

David Poile missteps have led to Preds’ decline

Consider the facts here.

Since the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, the Predators have fallen further and further out of the playoff picture each year, most recently not even qualifying for the playoffs this past August. There are a lot of reasons for this decline. Two big ones are poor free agent investments and miscalculated roster decisions by David Poile.

The Preds have spent the most money in franchise history over the past four seasons in trying to build a championship caliber team since 2017, throwing money at the problem instead of trying to build a team organically. First, in the summer of 2017, he gave Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson a combined $93 million in contract value. Those contracts have paid off in part because of Arvidsson’s consistent goal scoring, but Johansen still lacks the production to live up to the $8 million per year he’s owed.

That summer Poile also signed Nick Bonino for $16 million over four years. Bonino was not worth the $4 million he made in 2017 and 2018, but was extremely valuable in 2019 and seems to have found a nice role. Call that contract a wash at this point.

Then Poile gave Kyle Turris $36 million in a sign and trade (not technically a free agent signing, but the closest thing to it) in November 2017, which has been a veritable disaster. The contract is virtually unloadable and Turris is frequently a reason why the Nashville Predators have no punch outside of their top line.

Next comes the Roman Josi contract, worth a total of $72 million over eight years. No debate here: Poile had to make this deal and Josi’s been worth every penny. Monday was merely the result of what we’ve already seen over the last decade: Roman Josi is one of the best defensemen in the NHL.

Then there’s the Matt Duchene signing, which is not off to a good start. Owing another $48 million to a 40-point top line center is not a way to win championships. Duchene could bounce back next year and return to form, or he could continue to tread water as an under performing star.

That’s a total of $273 million in total contract value given to just six players since 2017. With that money, Poile has collected one President’s Trophy and exactly one playoff series win in three seasons.

And don’t forget the questionable trades Poile’s made since 2017. The Mikael Granlund for Kevin Fiala trade is looking like it might be his worst ever. Acquiring Wayne Simmonds for a 2nd round pick and Ryan Hartman was a mistake, especially when they could have acquired someone like Kevin Hayes for the same price. It also looks like they will lose Craig Smith (and Granlund) for nothing this summer.

Josi’s Norris is great, but it doesn’t save Poile

Roman Josi’s success is undeniable. He was clearly the Preds’ best player this past season, putting up a team leading 65 points and playing a team leading 25:47 per game. He deserved the Norris Trophy and Preds fans should be proud of him for finally getting one.

But David Poile is not off the hook.

No one else is more responsible for the decline of the Nashville Predators since 2017. It’s his roster moves and his decisions that have led to the current situation, including the coaching disaster in early 2019 and the lack of an identity for new coach John Hynes to take over. He builds the team, he signs the coaches, he directs the flow of talent. Right now, none of those things are in sync.

There is a huge gap of talent and success between the Predators and the rest of the Central Division, too. The St. Louis Blues just took home their first Stanley Cup. The Dallas Stars are on the verge of winning their 2nd Cup, though they have to overcome a tough Lightning team to do it. The Colorado Avalanche are incredibly good and incredibly young as well, so they’ll be competing for a long time. The Minnesota Wild have rediscovered their mojo behind former Preds’ winger Kevin Fiala. Even the Blackhawks have returned to a dangerous offensive team, though I don’t think they can hold onto that for too much longer.

How will David Poile fix this Nashville Predators team? How can he shrink the competitive gap between the Preds and the rest of the division? How can he rescue the team from the salary cap mess he’s gotten them in?

One Norris Trophy win won’t solve it.

David Poile, while still the winningest GM in hockey history and only three years removed from being name the top GM in the league, will need a lot more than the success of Roman Josi to save him from the hot seat.

— Featured image via Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports —
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