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Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber demanded changes late in their non-playoff campaign, and the most anticipated one has arrived: Barry Trotz, the only coach the franchise has known, will not be back next season, sources tell the Tennessean.
Whether the Predators had injury-plagued seasons or lost key players because the franchise couldn't or wouldn't pay up to re-sign them at premium dollar, Trotz kept them competitive, making the playoffs during a stretch of seven of eight seasons from 2003-04 through 2011-12. He was lauded for his ability to do more with less.
(UPDATE: The Predators have made it official and have offered Trotz a position within the team's hockey operations department.)
Still, there were shortcomings. For one, the Predators were unable to develop a true scoring forward under Trotz. The one player with that type of talent – Alexander Radulov – clashed with the coach, and bolted to the Kontinental Hockey League twice. There have always been questions about Trotz's defense-first mentality and his difficulties coaching offense, which seemed a perennial issue with the Predators.
Then again, having a roster absent offensive talent has also been an issue …
The bottom line for the Predators is that they’ve spent consecutive seasons outside the playoffs with an offense that’s looked positively moribund. The momentum of fan enthusiasm the team expertly harvested after three straight playoff appearances had slowed. Something needed to be done to jolt the heart of this franchise, and the decision to jettison the only coach it’s known is that jolt.
Where do the Predators turn? Phil Housley, an assistant coach, would be an interesting choice and would fit with GM David Poile’s USA Hockey pedigree. So would former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, former Leafs coach Ron Wilson and, if available, John Tortorella. But Nashville might be better to go young, new and unknown as they rebuild to a contender.
As for Trotz, a second chance won’t be long for him. He’s extremely well liked, respected and his name carries cache with fans that appreciate what he’s done in Nashville with a rather empty toy chest.
Trotz was the perfect coach for an expansion franchise: Able to squeeze out winning seasons despite financial constraints; able to produce a team that was a pain in the ass to play; and growing with the roster until its maturity, turning the Predators into a playoff team in seven of eight seasons from 2004-2012.
Now the attention turns to the only GM the team’s even known, David Poile, to turn their fortunes around.
That pressure extends from naming the next coach through acquiring the necessary talent to compete in the West. This is a roster filled with role players and pluggers up front. It’s like having an arsenal of handguns when everyone else is bringing rocket launchers to the fight. What he does with this roster will determine their return to success more than whoever takes over behind the bench.
It’s hard to imagine the Nashville Predators without Barry Trotz. We won't have to imagine any longer come next season.