All signs point to end of Trotz’s tenure behind Nashville bench

By Jim Diamond

Tuesday night’s shootout loss in Dallas officially eliminated any slim hopes that a late season rally could vault the Nashville Predators into the playoffs after a largely disappointing season.

For the second consecutive year, no postseason hockey will be played at Bridgestone Arena, and that is not setting well with anyone connected to the team. Coming off of seven playoff appearances in eight seasons, that is unacceptable and steps will be taken to end that slide.

The offensively challenged team failed to score enough goals, and when Pekka Rinne was sidelined in late October due to an E. coli infection, the season was pretty much lost.

Earlier this season, the Predators’ ownership group asked general manager David Poile for a three-year plan per an ownership source. It’s not a tremendous leap to conclude there is major concern when a typically hands-off ownership group steps in to ask how the ship plans to be righted.

An owner, or ownership group in this case, does not all of a sudden ask the man in charge of their hockey operations for such a plan if things are going well and they have no concern about the direction of the hockey club.

This plan is a de facto message to Poile that they do not like the fact that the team has failed to reach the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Asking for a plan was ownership’s way of letting him know that things need to change.

Head coach Barry Trotz’s contract expires June 30th.

Doing a little math with this information, it is pretty reasonable to come to the conclusion that Trotz’s tenure behind the Nashville bench will come to an end following Sunday’s season finale in St. Paul against the Wild.

Trotz is no dummy, and being a “lame duck” head coach all season has spoken loudly enough to him that the writing was on the wall that his ouster was coming. Things haven’t been great between Poile and Trotz since last offseason, when Poile fired associate coach Peter Horachek against Trotz’s wishes.

The failure to reach the playoffs these last two seasons has a significant trickle down economic effect throughout the organization. A ‘meh’ on-ice product has led to a noticeable level of apathy among the people who write checks to the Predators – those highly cherished season ticketholders.

Renewals are down despite the organization offering ticketholders what one marketing insider described as “everything but a ride to the rink” if they renewed.

If they still have that Grand Avenue sponsorship, maybe they should try and work something out with them to do just that. Renew season tickets, go grand, just relax, enjoy life, and expect luxury. Everyone wins, right?

By parting ways with Trotz, Poile buys himself some time. Let’s face it, when ownership is looking for change, if you are not the one who makes it, you are likely the one who will be changed. The non-hockey side of operations has the ear of ownership just as much as Poile and his crew do, and they are doing more than whispering their ideas on how things should be changed to the owners.

Home playoff games are cash windfalls to teams, and having a combined total of zero of them over the course of two years hurts. That pain will become even more of a reality when the time will come this summer to scratch out another $13 million check to team captain Shea Weber when the latest installment of his signing bonus comes due.

With Trotz’s contract expiring, Poile is not putting the owners in the position of having to pay two coaches at once; the jettisoned head coach as well as a new one, so the timing on this works well in that respect.

A new head coach will give those in charge of selling tickets an opportunity to tell potential buyers that this will be a new generation for the team and that they should get on board with the new exciting brand of hockey that they will say said new coach will bring with him.

The main problem for those ticket sellers is that the players who will pull on those Predators gold jerseys 41 times at Bridgestone Arena in 2014-15 will largely be quite similar to those who did so this season. They are locked into some bad contracts, up front especially, that will be difficult to get out of before the puck drops in October. And going to ownership asking for permission to buy out another contract, as they did with Hal Gill last summer, will not look great on Poile, who is already walking on thinner ice than he ever has in his time as general manager with the Predators.

Now this group of Predators could be good; hell they have looked like world-beaters the last few weeks, but betting on consumers to open up their wallets for a roster that looks eerily similar to the current one is a pretty big gamble.

It’s a gamble they are going to make. That gamble means someone other than Trotz will be the team’s head coach for the first time since the franchise entered the league.

A fresh start may be attractive to Trotz too. He is highly regarded around the league, and there will likely be several coaching vacancies that he will immediately become the top candidate for when pink slips begin to be issued this weekend.

10 comments

  1. What seems a little remarkable to me is the likelihood that Poile gets to survive all this, given the fact that roster composition seems to be the predominant issue here, as opposed to maximizing the talent available.

    Thanks for adding new information to this story, Jim, the renewal numbers being down is a major development. When I asked about Trotz’s contract status I was told the team doesn’t discuss such matters, even though they have in the past (which in itself should be an indicator of the mood at Bridgestone Arena).

  2. Pretty much the entire top row of season ticket holders in 304 is not renewing. Not entirely because of team performance but because of job changes and families growing up with more activities. Going to games for most of us up there was more of a social experience to be honest and with that disintegrating we will go for 6 packs and use .edu emails for ‘College Night’ specials.

    IMO Trotz was saddled with a very young team with growing pains and some bad contracts; but in all I have to say that this team didn’t quit either like it seemed last season. I am not totally convinced Trotz’s dismissal is the best thing but elevating Housley to head coach and adding Kirk Muller to the bench (if he’s.fired in CAR) would be the route I could easily see them doing going forward.

    In reality, this team needs a guy like Patrick Roy that is willing to go to on point in a war for the guys but do not see someone wanting to come here yet.

  3. The one glaring loss is that if Trotz leaves, Mitch Korn might leave as well. If ownership can pull off a change at the top w/ Trotz, and retaining Korn, they should be commended.

    But frankly, this is a monster that the franchise is just starting to address. When it team doesn’t win AND is boring, changes need to happen. When a fanbase would rather sell off rivalry games on Saturday nights, which used to be the hallmark of this team’s popularity locally, that’s a telling sign. When the team acknowledges this in a backhand way by moving the annual fan appreciation night, that’s a sign that the ownership and management are finally listening to the complaints of the fans.

    It comes down to desire, and this franchise hasn’t created any since the prospect camp.

  4. I will miss coach, I’ve been a hockey fan for decades and after meeting and chatting with Trotz I left the Pens and became a Pred. Being a season ticket holder for 10 years I saw us grow and during the days of Sully, Kayria, Arrnott my love for the Preds grew.
    When ask what the worse part of my divorce was. I can quickly reply “losing hockey”! I can’t afford tickets and gas for a 5 hr round trip. But I still armchair coach and wish to be in 303p5 again.
    I know it’s time for a change, sometimes change is hard to accept but it can be for the best.
    I’d like to thank coach for his years of dedication and for converting me.
    Pred for Life
    Teresa

  5. The financial constraints were seen a mile away the day the Preds matched Weber’s offer sheet. The way to get the fan base fired up (as well as lighten the considerable financial load) would be to ship out Weber prior to his signing bonus in July, which means at the draft. There are enough teams, including the one who originally signed Weber to that albatross of a contract, that would be willing to trade for Weber, that it only makes sense at this point. A new coach AND some significant new assets – now THERES an idea! For example, the Flyers are certainly going to try again to pry Weber loose. They have strategically not extended Brayden Schenn yet, while locking up their other young stars. The Preds could clean up here. The Flyers have tons of scoring forwards and a deal that sends Schenn and a top top prospect like Scott Laughton (captain of Canada’s team at the World Juniors who would have made most NHL rosters but Flyers just have too many centers – they are playing LeCavalier at wing, for Christ sake) as well as the Preds pick of their D to replace Weber AND their 1st rd pick, would add both lots of scoring as well as lighten the financial load. And guess where the draft is this year – you think the Flyers might want to make a splash in front of the home town? This would get the fans excited about not only a new coach (like you said, it’s no good if all the players are the same) but also some new, young faces that know how to put the puck in the net.

  6. The financial constraints were seen a mile away the day the Preds matched Weber’s offer sheet. The way to get the fan base fired up (as well as lighten the considerable financial load) would be to ship out Weber prior to his signing bonus in July, which means at the draft. There are enough teams, including the one who originally signed Weber to that albatross of a contract, that would be willing to trade for Weber, that it only makes sense at this point. A new coach AND some significant new assets – now THERES an idea! For example, the Flyers are certainly going to try again to pry Weber loose. They have strategically not extended Brayden Schenn yet, while locking up their other young stars. The Preds could clean up here. The Flyers have tons of scoring forwards and a deal that sends Schenn and a top top prospect like Scott Laughton (captain of Canada’s team at the World Juniors who would have made most NHL rosters but Flyers just have too many centers – they are playing LeCavalier at wing, for Christ sake) as well as the Preds pick of their D to replace Weber AND their 1st rd pick, would add both lots of scoring as well as lighten the financial load. And guess where the draft is this year – you think the Flyers might want to make a splash in front of the home town? This would get the fans excited about not only a new coach (like you said, it’s no good if all the players are the same) but also some new, young faces that know how to put the puck in the net.

  7. Firing Trotz, while probably deserved, will have the same effect as firing the jockey who was given a plow horse to run in the Kentucky Derby. The blame for this organizations failures falls mainly on the shoulders of it’s GM, David Poile. From his free agent signings (anyone else remember him using the word “pizzazz” to describe what was needed more of in our forwards? Nothing speaks pizzazz like the names Cullen, Stalberg, Nystrom and Hendricks, LOL!), to his drafting (Pickard over Eberle, Watson over Bujgstad, etc.), it’s very clear as to why this team can not score enough goals to even be a playoff team, let alone be a serious playoff threat.

    Poile’s mindset is one of making micro changes that can get the team into the 8th spot in the conference, maybe the 7th spot, when it should be on how do we close the 15pt or more gap between us and the top 6 teams in our conference? This team has a macro sized problem, not a micro sized one, and Poile simply isn’t geared towards dealing with macro problems like this team has. The Preds need two legitimate first line forwards, and beings Poile hasn’t even been able to bring one in over the past 5 years, what on earth would make anyone think he can deal successfully with filling this teams talent gap?

    To fire Trotz and leave Poile in place will do little, if any, to improve this franchise, and considering the talent deficit, losing Trotz and his ability to squeeze every ounce of juice from the lemons he often has to squeeze from, it may make things worse. They both need to go and a new, fresh start with a GM and coach more offensively inclined needs to begin.

  8. This was one of Trotz’s best coaching jobs, actually.

    In his tenure, he has never been given a forward who would be on the No. 1 line of any perennial Stanley Cup contender – at least, not at the point of his career that he played for the Predators. In fact, he’s coached a grand total of three players who would be either part of a No. 1 defense team or a starting goaltender on a perennial Cup contender: Weber, Suter and Rinne. That’s it.

    If you think he’s the problem, go ahead and fire him. But don’t insult my intelligence by telling me that the likes of Peter LaViolette would be an upgrade.

  9. Trotz stays, Poile goes. I don’t legitimately know how much influence BT has had on contracts and signings but when you have the two best D and best G in the whole dam league and you still can’t attract / afford some top shooters then the responsibility falls on the guy drawing up the contracts and signing the cheques.. Trotz took the Preds to all those playoff games before, not Poile so if BT does indeed go without Poile walking too then Preds fans are getting ripped off. Simple.

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