There is a rhythm to the NHL season and Barry Trotz realized a few weeks back that he and general manager David Poile were out of step – likely for the first time in a professional partnership that dates back almost three decades.
“David has routines,” Trotz said. “I’ve been very professional and very prepared. I know what we do at certain times of the year and when and how and it was that time to ask. I know I was going to be a part of something so I just said, ‘Listen, I’m prepared. I’ve done everything. We’re good to go. Do you want me to be a part of it?’
“I could tell. I knew a while ago.”
He knew then what Poile officially told him on Friday and the rest of the world learned Monday – that he would be fired from his job as Nashville Predators head coach.
The Predators and Trotz parted ways after 17 years and 15 seasons that included seven playoff appearances, and at least one coaching change (multiple changes, in many cases) by every other franchise in the league. Nashville missed the playoffs for a second straight year but closed out Trotz’s tenure with six victories in the last seven games, including triumphs over rivals Chicago and Minnesota on Saturday and Sunday.
“It was very difficult this weekend,” Trotz said. “But this will be closure. I’m feeling a little hurt today because of this situation. It’s not a bad hurt. It’s not broke. It just hurts a little bit because of the friends you’re not going to be with as much.
“…Coaching this team has been an absolute thrill. It’s been an honor. And I want to thank everybody who’s had to put up with me all these years. I’m a little emotional.”
Even Trotz, who had never even been an NHL assistant when he was hired, said he never imagined he would keep the job so long. His original goal was to make it through the first season. He did that and a lot more. He won 557 regular-season games, 19 more in the playoffs and was a two-time finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy, which annually goes to the NHL’s top coach.
For most of that time, he and Poile knew how it would end – even if they didn’t know (until recently, that is) when it would end.
“I talked to David over the years and we had one understanding,” Trotz said. “… I said, ‘David, you’re not going to have to say a whole lot. Just come in and say it’s time and I’d be OK with it.’ A lot of things I have in my life are because of the opportunity David gave me and the game owes me nothing.
“These days are a little tougher, but I’m OK.”
Other highlights from Trotz’s farewell press conference Monday:
• On the fact that the team never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs: “My only regret is that we didn’t get [the Stanley Cup] here in Nashville. I really felt, especially in two seasons in those conference semifinals [2011 and 2012], I think we had enough elements to take that deep and we didn’t go as far as I think we should.”
• On the evolution of the franchise: “The players have always given their best effort. It’s the reason I think we’ve been so successful over the years. We started as an expansion franchise. We went from a team that just wanted to establish a little bit of a foothold in this market and I thought we were able to do it from Day One. I think we’ve got a really good foundation that we tried to create knowing that we were an expansion franchise going through those early years just trying to be competitive, got to the competitive stage and then we became a threat in the National Hockey League.”
• On his approach to the job as the end of this season approached: “It doesn’t matter if it was first game, last game, Game 40. Coach the same way. Coach as hard. Want to win. That’s all coaches and players want to do. This team grew from the start of the year.”
• On why he’s now out of a job: “The National Hockey League is about winning. We didn’t win this year. We didn’t win last year. There’s no excuse. I expect us to be in the playoffs. The Nashville Predators expect us to be in the playoffs and we didn’t make it. We’re good with it.”
• On his feelings about the Predators: “There’s zero bad will or anything.”
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