The Nashville Predators literally might not be the Nashville Predators without Barry Trotz.
Trotz helped pick the team name. He also helped pick the carpeting in the team's office. He was hired on Aug. 6, 1997, exactly 14 months and four days before the Predators played their first game. He has coached every game the team has played in its 15 seasons, winning 557 of them. He is a Nashville hockey institution.
At least he was.
Trotz's tenure in Nashville came to an end Monday, when the Predators announced his contract will not be extended and the team will immediately begin a search for a new coach for the first time in franchise history. Trotz has been offered a position in the organization's hockey operations department, but according to the Predators' press release he is still considering his options before making a decision.
He is expected to be a hot commodity on the free-agent coaching market provided there are openings.
Trotz's run is over because the Predators failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season, finishing sixth in the Central Division with 88 points, three fewer than the Dallas Stars, who captured the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. They were 14th in the Western Conference last season.
"Our organization has high expectations and we have not met them in the past two seasons," Predators president of hockey operations and general manager David Poile said in a statement. "As a result, it is my decision and determination that we need a new voice and a new direction."
Until recently, Trotz's voice was loud and clear.
The Predators missed the playoffs just once from 2003-04 through 2011-12, and finished with more than 100 points in the regular season four times, including a franchise-best 110 points in 2006-07. He was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award in 2010 and 2011, and finished in the top five of the voting four other times since 2006.
Trotz survived in Nashville during a period that included more than 170 coaching changes in the NHL. He is fourth in career wins among active coaches.
His run in Nashville, specifically from 2005-11, was remarkable for a coach working with a team that has continuously operated on an internal budget and typically wasn't a big spender in the free-agent market.
However, the Predators made it out of the first round of the playoffs only twice under Trotz, and never advanced as far as the Western Conference Final.
Offense has traditionally been a point of contention around the Predators as well. Trotz is known as a defensive-oriented coach and the Predators excelled in that area, but they have often been criticized for their lack of offense and a front-line scorer.
Nashville has finished in the bottom-half of the League in goals-per-game 10 times in 15 seasons. It made it into the top-10 only twice, finishing as high as fifth with a franchise-best 3.24 goals per game in 2005-06.
David Legwand, who was traded to the Detroit Red Wings last month, is the Predators' all-time leading scorer with 566 points in 956 games. Defensemen Shea Weber and Kimmo Timonen are third and fourth on Nashville's all-time scoring list.
Not surprisingly, the Predators' most offensive seasons coincided with Paul Kariya's two seasons in Nashville (2005-07). Kariya's 85 points in 2005-06 remain a single-season franchise record.
The Predators thought Alexander Radulov would be the front-line scorer to replace Kariya, but he left to play in the Kontinental Hockey League after putting up 58 points in the 2007-08 season. Radulov came back late in the 2011-12 season, but reportedly clashed with Trotz and was suspended for Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Regardless of the first-round exits, offensive issues, and the team's performance the past two seasons, Trotz is and likely always will be synonymous with the Predators and their community.
He has laid down roots in Nashville. His 12-year-old son Nolan was born there. His two daughters, Shalan and Tiana, have careers there and his oldest son Tyson goes to college about two hours away. He has become a part of the culture and has been active in a variety of charitable endeavors, enough to earn him the Community Spirit Award from the Nashville Sports Council in 2005.
But Trotz's run in the only NHL city he's ever called home is over now. He's a free agent and his old team is searching for a new coach.
Where Trotz goes from here is still unknown, but there's no denying the magnitude of the legacy he leaves behind.
"I also want to thank Barry for everything he has done for our franchise," Poile said in his statement. "He has been the face and voice of our team for 15 years. He created, developed and lived The Predator Way -- on the ice, in the office and in the community. There could be no finer ambassador for the Predators or Nashville than Barry Trotz. He has laid a foundation and culture that will benefit the next coach of the Nashville Predators."
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SEARCH IS ON
The Nashville Predators announced Monday that Barry Trotz's contract will not be extended and the search for a new coach for the 2014-15 season will begin immediately.
"It is most important we get the right individual for our franchise, our team and our community," Predators president of hockey operations and general manager David Poile said in a statement. "We will investigate all options in order to identify the best candidate."
Here are six coaches who might be on Poile's list:
Laviolette has ties with Poile through USA Hockey. Poile was the GM for the U.S. Olympic team this year and Laviolette was an assistant coach. Laviolette has been out of the NHL since being fired by the Philadelphia Flyers three games into this season. However, he won the Stanley Cup as coach of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010.
Dineen took the Florida Panthers to the playoffs as the Southeast Division champions in 2011-12, his first season as an NHL coach. He was fired after 16 games this season. Dineen took over as the coach of Canada's women's Olympic team in December and led the Canadians to the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He was the American Hockey League's coach of the year in 2005-06 and went to the playoffs five times in six seasons with the Portland Pirates (2005-11). He will coach Canada's national men's under-18 team at the IIHF U-18 World Championship this month.
Housley spent this season as an assistant under Trotz. Under his guidance, the Predators' power play was 12th in the NHL at 19.2 percent. Housley has had success on the international level with USA Hockey. He led the U.S. national junior team to a gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship and later won a bronze medal as an assistant coach at the 2013 IIHF World Championship. He is the highest scoring American-born defenseman with 1,232 points in 1,495 games.
Murray has been coaching the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL since 2012. He led the Kings through a transition phase as coach from 2008-11, but was fired after 29 games in the 2011-12 season. Murray was replaced by Darryl Sutter, who led the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup championship six months later. Murray and Poile go back 32 years to when Poile, then the GM of the Washington Capitals, hired Murray to be an assistant coach. He went on to coach Washington's AHL team before taking over as the Capitals coach midway through the 1989-90 season. He was fired after 47 games of the 1993-94 season. He has coached 1,012 NHL games and has 499 wins.
Stevens has been an assistant with the Kings since the 2010-11 season. He won the Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2012. Stevens previously coached the Philadelphia Flyers for all or parts of four seasons from 2006-09. He led the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Final in 2008, but was fired 25 games into the 2009-10 season. He was replaced by Laviolette.
Horachek could be an interesting candidate if he isn't brought back as Florida Panthers coach. Horachek was Trotz's assistant for nine seasons before leaving to join the Panthers' organization as coach of their AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, after last season. He was named interim coach, replacing Kevin Dineen, on Nov. 8, 2013. The Panthers went 26-36-4 after Horachek took over.
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer
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