Barry Trotz

Barry Trotz looking forward to a ‘home’ game in Nashville

By Jim Diamond

Barry Trotz was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and as the head coach of the Washington Capitals, he now lives in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia. But during a Tuesday afternoon conference call with the media in advance of Friday night’s game at Bridgestone Arena against the Nashville Predators, Trotz referred to Nashville as home on three different occasions.

It’s not a big surprise though. During the press conference held the day it was announced he would not return behind the Nashville bench, Trotz said that Nashville would always be home for him, but to hear him say it eight months removed from that emotional day hit, well, home.

“I’m excited, I’m excited to get back home and see some friends and get to see my family a little bit,” Trotz said when describing his feelings about Friday’s game. “I’m excited. It’s good to go back home.”

Hired to be Nashville’s first head coach soon after it was awarded a franchise, Trotz didn’t expect to last through the conclusion of the 2013-14 season in that same position.

“I just wanted to coach for a year and found a home in Nashville, Tennessee,” he said.

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Trotz’s three adult children still live in the city, so he is looking forward to seeing them and spending what time he can with them while he is in town. In addition to his biological offspring, Trotz thinks pretty highly of some of the players on what will be the opposing team Friday night.

“I am so happy for Pekks,” Trotz said when asked about the performance of Pekka Rinne entering Tuesday’s action. “There are a lot of people you come across in this business that you love as your own children… Pekka is one of them.”

Rinne is one of Trotz’s now former players who have stayed active in Best Buddies, a charity that Trotz holds near and dear to his heart. Best Buddies pairs ‘buddies’ with individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Moves can be hard on anyone, but the Trotzs’ move to the nation’s capital was a little tougher than an average family’s relocation because of the impact that it had on their youngest child, 13-year-old Nolan. Nolan has Down Syndrome, and living in suburban Nashville was all he knew prior to his father being hired to lead the Capitals.

“Originally it was pretty difficult,” Trotz said. “The school systems were a lot different here than they were in Brentwood. He had a great situation in Brentwood in terms of classroom, teachers, friends, all of those things. He had a pretty good setup. He was involved in a lot of things. He also had his brother and sisters that would come by the house almost daily or on the weekends grab him and have him over for a sleepover, those types of things. When we got here, it became pretty lonely for him real quickly because he didn’t have a lot of friends here and being special needs, it was a little bit difficult.”

It was a tough transition for Nolan, which meant it was incredibly painful for his parents, Trotz and his wife Kim.

“We found it was probably heart wrenching for mom and dad at first because we’d find him in his room looking through his yearbook and circling his friends,” Trotz said. “You could tell there was a sadness in his heart.”

Trotz reports that Nolan has made some strides in healing that sadness, and the family business has played a large part in that transformation.

“He’s starting to come out of it,” Trotz said. “He’s learning to play hockey, which he never liked to play hockey. We got him some hockey equipment and told him he’s Iron Man – he loves the superheroes, so we put a pair of skates on him and got him skating. He’s now starting to be a part of a special needs hockey program that they have here. He’s starting to make headway in that area.”

Trotz’s return to Nashville will be brief, as the Capitals have a road game in Dallas on Saturday. While Trotz will sleep in a hotel room Thursday night, step onto the visiting team’s bench Friday night, and lead a team other than the Predators for the first time inside Bridgestone Arena, he will be right at home.

Poile’s hiring of Laviolette capped a lengthy courtship

Tuesday, Peter Laviolette was named the second head coach in the history of the Nashville Predators.

To hear general manager David Poile speak about the end of Barry Trotz’s tenure and the start of Laviolette’s, it sounded a lot like the sporting equivalent of a relationship gone stale and one party in the relationship developed a wandering eye.

The storyline could mirror one of a daytime soap opera. Two people familiar with one another run into each other in the produce section of the grocery store, which evolves into stopping off for coffee, and it goes on from there.

It wasn’t as overt as Poile taking out a personal ad ask if anyone liked piña coladas or getting caught in the rain, but in all, it meant that Trotz’s tenure with the Predators would soon be over after 15 seasons with the team.

It started out innocently enough. David Poile was the general manager of Team USA for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games and Laviolette was one of the team’s assistant coaches. When the Philadelphia Flyers fired Laviolette just three games into the 2013-14 season, he had a lot more time on his hands to do some pre-Olympic work for Team USA.

“Obviously one of the things that favored Peter in this situation is that I’ve known him for a number of years based on a lot of our mutual work with USA Hockey and especially last year with the Olympics, naming him one of the three coaches, basically interviewing him at that point for that position and then getting to work with him all year long,” Poile said at his Tuesday afternoon press conference. “When he lost his job with Philadelphia after three games last year, I basically talked to him at least once or twice a week through that whole process. I used him as a conduit between myself and the coaches. So, subliminally, we had a general manager/coach relationship the whole year last year. As I said, I’ve interviewed a few people, but that’s one or two interviews. With Peter Laviolette, basically in some form, I was interviewing him all year long.”

Was Poile having thought bubbles of doubt all season long?

  • How he and Barry had been together for an awfully long time.
  • And his head coach has never won a Stanley Cup like Peter has.
  • This team can’t seem to score goals, but the teams Peter has coached have consistently found the back of the net.
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At Trotz’s press conference the day it was announced that he would not be back as head coach, he admitted that he could tell things were different between he and Poile. A late-season conversation told him everything he needed to know.

“I’ve been with David for 30 years, and he is wonderful,” Trotz said at the time. “He is a first-class guy and I knew he was hurting. I asked him a question and he got a little emotional like I did.”

It probably resembled that scene in the movie Airplane where a husband and wife are shown after dinner and the woman thinks to herself, “Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home,” or later when dinner had made him ill, she again thinks, “Jim never vomits at home.”

In all seriousness, Poile probably got the right man for the job. If anyone can fix the systemic offensive woes that have plagued the Predators over the years, he is the guy.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Poile indicated that Laviolette thinks that the pieces that are in place up front may just need a second chance under a new regime.

On an afternoon conference call, Predators forward Matt Cullen was excited for the opportunity to play for Laviolette again. Cullen played for him in Carolina, winning the Stanley Cup in 2006.

“I think he’s a great fit for our team and what we need going forward,” Cullen said. “I think a lot of Peter as a coach. He’s a good person and he just has a real ability to bring out the best in all of his players whether you are a fourth line guy or a first line guy or a first year guy in the league or a veteran.”

Sometimes good guys get fired

By Jim Diamond

As predicted in this space last week, Barry Trotz was relieved of his duties as head coach of the Nashville Predators Monday morning.

It happens. It is professional sports, where the dollars are high and the demands on coaches are intense and basically nonstop.

Whether or not he was the correct one to shoulder the blame for the team finishing out of the playoffs for two consecutive seasons is up for debate, but as good as Barry Trotz the coach is, Barry Trotz the man is even better.

Heck, this is a guy who would go an pick up new players at the airport if he was available to do so.

They will find another head coach – odds are that a list of candidates to be Trotz’s successor has already been selected by team general manager David Poile – but replacing Trotz in the community will be even tougher.

Trotz demanded a lot of his players on the ice, but he also demanded a lot of them off of it as well, especially in terms of being good citizens in the community in which they play.

And he didn’t just talk the talk; he walked the walk as well.

From the beginning of the franchise, Trotz and his wife Kim have donated $500 for each of the team’s wins to My Friend’s House, a Franklin-based organization that works with at-risk youth.

That is just one of the many organizations that he helped. He didn’t just act as the face of these charities either; he got in there and got his hands dirty as well.

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Trotz made sure that the silent auctions for various charity events were stocked with items. On road trips, he would bring jerseys and sticks for opposing players to sign, telling them about the charities that would benefit from the items.

As the parent of a special needs child with Down’s Syndrome, Trotz was front and center with Best Buddies, a charity that works to match up developmentally disabled people with non-developmentally disabled “buddies.”

Several Predators players past and present, including the likes of Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, Dan Hamhuis, and others, all participate in the program and have buddies that they spend time with when they can.

Even though Hamhuis moved on to Vancouver a couple of years ago, he still visits with his buddy when the Canucks play in Nashville, bringing him to the games and taking him into the locker room postgame to meet the team.

For the last few years, Best Buddies has held a 5K run in Franklin. Trotz has encouraged all of the Predators’ front office staffers to participate in it, and all he asks is that they show up, since he picks up the tab for their entry fees.

When Trotz’s former associate head coach Brent Peterson wrote a book detailing his life in hockey and battle with Parkinson’s Disease, Trotz wrote a beautiful foreword for the man he stood next to on the bench for so many years.

I’ll share a personal story. When I moved into my current neighborhood, one of the neighbor kids told me that he was a big fan of the Predators. Like I do in all of these situations, I asked him who his favorite player was.

“I really like Greg Johnson,” he said, referring to the player who was the team captain at the time.

He paused for a second and said, “I really like coach Trotz too.”

That was a first, but what his father said after made it very clear as to why.

The dad and son ran into Trotz and his family at a movie theater one night. The kid apologized for imposing, but asked Trotz for his autograph. Trotz said that he would be happy to sign, but that he didn’t have anything with him to autograph.

Trotz then asked him for his name and address so that he could send him something. They gave the information to the coach and then went on their way. After moving along, the dad told his son not to get his hopes up about receiving anything.

Two days later, an envelope postmarked 501 Broadway arrived in the mail. Enclosed in the envelope was an 8 x 10 of the coach with a nice message to the kid written on it and signed Barry Trotz.

He was just as generous in his time with the media. I have been in hundreds of his press conferences, and he always had time to answer each and every question posed to him. And even when there were dumb questions, and believe me there were a lot of dumb questions, he answered just about all of them without blinking an eye. Trotz’s off the record chats were even better.

Speaking of press conferences, one night a couple of seasons ago, Trotz’s son Nolan was having a tough night and needed some time with his father, so Trotz brought him into the press conference and had Nolan sit right next to him as he answered questions from the media. It was a touching and beautiful moment. I remember that night’s game was against St. Louis, but I have no clue which team won the game that night. It doesn’t matter. The game was one of the season’s 82, but seeing how good of a dad Trotz is will stick with me forever.

The Predators will find a new head coach, but replacing Barry Trotz will be a near impossible task.

I would even go as far as to say it will be Predator hard to do it.

Barry Trotz out as Nashville’s head coach

By Jim Diamond
Barry Trotz, the only head coach in the history of the Nashville Predators, was relieved of his duties Monday morning, one day after the completion of the 2013-14 regular season, the second consecutive season that the Predators finished outside of a playoff spot. This information comes from a source close to ownership.
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Trotz’s contract is set to expire June 30th. The team held an option to extend the deal, but the longer that the option was not picked up, the writing became clearer and clearer that someone else would be behind the bench when the puck drops on the 2014-15 season in October.
Trotz was hired into the position August 6, 1997, more than a year before the team took to the ice for their inaugural season in 1998-1999.
Prior to his firing, Trotz was the longest tenured coach of all NHL teams, and second only behind San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich as the longest tenured in the four major North American sports.
Trotz was a two-time finalist for the Jack Adams Award, given annually to the league’s best coach.
This is a developing story and more information will be released as it becomes available.

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.

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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.