Coach Trotz's Impact (Ryan Porth -- Smashville247.net)

Friday, 08.05.2011 / 10:17 AM
by Ryan Porth (Smashville247.net)

Barry Trotz was nominated this summer for the Jack Adams Award for just the second time in his coaching career; the first nomination came in 2010. You can make a case, though, that Trotz has been a worthy candidate for the Jack Adams (given annually to the league’s best coach) throughout his tenure in Nashville.

There was that time he helped the Predators to their first ever playoff berth in 2004 with the lowest payroll in hockey. There was that time he helped the Predators to a team-record 110-point campaign in 2007 when pundits thought they were a fluke (prior to the Peter Forsberg acquisition). There was that time he led the Predators to a remarkable postseason bid, against all odds, in 2008.

In most of the seven seasons that the team has made the playoffs, the media picked them to finish outside of the Western Conference’s top eight. Simply put, the only bench boss the Nashville Predators have ever known gets the best out of his team year after year.

“A lot of times at the beginning of the year, the media says we’re not supposed to make the playoffs,” associate coach Peter Horachek said. “We all take on that same kind of feelings about those things, that it doesn’t matter. We’re going to go out and make people believers.”

Horachek has been with Trotz since the start of the 2003-04 season and is happy to see him finally get the national recognition he’s been getting in recent years.

“Barry’s a very prepared person,” Horachek said of Trotz. “He allows us to be great coaches, he allows us to contribute, he’s able to delegate and do things. I have a great amount of respect for him and what he does.

“A lot of times, because of the lack of national and Canadian media outlets, we don’t get the recognition. In past years there’s been other opportunities where Barry could have been nominated [for the Jack Adams]. We were three points from the Presidents’ Trophy one year, and you would have thought that would have gotten him some recognition at that time, too.”

What is the secret to Trotz’s success?

First off, his players like playing for him. You don’t become the second-longest tenured NHL coach if you’re players don’t enjoy playing for you.

“He’s a player’s coach,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said. “He treats you like family members. He’s tough, but if you do something well, he remembers it. I think he’s really fair and that’s the bottom line. The biggest thing is he treats everybody well and players like him. When you have 23 players on a team, it’s a pretty important thing.”

Trotz goes the extra mile to have a relationship with his players, which contributes to the notion that he is well-liked by every player that steps into the locker room.

“Our organization looks at each player as a unique individual,” said Trotz. “One thing I try to do is have trust with my players and find out what really makes them tick, what their personalities are. I can’t change people’s personality overnight. You have some players that are projects that have had their own demons, so you have to deal with each individual.”

With the Predators not being able to spend money like the big-market clubs, Trotz and company always have to find a way to make up for that. His solution? ‘Predator Hockey’, a forechecking-based system that relies on strong defense and goaltending. Even though, on paper, the Predators don’t match up with some of the top teams, ‘Predator Hockey’ makes up for any differences.

Trotz is also known to be a master motivator, getting the best out of his team and players at key times. Two examples from this past season were the sudden turnaround of Sergei Kostitsyn in November, as well as an intermission tantrum on Jan. 2 against Columbus, which sparked a dominant second period en route to a 4-1 victory and a subsequent four-game win streak.

When Brent Peterson stepped down this off-season as associate coach, it was an emotional time for everyone involved, especially Trotz. He and Peterson had been behind the bench together since Day One of the Predators’ existence. Trotz contributes a portion of success to Peterson.

“Not only has he become a tremendous friend, but he got me through the early part of being a young head coach in the NHL,” Trotz said. “As a young head coach, sometimes you think you know everything; I found how little I knew at times. Brent was a great resource for that.

“My biggest regret for Brent is that he was definitely head coach material in the NHL – great knowledge and understanding of the game with great passion – and he didn’t get an opportunity to do that. I know that he should have and had some interviews a few years back, but I think once he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s that probably backed everybody off. At the same time, he’s got a great hockey mind.”

If there is anyone that knows Trotz the best, though, it’s GM David Poile. The two go back to their days in the Washington Capitals organization where Poile was GM and Trotz was head coach of their AHL affiliate. They have also been together since Day One.

“Our success of our organization starts with David. He’s the head guy,” Trotz said. “I talk to other coaches and minor league coaches, and sometimes they don’t have much contact with the (affiliate) coach or the general manager. I find that really strange to me, because David’s developed a culture of everyone working together. The Nashville Predators and Milwaukee Admirals work together to develop good hockey players, a good culture and a good team.”

Poile has seen Trotz grow into the coach he is today.

“As we’ve developed from an expansion franchise to one that thinks we can compete for the Stanley Cup, so has our coach,” said Poile. “Our coach came in with no experience in the league and is now the second-longest tenured coach in the NHL. Our team has improved, he has improved, and he’s gone from almost an unknown to one of the best coaches in the league.”

Ryan Porth is the founder and owner of Smashville 24/7 (smashville247.net), a full-time Predators blog bringing you extensive and in-depth coverage.

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