When former Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff was relieved of his coaching duties on February 20th, Predators head coach Barry Trotz became the NHL’s longest active-serving coach with one team. But back in 1998-99, Trotz would have been happy to just get through his first season.
“I just wanted to coach one game. Then one game got to be a week, then a month. I thought if I could make it through the first year, that would be a real good year,” Trotz said.
Fourteen years later, Trotz is still the Predators’ bench boss.
With 512 wins under his belt, Trotz has taken the Predators to the playoffs seven times in the past eight seasons. The Predators have won their first-round series each of the last two years against the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings, only to lose in the Western Conference Semifinals to the Vancouver Canucks and the Phoenix Coyotes.
Members of the Predators organization say that it is Trotz’s personality that allows him to maintain control of the locker room, without losing the confidence of the team.
“I think the big thing is that he understands the guys and what’s going on around the rink,” David Legwand said, “Guys get it tough during the course of 82 games, but he keeps it loose. It’s been good. He’s done a great job.”
Predators captain Shea Weber added, “I haven’t had any other coaches, but obviously he has done a great job here. Without a doubt he is a player’s coach. He is easy to talk to. He has an open door policy. If there is something you want to talk about, you go talk to him. He will do the same to you. He will talk to you. Obviously, he cares about the team and the success of the Predators, but he also cares about the people in here.”
“It’s the way he treats people around him,” Pekka Rinne agreed. “He has a lot of respect here in Nashville and around the League. That says a lot about him. He’s a real good person. He does a lot of good things not only with us, but also with the community.”
Trotz has not only donated financially to the Middle Tennessee community, but he also gives his time. Since Nashville’s first game, Trotz has donated $500 for every Predators win to My Friend’s House, a non-profit organization that provides a variety of child services. Trotz also works with the Williamson County YMCA, the Peterson for Parkinson’s Foundation as well as Best Buddies of Tennessee.
The need for results, in addition to the personal attributes of Trotz, was not lost on the Nashville netminder.
“He’s been getting results. At the end of the day, it is about results and getting your job done. He’s been taking us to the playoffs for many times. He’s been nominated for best coach,” Rinne said.
Trotz was a Jack Adams’ finalist in both 2009-10 and 2010-11, as well as finishing among the top five in Adams voting again last season.
Like the others, Rinne, too, has fond memories of Trotz concerning how the coach personally treats his players.
“Obviously coming up here my first year, I started playing a lot and he trusted me. He helped me gain some confidence. As a player, you just want to play. That trust and our relationship are the things I really appreciate.”
Not everyone on the team has had the good fortune of playing their entire NHL career under Trotz, but for Predators forward Sergei Kostitsyn, the difference between Trotz and others is obvious.
“He is always talking to you. He’s friendly. That’s what makes him different from here to Montreal,” he said.
That friendly nature goes a long way in allowing Trotz to maintain control of the locker room, as well as his coaching gig itself.
In his first season with Nashville, Rich Clune has only played 20 games under Trotz. But the 50 year-old has already left quite an impressive on the forward.
“I think when [Trotz] told me to get my apartment and that I had made the team,” Clune said when asked for a specific moment this season than stands out so far. “For me, personally, he has really settled me down in terms of not worrying about throwing a big hit on every shift. He’s instilled confidence in me that I can play and skate at this level. It’s gone a long way with me.
“He’s fair. He has the command of all the players. He’s a players’ coach and that goes a long way. The average length of the hockey coach isn’t very long so that’s a lifetime achievement. It’s pretty impressive.”
According to the Book of Odds, the length of the average coach in the NHL is only 2.3 seasons.
“As some point, it will change. Every story has an ending,” Trotz said. “At some point, my ending will be there. I’ve already had the conversation with David [Poile]. When it is my time there won’t be any big conversation, just come in and say it’s time. I’ll be very thankful for having the opportunity to be in one place for a long time. You wish you could be in one spot for the rest of your life, but that’s not the way the world works, and especially in our business.
“Me and Lindy [Ruff] were both fortunate to be in one spot that we love for a long time.”