It’s been over a year since the Nashville Predators and longtime coach Barry Trotz parted ways. Both parties have moved on with Nashville hiring Peter Laviolette and Trotz going to Washington to coach the Capitals.
This amicable divorce seems to be working out.
The Predators Perspective
One thing causal observers of the Predators notice is that Laviolette has turned up the heat on offense. This isn’t the same old Predators team that would grind out results, as Laviolette has given his defensemen a chance to shine. Players like Roman Josi, Shea Weber and Seth Jones bolstered a Nashville offense that many thought would be suspect going into the 2014-15 season.
Their dynamic playmakers on D were something Laviolette never had in his time with the Philadelphia Flyers, and he’s taken advantage of it. Josi and Weber had Norris Trophy-caliber seasons and the Predators made the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
Nashville lost in the first round to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks.
Trotz was great at making the Preds win those tight games in an ugly fashion. However, some accused the team of being kind of boring. However, Trotz is still loved and respected in the Music City. I asked fellow THW Nashville Predators beat writer Colin Fitts about this.
Once Nashville was eliminated from the playoffs, many (if not all) Preds fans cheered on the Capitals to win the Cup. In his first time back in Nashville as head coach of the Caps, he did a conference call with the Nashville media, which is a pretty cool thing to do. He didn’t have to, but he did anyway.
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One thing the Predators struggled with under the new regime was the power play. Trotz’s power play in Nashville was potent, but limped along near at the end of the season. However, the youth movement in the Predator organization could provide some depth that will help them keep up with the tough teams in the Central Division.
Mr. Trotz Goes to Washington
There was some concern that Trotz going to an offensive-minded team like the Capitals was going to be a problem. (There were some that were optimistic.) Could Trotz make the Caps more responsible on defense? Could he actually get along with Alexander Ovechkin?
It turns out that Washington thrived in Trotz’s first season at the helm. The Capitals may have lost in heartbreaking fashion to the New York Rangers in the second round, but there’s hope for the future.
Trotz was familiar with the Capitals organization as he was a coach for the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Baltimore Skipjacks.
I asked Caps fan and good friend Alan Zlotorzyrnski of 1300 WMEL and Fantasy Sports Warehouse how the Washington has changed under Trotz’s leadership. One of the first things Zlotorzyrnski pointed out was that Ovechkin would do well.
Trotz told him (Ovechkin) you not only have a responsibility to score goals, but to be a better two-way player. If someone doesn’t play away from the puck in Trotz’s system, they will stick out like a sore thumb.
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Zlotorzyrnski added that Trotz has been able to adapt the Washington lineup to fit his system. The Capitals are better on defense, but still pack some of that offensive pop that they’ve been known for. Guys like Nicklas Backstrom could be in the conversation for the Selke Trophy, and the Caps are on the up.
Both organizations have moved on and are all the better for it. Both teams made the playoffs and expectations are high to get deeper in the postseason.
Washington is being mentioned as a team that could make a run at ending their brutal postseason history, while Nashville could make it out of the first round in a very loaded Western Conference and the Central.
They both are on the rise at the same time, and Zlotorzyrnski remarked that it would be cool to see them meet in the Stanley Cup. That series would be loaded with tons of storylines. That has a long way to go, but the Predators and Capitals seem to be on the rise.
Dan Mount is a Nashville Predators staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanMountSports.