Sport Predators GM Poile on Rinne: 'I don't think it's over'

06:00  13 april  2020
06:00  13 april  2020 Source:   tennessean.com

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David Poile perks up when he hears the name.

He sits a bit more upright in his chair behind his desk in his office at Bridgestone Arena in early March, before this season was suspended indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The only general manager the Predators ever have known nudges his glasses up the bridge of his nose. He leans in a little closer.

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To say Poile is partial to Pekka Rinne, the goalie he drafted in the eight round – 258th overall, for crying out loud – the man who is, without argument, the "face of the franchise for so many years," would be an understatement.

Rinne has played more games, more minutes, has more victories, more shutouts, more playoff wins – more everything than any goalie who's suited up for the franchise.

Mr. Predator

He's started every playoff game – all 89 of them – since 2010.

Rinne also is nearing the end of his storied career, one that has seen him win a Vezina Trophy. One that has seen him help the Predators to their only Stanley Cup Final appearance. One that has seen him named an All-Star three times.

"We know time catches up to all of us, especially in an athlete’s life," Poile says. "He’s been playing very well. He’s had that odd game that hasn’t been so good. I’m predicting if we make the playoffs this year that Pekka’s going to win some big games down the stretch. So I don’t think it’s over."

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The playoffs – heck, everything – is in limbo right now, in what could be Rinne's second-to-last season.

Either way, clearly the clock is ticking on Rinne's career. Clearly, Juuse Saros is the Predators' starter and Rinne the backup.

Juuse is loose

Saros was 6-2-0 with a .948 save percentage and two shutouts in his nine appearances before the pause.

Rinne was on pace for his worst season, statistically, with a 3.17 goals-against average. An .895 save percentage. He'll start fewer games this year than he ever has in a full season in which he didn't miss significant time with injury.

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"There’s a transition," Poile says. "He knew. We knew."

Truth can hurt

Admitting it has been difficult. New Predators coach John Hynes said earlier this season there was no transition going on, despite Saros starting way more games than normal.

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"We talked about it before extending him, how this would be a good ending if he only played two years," Poile continues. "You don’t want to say he can’t play more than that. However it turns out. Yes, we clearly have these talks.

"When it happens I’m sure that it’s hardest on him. It’s probably hard on our fans. They think the world of Pekka and think he’s going to be that brick wall every night and he’s going to make the difference every night, because for 10 or 12 years he’s been the difference every night."

Before the pause, though, Saros had been making the difference most nights.

He had two consecutive shutouts before that streak ended at 181 minutes, 7 seconds. That's the second-longest such streak in franchise history behind Dan Ellis, who went 233:39 without allowing a goal. 

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Saros had stopped 100 consecutive shots.

Rinne said all the right things, as would be expected. He's happy for Saros. He understands he's getting older. He understands Saros has earned the playing time.

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"I totally understand," Rinne said in February. "I'm sure they have some kind of game plan, but at this time of year, we're fighting for our lives here. It's playoff time for us. I'm just trying to be a good teammate, trying to work on my game.

"At the same time, I love watching Juuse do well. Anything that helps the team."

Rinne has helped the team plenty throughout his 14-year career. His biggest highlight, aside from that 2017 Cup run, occurred earlier this season when he scored his first career goal in early January against the Blackhawks, which had always been a goal of his.

Rinne, though, has been hesitant to talk about the "R" word. He knows retirement is inevitable. He knows his time on the ice is finite. 

"I don't want to go that far, talking about retirement, " Rinne said in February. "But yeah, it's clear. I have one more year on my contract. I haven't thought beyond that. But you're right, it's happening. At this point you have to put your priorities right and straight and find a way to still have an impact – if it's outside the ice, on the ice, whatever it is. ... When it's my turn, play better and be able to find my game."

Poile thinks so highly of Rinne that he became the first – and for a long time, only – player in Predators history to be granted a no-movement clause in his contract.

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His play on the ice made the contract worth it in Poile's eyes. 

Not that the Predators were interested in moving him. But he was the rare "untouchable" for Poile, a man who has made more trades than any general manager in the history of the NHL.

Rinne's  demeanor off the ice – where Rinne also has been the face of the franchise – has been a bonus. 

The admiration, though, is a two-way street. Rinne has expressed his gratitude toward Poile for taking a chance on him all those years ago. He said Poile has had a "huge, huge impact" on his career.

"I always felt I've had David’s support," Rinne told The Tennessean last season. "As a player, that’s a huge thing. I’ve been pretty fortunate, really fortunate to be here all my career.

"Over the years I feel like we have a really good relationship. He’s the GM; I’m a player. But I’ve known him for so long, it is a really good relationship. I have the utmost respect toward him."

The feeling is mutual, no matter what happens between now and when Rinne retires.

Reach Paul Skrbina at pskrbina@tennessean.com and follow him on Twitter @PaulSkrbina.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Predators GM David Poile on Pekka Rinne: 'I don't think it's over'

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Rinne, other NHL veterans hope for final shot at Stanley Cup .
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Goaltender Pekka Rinne scratched scoring a goal off his NHL bucket list this season. Winning the Stanley Cup? That remains on the list with the season suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns that next season will be affected, too. Rinne, a three-time All-Star and former Vezina Trophy winner, keeps dreaming about winning his first Cup. “I always dream about winning Stanley Cup, and I don’t mind talking about it publicly,” Rinne said Monday. “And, yeah it is my goal, it is our goal. I’m still hopeful. I’m still positive that we (are) going to get back and back to playing and we have a chance to compete again.

usr: 1
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