It is difficult to know what Nashville Predators general manager David Poile wants in his next head coach because it has been so long since he last hired one.
Monday’s announcement, though, that Barry Trotz was fired means we’re going to find out soon.
Many of Poile’s moves with the organization have involved people with whom he’s had some prior association. That was the case when he hired Trotz in 1997.
So that’s a good place to start when it comes to thinking about who might be in his sights now. With Poile’s vast experience in the league and international hockey, it also creates an abundance of candidates.
With that in mind here are some who might be considered:
• Phil Housley: A first-year NHL assistant with the Predators, he is one of the most accomplished American hockey players in NHL history. A high-scoring defenseman during his playing days, his impact was easy to see this season, particularly on the power play. Poile considered it a coup when he added Housley to the staff last spring after successful stints as Team USA head coach at the World Junior Championships and as assistant coach at the World Championships.
• Peter Laviolette: Fired by the Flyers three games into this season, he led Carolina to a Stanley Cup championship in 2006 and took the Philadelphia Flyers to the Cup finals in 2010. He also got the New York Islanders to the playoffs in his only two seasons there (2001-02, 02-03). He was an assistant coach for this year’s U.S. Olympic hockey team for which Poile was the general manager, the head coach at the 2006 Olympics and a two-time head coach at the World Championships (2004, 05). At one point he was the winningest American-born head coach in NHL history.
• Terry Murray: Fired by Los Angeles in 2011-12, he has spent the last two seasons coaching Philadelphia’s AHL affiliate. He coached the Capitals under Poile in the early 1990s and together they made four straight playoff appearances. Those Washington teams typically were cash-strapped so he would have a grasp of the situation and roster limitations here. On the down side, the last time one of his teams won an NHL playoff series was 1996-97 (Philadelphia).
• Claude Noel: Noel, fired by Winnipeg in January, is a known-commodity with the Predators as a former assistant and head coach at Milwaukee. He was interim head coach with Columbus in 2009-10 and led the Jets for two-plus seasons but has not taken an NHL team to the playoffs. He is someone who could step in and be comfortable with the philosophy and operations of the organization.
• Ron Wilson: He became the Washington Capitals coach in 1997-98 and took a team largely built by Poile to the Stanley Cup finals. He’s been a head coach with four teams and at 58 years old might like one more run at it. In 17 seasons, his teams only got to the playoffs eight times but six of the eight made it out of the first round of the playoffs and he has been much more successful in the Western Conference (Anaheim and San Jose) than in the East.
• Tom Fitzgerald: The first Predators captain is currently the assistant to the general manager for the Pittsburgh Penguins but might be open to a coaching position now that his children are older. He did a short stint as an assistant coach with Pittsburgh when Dan Bylsma took over during the 2008-09 season and helped that team win a Stanley Cup. He would be a popular choice who would add fire to the bench.
• Lane Lambert: He is a former head coach at Milwaukee who was added to Trotz’s staff in 2011-12 when health issues forced Brent Peterson into a front-office role. That was consistent with the majority of moves Poile has made that rewarded people within the organization for a job well done. There is no sense, though, that he would offer a dramatic change from Trotz. Plus, his wife has serious health issues that could compromise his focus on the job.
• Peter Horachek: The former Predators assistant got his opportunity to be an NHL head coach this season when he took over at Florida in early November. He went 26-36-4 with the Panthers but never had the ‘interim’ tag lifted. Like Lambert, he would not represent a significant change. Plus, it’s likely he harbors some hard feelings after he was unceremoniously fired last offseason.
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