Washington Capitals owner Abe Pollin and President Dick Patrick told General Manager David Poile yesterday morning that his contract will not be renewed, saying "it is time to make a change." They will begin looking for a successor immediately.
Pollin did not make himself available to reporters but released a statement that said: "It is time for a new guiding hand for the Washington Capitals. Our team is prepared to move into a new era, and I feel it is time to make a change. I want to publicly thank David Poile for his 15 years of service."
Poile, 48, compiled a 594-454-132 record with the Capitals. In meeting with the media yesterday afternoon, Poile said his conversation with Pollin and Patrick lasted "about a minute" and that "I never said a word. I just thanked them."
Poile said he was unsure of Pollin's plans for Coach Jim Schoenfeld, who has two years remaining on his contract, although he said Pollin "has always spoken very highly of Jim Schoenfeld and I don't know if there is anything that has happened to change his mind at all."
Whether Schoenfeld stays could be up to the new general manager, just as Poile had discretion over Bryan Murray's position as coach when he was hired on Aug. 30, 1982. But as of yet, Schoenfeld's job security is not an issue, Patrick said.
"There's been no discussion on any changes there," he said when asked about Schoenfeld. "That's not an issue right now in my mind."
Poile's contract was set to expire June 30, and throughout the season, both Pollin and Patrick said Washington's postseason performance would have "an impact" on Poile's job status. Things looked bleak for Poile when the Capitals (33-40-9) failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, but Pollin waited exactly a month, an unusually long period of time for a National Hockey League team, to confirm Poile's fears.
"You think about it all the time -- you're hoping, you're planning," Poile said. "All anyone wants to know is where they stand. Would it have been better 30 days ago? Of course it would have."
Poile said he will start looking for another job, preferably as general manager of another NHL team, and opinion around the league was that he would not be unemployed for long. The St. Louis Blues are actively looking for a new general manager, and several teams may be making managerial changes soon.
"I'm sure there are better things ahead for David Poile," Buffalo Sabres General Manager John Muckler said. "He's done a very good job there, and he's a first-class guy and a very knowledgeable man."
The subject of employment rumors himself, Muckler is already rumored to be on Washington's short list to replace Poile despite the fact that he still holds his position in Buffalo. A public feud with Coach Ted Nolan has made both of their jobs tenuous, but at the moment, league tampering rules dictate that the Capitals would have to seek permission from the Sabres before officially talking to Muckler.
Other hopefuls include Mike Keenan, fired at midseason as coach/general manager of the Blues. Keenan's agent, Rob Campbell, said he planned to call Patrick to put Keenan's name into the running.
"I am sorry about what happened to David because I have always respected him, but I'm definitely interested in the opportunity," Keenan said from Toronto yesterday. "Having coached in New York and Philadelphia, the familiarity of the division would be an advantage, and I understand Mr. Pollin is looking to go in a new direction."
Asked whether he'd be content to be just the general manager and not coach the team, Keenan said, "I'm really wide open in my thinking right now." Keenan was fired in St. Louis after a long confrontation with star winger Brett Hull and a series of controversial personnel decisions.
Yesterday, however, Keenan, who earned $2.5 million a year in St. Louis, said many of those decisions were driven by ownership.
"From my point of view I have made some really astute managerial decisions regarding player personnel, like Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick and Eddie Belfour in Chicago," he said.
While some feel the Capitals will need an experienced hockey person to take the job heading into the new MCI Center, Washington could also choose one of the league's top assistant general managers or scouts, just as it did when it selected Poile, then assistant general manager of the Calgary Flames, in 1982.
Whoever gets the job will be inheriting a very solid organization, Poile said.
"I think I leave with the future firmly in place for the next several years," he said. "I wish everyone associated with the Capitals good luck in the future, and although I hope to be getting another job in hockey, I know I will be cheering for the Capitals." CAPTION: CAPITAL GAINS A CHRONOLOGY OF DAVID POILE'S TENURE AS GM * Aug. 30, 1982: Named Capitals' general manager. * Sept. 9, 1982: Acquired Rod Langway, Doug Jarvis, Craig Laughlin and Brian Engblom from Montreal for Ryan Walter and Rick Green. * April 6, 1983: Capitals participated in playoffs for the first time. * April 7, 1984: Capitals won playoff series for the first time. * June 9, 1984: Selected Kevin Hatcher with first-round draft choice (17th overall). * July 18, 1986: Michal Pivonka arrives in New York after defecting from former Czechoslovakia. * April 18, 1987: Capitals lost Game 7 of first-round playoff series to New York Islanders, 4-3, in four overtimes. * June 13, 1987: Acquired Dale Hunter and Clint Malarchuk from Quebec for Gaetan Duchesne, Alan Haworth and Washington's 1987 first-round draft choice, which Quebec used to pick Joe Sakic. * March 7, 1989: Traded Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy to Minnesota for Dino Ciccarelli and Bob Rouse. * Jan. 15, 1990: Bryan Murray fired as coach, Terry Murray hired. * May 9, 1990: Capitals' best run in the playoffs ended with loss to Boston in Game 4 of Eastern Conference finals. * May 12, 1990: Woman alleged that Ciccarelli, Geoff Courtnall and Neil Sheehy sexually assaulted her. * June 29, 1990: District grand jury chose not to indict Ciccarelli, Courtnall or Sheehy. * July 13, 1990: Traded Courtnall to St. Louis for Peter Zezel and Mike Lalor. * July 16, 1990: Scott Stevens signed with St. Louis as a free agent; Washington received five first-round draft choices as compensation. The Capitals used those picks to take Trevor Halverson (1991), Sergei Gonchar (1992), Brendan Witt (1993), Nolan Baumgartner (1994), Miikka Elomo (1995), to acquire Rob Pearson from Toronto in 1994 for Mike Ridley and to acquire Toronto's 1992 second-round pick used to draft Jim Carey. * June 20, 1992: Traded Ciccarelli to Detroit for Kevin Miller. * Jan. 27, 1994: Terry Murray fired as coach, Jim Schoenfeld hired. * March 21, 1994: Traded Al Iafrate to Boston for Joe Juneau. * Jan. 18, 1995: Traded Kevin Hatcher to Dallas for Mark Tinordi and Rick Mrozik. * March 1, 1997: Traded Jim Carey, Anson Carter and Jason Allison to Boston for Adam Oates, Rick Tocchet and Bill Ranford. * April 12, 1997: Regular season ended with Capitals not in the playoffs for the first time since 1982-83 season. * May 12, 1997: Capitals announced Poile's contract will not be renewed. The team was 594-454-132 under Poile. CAPTION: HUNTER CAPTION: CAREY CAPTION: OATES CAPTION: David Poile, 48, compiled a 594-454-132 record as general manager of the Capitals.