An emotional Barry Trotz said his goodbyes to the city of Nashville and the Predators’ organization Monday when General Manager David Poile announced he would not offer the head coach a contract extension for the 2014-15 season.
“Our organization has high expectations and we have not met them in the past two seasons,” Poile said in the team’s press release. “As a result, it is my decision and determination that we need a new voice and a new direction. Our change in direction began over a year ago as we have made several personnel changes, including trading of long-time veteran players and a change to our coaching staff last offseason. Our goal is to return to the playoffs with the ultimate goal of contending for the Stanley Cup. We know that once we get into the playoffs, anything is possible.”
Trotz, who has been with the club since Day 1, has a 557-479-60-100 (W-L-T-OT) regular season record over the past fifteen seasons, making him fourth in wins among active coaches. He also led the team to six playoff appearances since 2004, but has only been able advance to the second round twice.
Poile continued stating, “I also want to thank Barry for everything he has done for our franchise. He has been the face and voice of our team for 15 years. He created, developed and lived The Predator Way – on the ice, in the office and in the community. There could be no finer ambassador for the Predators or Nashville than Barry Trotz. He has laid a foundation and culture that will benefit the next coach of the Nashville Predators.”
Behind the scenes, Trotz was a players’ coach. Defenseman Shea Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne, the faces of the franchise, said it was the team’s fault for not making the playoffs in consecutive years.
Nashville finished just three points out of a wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference and was mathematically eliminated Tuesday, April 8 in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars on the road. Despite that loss, the Predators ended the season extremely hot with a 9-1-2 record in their last twelve games. They finished the season 38-32-12 with 88 points.
The winning streak wasn’t enough to keep Trotz behind the bench in Music City. According to Poile, even if the Preds were to miraculously make the playoffs, Trotz would have likely been fired either way. “When we lost out to Phoenix, that was the first domino.”
Nashville lost to Phoenix in the Western Conference Semifinals in five games.
During that series, Trotz made a bold, respectable move to bench forwards Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov two games after breaking curfew prior to Game 2 in Glendale. Trotz told FSN Arizona’s Todd Walsh, “That’s how I am, that’s how the management team is and that’s how the Nashville Predators are run. There’s a lot of speculation we knew, and that’s a bunch of crap — we didn’t.”
The initial thought is unfair for Poile to call out Trotz on a series that was essentially out of his hands due to two boneheads. However, maybe that wasn’t what he meant. During that series, Coyotes’ head coach Dave Tippett outplayed the Predators at their own game of forecheck, forecheck, forecheck hockey. The go-to system for Trotz wasn’t working and it was painfully obvious that teams around the league were noticing it as well. Since that series in 2012, Nashville has not sniffed postseason play.
Preparing for the 2013-14 season, Poile wanted to be innovative with his team. However, the personnel he provided Trotz with was not exactly taylor-made for his system. Adding potentially-elite forwards Filip Forsberg and Viktor Stalberg was ideal to generate scoring, but they aren’t the most willing players on the ice to play gritty hockey in the corners. Trotz’s system was perfect for third or fourth line forwards fighting for a job as an NHL player because they were willing to work hard. Having former Stanley Cup winners (Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom and Stalberg) doesn’t work under Trotz because they already have a ring and their name on the most coveted trophy in sports. Why should they risk injury in playing a grueling 82-games of that style of hockey? It does not add up.
After a rather unproductive season for several skilled forwards, it was time to adjust for the players — and the fans. A new system is going to be put in place and, hopefully, will lead to the likes of Forsberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Craig Smith, Stalberg, and Colin Wilson to be put in a situation where they’ll produce consistently.
Several coaches who come to mind that could be the new bench boss in Smashville are former associate coach Peter Horachek, current assistant coach Phil Housley, Peter Laviolette, and John Tortorella.
“It is most important we get the right individual for our franchise, our team and our community,” Poile said. “We will investigate all options in order to identify the best candidate.”
Below are videos from Poile and Trotz during their press conferences Monday.
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.