So Barry Trotz is out as the Nashville Predators’ head coach after 15 seasons at the helm, the longest-tenured coach in the league finally paying the price for two consecutive playoffs absences. What Trotz could have done differently to keep Pekka Rinne healthy is a question for another day, but the overriding sense was that the Predators were going to make a coaching move after this year unless they miracle playoff run.
The name most closely linked to Nashville is that of former Philadelphia Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette, with whom David Poile, the Nashville Predators’ president of hockey operations and general manager, has a good relationship with through their USA Hockey backgrounds.
Trotz immediately goes to the top of the list of possible replacement for other teams that did not immediately fire coaches Monday morning. Could he be a fit in Vancouver, for example, if the Canucks ultimately decide to part ways with John Tortorella? Trotz has all of Tortorella’s experience, but a far greater ability to work with players and get the most out of them. If the plan in Vancouver is to retool rather than rebuild and hope the Sedins bounce back in a meaningful way, then Trotz could be a good choice.
Generally, Nashville has played a style of hockey that heavily emphasizes defence throughout Trotz’s career, but they also play fast and they forecheck hard. And Trotz has that so-hard-to-identify intangible that you need to coach players in this era – the ability to be tough when needed, but he can also be disarming with them as well. Most Nashville players – and the Canucks’ Dan Hamhuis got a long look at Trotz during the first six years of his career, when he played for the Predators – enjoyed the experience of playing for him.
Geographically, the best fit for Trotz might be Winnipeg, where Paul Maurice has indicated that he wants to be back coaching the Jets next year, provided his family is aboard with the decision. Put the odds at 80-20 then that Maurice will be their choice. If Maurice decides not to return, then Trotz – who was born in Winnipeg – would be a wonderful alternative. Trotz, Lindy Ruff and Toe Blake are the only three coaches in NHL history to win 500 games while coaching just a single team. Ruff, who did with the Buffalo Sabres, was fired in the middle of the 2012-13 season, landed on his team in Dallas, and this year, led the Stars to their first playoff spot in six years. Sometimes, good career coaches just need a change of scenery, to join a team where the message seems fresh and not forced.
So that leads us to Toronto, where the Maple Leafs are expected to part ways with Randy Carlyle once Brendan Shanahan settles in as president of the team. Could Trotz be the answer in Toronto? Much of the criticism of Carlyle’s Leaf centred on the fact that collectively they didn’t have a clue defensively. Trotz’s Predators have, for the most part, had the opposite problem – unable to produce enough scoring to win games (or at least until the end of this year, when it didn’t matter much anymore).
Toronto tends to eat up players and coaches alike, in addition to all his coaching skills, Trotz is both charming and disarming, two traits that work well in the dressing room and play really well in public. There is no discernible connection between Shanahan and Trotz, so it would take a leap of faith for the Leafs to venture outside their comfort zone to hire a new coach. Most believe that Peter DeBoer might have been a candidate if he wasn’t well down the street of signing an extension with New Jersey.
And of course, at the age of 51, Trotz will have to want to continue coaching in the NHL. The Predators have offered him a position in the hockey operations department, but he will weigh his options before committing. Chances are, he will want to coach again and two of the most attractive jobs in hockey – Vancouver’s and Toronto’s – could come open in the next little while. It will be interesting to see if he lands one job or the other, and then how that might then play out.
The following is the official Predators’ statement about Trotz’s dismissal from GM David Poile: “Our organization has high expectations and we have not met them in the past two seasons. As a result, it is my decision and determination that we need a new voice and a new direction. Our change in direction began over a year ago as we have made several personnel changes, including trading of long-time veteran players and a change to our coaching staff last off-season. Our goal is to return to the playoffs with the ultimate goal of contending for the Stanley Cup. We know that once we get into the playoffs, anything is possible.
“I also want to thank Barry for everything he has done for our franchise. He has been the face and voice of our team for 15 years. He created, developed and lived The Predator Way – on the ice, in the office and in the community. There could be no finer ambassador for the Predators or Nashville than Barry Trotz. He has laid a foundation and culture that will benefit the next coach of the Nashville Predators.”
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