Peter Horachek already had plenty of reasons to think he made the wrong choice.
A decade ago he decided to give up his role of head coach with the Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate to become an NHL assistant with the franchise. The idea was that it would be easier to get a job as an NHL head coach if he already was in the league.
Then he watched as one Milwaukee Admirals coach after another got that opportunity — more than once, in some cases — while he got only as high as Nashville’s No. 2 man.
Claude Noel, his successor with the Admirals, was the interim coach at Columbus in the latter part of 2009-10 and has been the man for Atlanta/Winnipeg the last two seasons. Todd Richards, Horachek’s assistant during his one season with the Admirals, has guided Minnesota and Columbus for two seasons each. Then came Kirk Muller, who was an NHL assistant before he took over at Milwaukee, where he coached just 17 games before the Carolina Hurricanes made him their guy.
Sure, Horachek got some looks. Last year he interviewed with Calgary and the previous summer he talked to both Dallas and Florida. The Stars, in fact, offered him a job as their AHL coach when they decided to promote their guy to the same job in the NHL.
Through it all, he not only stayed put, he remained passionate and loyal, always on message. He even became something of a fan favorite because his emotions so obviously were on display every time he did a television interview between periods.
Now, though, there can be no doubt that he erred when he decided to cast his lot with the Predators, a franchise that heretofore has been unfailingly loyal to its personnel.
Horachek is not simply looking for a job as an NHL head coach. He needs a job — period.
It happens to coaches every year in every sport. We all know that there are only two types, those who have been fired and those who are going to get fired.
It’s the way that the Predators pulled the plug on Horachek that made it seem as if nothing about the last 10 years were worth his while.
First of all, he was fired over the phone. All of his time with the organization — as minor league coach, as NHL assistant and as NHL associate coach — warranted at least a personal encounter.
Second, just as the franchise was unwilling to face him it was unwilling to face up to what it had done publicly.
When it finally did so, roughly 18 hours after the news broke, it was in the manner of a child with his hand caught in the cookie jar. Franchise officials didn’t deny the move — they couldn’t after all. They certainly did not own up to it either.
The “announcement” was an innocuous statement buried deep off the front page of the team’s website, camouflaged by a generic headline. Clearly, the hope was that no one would see it.
If general manager David Poile and others in charge wanted so badly to hire Phil Housley, which they did in startlingly short order, that certainly was their prerogative. The long-time NHL defenseman clearly offered a fresh perspective and a base of experience that, at first blush, figured to be a welcome addition.
Horachek, though, deserved better than the feeble attempt to ignore the fact that he was fired as a result. He probably also deserved to be an NHL head coach by this time.
Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we hope. For Horachek, in this case, nothing has gone as he would have liked.