For almost sixteen years, the same guys have been in charge in Nashville – Trotz, and general manager David Poile. Going that long with the same coach, as well as his defense-first mentality and scoring-by-committee style of offense, is nearly unthinkable in today’s NHL where head coaches can be fired after one bad season or disastrous playoffs exit. In Trotz’s time behind the bench in Nashville, he has coached the Predators to multiple playoff appearances, including 7 of the last 10 seasons. In their last two trips, Nashville made it out of the first round, and only running into a hot goalie kept them from the 2012 Western Conference Finals. Trotz is currently the third-longest tenured coach in NHL history, and there’s clearly something to be said for that, but when does “third-longest in history” become “too long”?
Change for Change’s Sake?
Every team misses the playoffs now and then (unless you’re the Detroit Red Wings, apparently). Missing two years in a row, though, is generally a sign that something needs to change. There are multiple issues that need to be addressed in Nashville – not the least of which is the forward core – but looking at it from a “big picture” perspective, the majority of those issues can be absorbed into one: stagnation. When a body of water is left without a fresh source of water flowing into it, it stagnates. It gets gross and murky, and things can’t live in it. When you leave the same people in charge of an NHL franchise for nigh-on sixteen years, you end up with ingrained issues that begin to seriously affect that team.
Change for change’s sake isn’t often the right answer; in fact, I would go so far as to say it is usually the wrong one. But in a situation like this, it feels necessary. Maybe the system has stopped working, maybe Trotz’s effectiveness at getting through to certain players has plateaued, but no one is going to argue that something deeper just isn’t working in Nashville. Planting the same crops on a piece of land year after year sucks all the nutrients from the soil; you rotate so that the soil doesn’t become rock. The same crop has been planted over and over again far too often in Nashville.
A New Crop
Parting ways with Trotz will allow Nashville to plant a new crop, if you’ll excuse the excess of metaphor. That “new crop” could be a new system, fresh faces from free agency, or even a franchise-shaking trade (much like the one some believe should happen with Shea Weber), but no matter what form it comes in, change is coming, and that’s good. Change stimulates growth, and Nashville needs to grow.
Bringing in a new head coach is a good place to start. After two straight years of no playoff appearances, ownership is going to want to see change of some kind. Trotz will only be jobless as long as he wants to be, and hiring a new coach will buy Poile some time before management begins to look to him as a part of the problem. Furthermore, it will allow Poile to see if the problems were, in fact, systemic, or if it goes deeper into personnel.
As far as potential head coach replacements could go, you can bet that Poile is looking within the organization, specifically at Phil Housley. Whether this would produce the level of change needed is to be determined, but Housley is certainly ready for his opportunity as the boss. And without a concrete decision made (that we know of), Poile probably has his eye on the various tenuous coaching situations around the league. Only time will tell who will be behind the Predators’ bench next year, but my money is on it not being Trotz.