The Florida Panthers ended their season in heartbreaking fashion. Despite finishing on top of the NHL with the Presidents’ Trophy and 122 points, they were swept by their cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This was largely due to head coach Andrew Brunette’s inability to adapt to the playoffs. Granted it was his first season as head coach, but it ultimately led to Florida’s demise.
As a result, Florida should jump into the coaching market and grab arguably the best one available: former New York Islanders head coach and 2018 Stanley Cup champion Barry Trotz.
Trotz’s Illustrious Resume
Trotz began his NHL coaching career in 1998 with the Nashville Predators for their inaugural season. Today, he is still the Predators’ longest-tenured head coach as he went through 15 seasons and over 1,100 games, including seven playoff appearances and 557 wins.
In 2014, Nashville did not renew his contract, and he joined the Washington Capitals as their next head coach. His time with the Caps was where he truly defined his career; he earned many awards and accolades, including the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year in 2016, his 700th win in 2017, and of course, his first and only Stanley Cup in his career in 2018.
After his Cup-winning season with Washington, he resigned and accepted the head coaching job with the New York Islanders. His system was a massive boost in helping the Islanders reach a new level as they went to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, including taking the defending Cup-champion Lightning to a seven-game Stanley Cup semifinal in 2021. However, he was stunningly let go in the offseason after going 37-35-10 with an injury-riddled squad. Any team that can sign him should because they would be putting a proven winner behind the bench.
What About Brunette?
Despite the circumstances that “Bruno” came into with Joel Quenneville’s resignation, he still managed to lead the team to a Presidents’ Trophy and an Atlantic Division title. As a result, he finished second in the coach of the year voting poll, losing it to Calgary Flames head coach Daryl Suter.
As previously mentioned, Brunette’s failure to adapt to the playoff atmosphere of the game ultimately led the Panthers to their second-round exit against the Lightning. Again, it still was his first season, and one of the best first years a first-time NHL head coach can have. But with the coaching market this good, and the uncertainty of how he can turn out in the long run, it’s no wonder that general manager Bill Zito kept the interim tag on him for so long this past season.
How Can Trotz Help the Panthers?
Trotz has handled playoff situations and is known for his elite defensive system. This could be a massive help for the Panthers who ranked 12th in the NHL in goals against per game with 2.95 during the regular season and seventh in the playoffs at 3.20. He’s also proven the can adapt quickly in the postseason. Despite Brunette’s interim success with the Panthers, his inability to adapt to the postseason ultimately led to a disappointing second-round loss.
Trotz will get the best out of the Panthers’ star players Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov, and his experience has shown he can, having coached stars like Alexander Ovechkin, Roman Josi and Matthew Barzal.
Will Zito Make the Move?
Hiring Trotz might be a tough decision for Zito, given how great Brunette finished the regular season and helped Florida get their first playoff win since 1996. Former Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was recently relieved of his duties, giving Zito another potential option.
However, Trotz is still arguably the best coach available on the market due to his experience and awards. With what he’s done, not only would he help take Florida to that next level, but he could adapt to certain players and their styles to find ways to win. For the Cats, this would another hurdle they could climb over with him behind the bench.
My name is Joey. I’ve been writing about the NHL for about 3 years with my experience spread out between TSJ 101 Sports and Panther Parkway. I look forward to you reading my articles!