There was not one moment that led Nashville Predators general manager David Poile to fire coach Barry Trotz – a move that was unprecedented for the franchise. It was a series of developments over the last two years.
Even so, Poile conceded that the cumulative effect might not have been enough to prompt a change had the Predators managed to get back to the playoffs this season.
That did not happen and the NHL coach who had been in his current position longer than any other suddenly was in search of another job. This is how it got to that point.
1. Fall flat in the postseason. Not only did the Predators make it to the second round of the playoffs for the second straight year, they whipped the Detroit Red Wings to get there. Nashville’s five-game victory in the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals held great symbolism for a franchise that viewed Detroit as the standard from the moment it entered the league. Then came the much less intimidating Phoenix Coyotes, who eliminated the Predators in five games.
Poile: I really feel I recognized this [change was needed] after the Phoenix series a couple years ago where we had our last, best team. … I think that was a real chance to make it.
2. Players look for an exit. Poile believed that defenseman Ryan Suter would sign a long-term deal that would keep him in Nashville for the remainder of his career – right up until the moment that Suter accepted Minnesota’s free agent offer in July 2012. Less than a year later Martin Erat made a trade request, which was granted. Two significant players found a way out and another, Shea Weber, made an attempt to bolt too when he signed an offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Poile: A lot of players left. Erat wanted to be traded. There’s different situations and signs. I just felt it coming.
3. Lose your goalie for 51 games. Much of the franchise’s competitive plan for 2013-14 centered on goalie Pekka Rinne. Management went with a young defense corps and a backup, Carter Hutton, who had one game of NHL experience. Then Rinne developed an infection in his hip before the season was a month old and did not return until after the Olympic break. It was three months before the team won more than five times in any 10-game stretch.
Trotz: The Pekka Rinne thing was a big thing. We had a young defense and you can say what you want to – it blew a hole through us.
4. Players stop scoring. Nashville’s 43 goals in the final 10 games, including 14 in the final two, were not nearly enough to overcome some lengthy individual droughts along the way. Colin Wilson had a stretch of 33 straight in which he didn’t score. Matt Cullen went 29 straight games without a goal prior to the Olympic break and Gabriel Bourque had a run of 29 goal-less at about the same time. Those were the longest, but they weren’t the only ones.
Poile: Patric Hornqvist, who I think is one of our best players, he went 40 games with one five-on-five goal. … I could name five other players in similar situations. We just never got it together. There were always two or three players that weren’t operating on all eight cylinders.
5. Post-Olympic struggles. The Predators began to build momentum – and climb the standings – with 15 points in 12 games prior to the Olympic break. They came back two and half weeks later with five straight home games. After a 3-2 victory over Tampa they scored three times in the next four and lost all four.
Poile: To me there were some defining moments in the season. The first defining moment would be when we came out of the Olympic break. We had really actually played good to get ourselves back in position to be a contender. It was right there on the platter for our team. We scored three goals in five games. If you’re asking me, we lost the playoffs right there.
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