If there was ever a loyal company man in the wacky world of professional coaching, it was Barry Trotz.
After spending 15 seasons with the National Hockey League expansion Nashville Predators, the team decided to let Trotz go.
He and General Manager David Poile planted the seed that became the Predators. It was a franchise placed in a non-traditional Southern-based town most famous for country music.
The odds of it surviving in a town that loved the NFL Titans and SEC football, weren't good.
The Predators slowly, but surely, beat those odds.
No, they never played for the Stanley Cup. They scraped by for years with a low budget roster. Trotz walked the company line. He knew his team was undermanned as he watched other NHL teams outspend the Predators and make the playoffs.
When they reached the point they could match up with other teams, the Predators made the playoffs seven of eight seasons. Attendance grew to the point where they had sellout crowds on weekend games and came close to selling out during the week.
The first seasons they made the playoffs, the got bounced out in the first round. Trotz kept coaching, unusual considering the numerous coaching changes that occur in the NHL every season. Some teams swap coaches in the middle of a season. Trotz was a survivor.
“I also want to thank Barry for everything he has done for our franchise,'' Poile said in a prepared 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.''
That's high praise for someone walking out the door after getting a pink slip. That sounds like Poile should be throwing Trotzie a parade.
Trotz epitomized integrity and honor frequently absent in the coaching profession.
His only fault was his team didn't win enough games and missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Never mind that Pekka Rinne, one of the NHL's best goalies, was out most of those seasons with injuries. He played a total of 67 games the last two seasons. In 2012, he played a career-high 73 games.
Never mind that Poile never filled the rosters with enough goal scorers. He thought they could win big with defense and a great goalie. It was painful to watch them trying to score goals.
Poile has to share part of the blame for the team not meeting expectations. He's the one that built the roster. I thought Trotz did an admirable job of playing the hand dealt him.
This was Trotz's first job as a NHL head coach. He learned along the way. I would like to see what he could do with another team that has a roster built to go deep in the playoffs.
Trotz may not get that opportunity, but that doesn't make him a bad coach.
Poile said Monday the Predators organization has high expectations. Yet Barry Trotz was never given a team that was capable of meeting those expectations.
The Predators turned the page on a good man. Unfortunately in professional sports, it happens all too often.
Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- April 14, 2014: Barry Trotz out as Nashville Predators head coach