Barry Trotz is willing and able to change, which has a lot to do with why the Nashville Predators never have switched coaches.
At least that’s the way the franchise’s first captain sees it.
Tom Fitzgerald was one of several former Predators on hand for Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena. He and the others, including Cliff Ronning and J-P Dumont, were there as part of the franchise’s ongoing observance of its 15th season of play, all with Trotz as the man in charge.
“You envision what your team should look like and you envision how you want them to play – and he definitely had a vision,” Fitzgerald said. “But sometimes it wasn’t reality because of what we had [in 1998-99], and that’s OK.
“I do remember we were a ‘go, go, go’ team and getting odd-man rushes against us all the time. So he stepped back a little bit and I do remember us ‘trapping’ it up a little bit. But it allowed us to survive. … That’s why he’s still coaching. He adapted. He’s an adaptable coach and he adapted to the times.”
Trotz has survived long enough that he is fourth among all active NHL coaches with 1,142 games.
That figures to be an asset as he and every other coach adapt to the league’s latest realignment and scheduling format, which were implemented this season, particularly since Nashville currently has the league’s sixth youngest roster (average age: 26.83 years). The changes include a new playoff structure, which takes the top three teams from each of four divisions and the next two from each conference.
Following the loss to Vancouver, Nashville is last in the Central Division, which now includes Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Colorado, Minnesota and Winnipeg.
If the Predators are counting on the experience of their coach to help climb back into the thick of the playoff chase, they could be in trouble. That’s because in terms of NHL coaching experience, Trotz is fourth in the Central Division.
MOST GAMES, ACTIVE NHL COACHES
Joel Quenneville, Chicago 1240
Lindy Ruff, Dallas 1191
Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis 1184
Barry Trotz, Nashville 1142
The difference, of course, is that Trotz is the only one who has been with the same team for all of those games.
He’s proved he can change – and make the Predators better because of it. More than a third of the way through this season it might be time to do it again.