After probably his most difficult year of coaching since his first two years with the franchise, Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz and the rest of the coaching staff were given two-year contract extensions.
Trotz, 45, is the second most tenured coach in the NHL with his current, having just completed his 10th season with the Predators. Only Lindy Ruff, coach of the Buffalo Sabres, has stayed with a team longer. Trotz was named coach of the Predators Aug. 6, 1997 and spent a season scouting.
“I’m a big organizational guy,” said David Poile, President of Hockey Operations/General Manager for the Predators. “I make us of everyone on our staff. I’m very proud to be working with every one of these guys.”
Poile talked about what it was like 12 months ago when he was told the team was going to be sold. There were questions of where the franchise would play in the future. Top players like goaltender Tomas Vokoun, forward Scott Hartnell and defenseman Kimmo Timonen were traded. Forwards Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg chose to play with other teams as unrestricted free agents or to sit out part of the season. Still, the Predators prevailed and earned the No. 8 seed on the Western Conference for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I think in many ways Barry and his staff have done possibly their best job this past season,” said Poile. “I really like working with all of the coaches. Barry is a no-nonsense guy. He is an organization guy. He understands and respects my position. He totally understands and accepts my decisions. He believes in himself and his staff and he gets the job done.
“It took a lot of trust early on in the season that we were going to have a good team. I remember when we lost 6-0 at Los Angeles for our sixth straight loss. Our hotel overlooked the ocean. I thought about what it might be like to just start walking toward the ocean and keep on walking. But this team had a lot of resolve and it bounced back.”
Trotz remembers dealing with the media during a Western Canada road trip in February, an experience that wasn’t all that pleasant for him.
“They asked us if we were still around,” Trotz said. “They saw that not only were we still here in Nashville, we were also still in the playoff hunt. That was something our group really identified with. A lot of people didn’t believe in us, but we believed in ourselves.”
Over the past four seasons the Predators have averaged 99.5 points. Trotz has coached in 738 regular season games posting a 324-308-106 record. They earned their fourth straight trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs, exiting in the quarterfinal round for the fourth straight season as well.
Since the 2005-2006 season the Predators rank sixth in the NHL in wins (141) and are second in home wins (83) behind the Detroit Red Wings.
Also receiving extensions were associate head coach Brent Peterson, assistant coach Peter Horachek, goaltending coach Mitch Korn, video coach Robert Bouchard, the members of the scouting department and the rest of the medical and training staff.
“This staff really worked hard this year from the trainers to the assistant coaches,” Trotz said. “Everyone really buckled down.
“I know what the key is. As I go along I speak less. I surround myself with really good people. I don’t have an ego that I have to be front and center everyday. Every year we meet and we change things up. We have grown as a coaching staff and many of our players have grown with us. They trust us. We have a real good culture.”
Watching the young players grow has been one of the most rewarding aspects of his longevity with the Predators.
“I told our players after we lost Sunday to Detroit that I saw some young boys turn into men this season,” Trotz said. “I saw some young men turn into leaders. I saw people in different roles they never thought they would play in. They also found out how far they could be pushed individually and collectively. They responded quite well.”