Barry Trotz figures all that is left is for him to be fired.
Given that his Nashville Predators were one of four Western Conference teams with at least 20 points at the start of play Wednesday and that they defeated the Detroit Red Wings in overtime a night earlier, that is not likely to happen any time soon.
The Buffalo Sabres have not fared nearly as well this season, which is why Lindy Ruff was fired Wednesday afternoon.
Ruff was hired July 21, 1997, two weeks before Nashville settled on Trotz. His ouster makes Trotz the longest tenured coach in the National Hockey League and second only to Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs (NBA) among the major North American professional sports leagues.
“It seems weird that I’m the guy that’s now the longest in the league,” Trotz said. “I guess I’m next. I don’t know.”
The Sabres had lost 11 of their last 15 games and at 6-10-1 were last in the Northeast Division. Ruff’s team won the division as recently as 2009-10, made the Eastern Conference finals four times and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals once, in 1999 when they lost to the Dallas Stars.
Buffalo’s last postseason series victory, however, was 1997.
“I was asked, ‘What’s the secret of your longevity?’” Trotz said. “And I just said, ‘Having good people and an organization round you that doesn’t panic.’ That’s probably one of them.”
Nashville has made the playoffs seven times in the last eight seasons and advanced to the second round in each of the last two. His career record is 511-428-84 with 60 ties from the pre-shootout era.
He is 15th among all-time NHL coaches in wins and fourth for wins with a single franchise.
“It’s a great honor for Trotzie,” right wing Martin Erat said. “He’s been a really good coach for this organization for a long time. And I hope he’s going to be here for another decade.”
Trotz and Ruff are friends who have faced each other 15 times as NHL head coaches. Each won seven and they tied once (3-3, Oct. 16, 2001 at Buffalo).
“I don’t feel anything, really,” Trotz said of his new status. “I feel sad that a good man lost his job. … He’s a tremendous coach. Great communicator. I don’t think he’ll be out of a job very long.
“I don’t know any of the situation in Buffalo. Probably the expectations are extremely high the last couple years with the new ownership and all that. He’s a good hockey guy.”
For right now, though, he’s not a hockey coach, and that makes Trotz the current standard for stability in the field.
• Briefly: Center Paul Gaustad is likely to miss at least the next two games but the upper body injury that caused him to miss the victory over Detroit. “It won’t be long-term,” Trotz said. “I would think these [next] two games probably. It’s not like it’s going to be six weeks or anything.” … Goalie Pekka Rinne was not at practice Wednesday. He was home with an illness. … Right wing Rich Clune was fined $1,452.70 for a boarding penalty he committed in the first period of Monday’s game at Colorado. The fine, 50 percent of his daily salary, was the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement for Clune, who was classified as a first-time offender.