With so many questions heading into the offseason, one of the biggest is at the top. Whether or not General Manager Dale Tallon decides to retain interim coach Peter Horachek is remained to be seen, most consensus thought is that he will not.
In possession of a solid young core of NHL players, as well as prospects on their way – who the Florida Panthers hire as their next head coach, if the situation arises, will be critical in determining the next step this organization takes.
So with the Nashville Predators not renewing the contract of the only head coach they have ever known, Barry Trotz, is he just the man for the job in Florida?
Talk about the Predators and Trotz and the first thing you will bring up is defense, followed by goaltending and lastly a lack of offense. Year after year the Predators were known for great goaltending, great defensive play but lacked enough goal scoring to become serious contenders in the Western Conference.
In their existence, the Predators have only had four 30-goal scorers and none since 2009-2010 when Patric Hornqvist scored 30-goals.
Thanks to the 2003 NHL Draft they were able to acquire three cornerstone defenders in Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Kevin Klein. Suter and Klein are no longer with the team, but Klein was used to add another young promising defenseman in Michael Del Zotto.
So would Trotz be a good fit in Florida? The Panthers certainly have a good crop of young forwards, and the potential on the blue line is much higher than some may give credit but does that necessarily mean he is a fit?
The lapses in the defensive zone was a particularly frustrating thing to watch at times for the Panthers and one would assume that with Trotz’s guidance they could sure up the defensive end, and despite the Predators never having an elite goal scorer – despite the talent they did have none of them ever had the potential that Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and even Jonathan Huberdeau have.
Where the Predators are currently at, with a blend of youth and veteran’s some may wonder how Trotz would handle such a large group of young players.
‘In the time that I’ve known him he’s kind, he’s fair, he’s open, but he demands a lot… He has a system he wants you to be a part of and he demands that from his players. He’s a guy you can go to and talk to, not just about hockey but about anything.’
One of the most important traits of a coach who is taking on the task of coaching such a young team is his ability to be more than a coach. The future of the organization is still a teenager and most of the rest of the core are barely out of the ‘teenage’ description.
Sometimes you have to be more than a coach, and reading more and more quotes on Trotz, it appears he can be that. He can be a player’s coach while still demanding the absolute best out of his players.
‘I just ask players to play to their potential and that’s all… You want to put people in positions to succeed. What we’ve been able to do is look at a player and say what is your talent? What is your real talent?’ – Barry Trotz
‘Coaching is not about equality, it’s about inequality, but the one thing that should be equal is respect. Coaching, at this level, is not about X’s and O’s. the people at this level know the X’s and O’s of the game.
It’s about getting people to buy in to what you’re doing as a group. I have one simple rule. I want you to get better because that makes us better. I want you to have a good career. I want you to have an understanding of what your potential is’
If this isn’t a man that could change the environment in the locker room, I am not sure what is. Teams will be lining up to try and add Trotz’s services with a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs likely to be one of the top suitors.
Some put the majority of the blame on Trotz for his inability to get past the second round of the playoffs. While he was never able to develop a top scoring forward, that is just as much management and the development team’s fault. Mixed in with a ownership on a budget, Trotz did what he could with the hand he was dealt.
With Panther ownership pledging to allow more spending, Trotz could get that goal scorer he has been searching for.
The Panthers plan to visit their coaching situation in May, and decide whether or not to retain Horchek or not. If they decide not to, I believe they would be foolish not to pursue Trotz as their top candidate.
What do you think? Is Trotz the best candidate to take over? Who would you rather see as coach?