Being a Nashville sports fan has more than a few perks, not the least of which is local teams' longevity and staying power when it comes to the head coaching position. Across the Cumberland River from the Bridgestone Arena, the Tennessee Titans are home to the dean of NFL coaches, Jeff Fisher, at 14 years and counting. Vanderbilt University basketball has seen Kevin Stallings draw up x's and o's for 11 years, now, and their football program just had head coach Bobby Johnson resign after an eight year stint in charge of the Commodores.
At 501 Broadway, the Nashville Predators remain under the helm of 48 year old, Dauphin, Manitoba native Barry Trotz. He has coached the Preds for their entire existence - 11 years, which makes him the 2nd longest tenured coach in the league today after Buffalo's Lindy Ruff. Trotz takes a 411-371-60-60 record into the 2010-11 season, with 6 non-playoff seasons and five campaigns in which Nashville fell in the first round.
There's no doubt that 'Trotzy' is one of the better coaches in the league today, and I'm immensely proud of his work here - but for how much longer should ownership put up with postseason mediocrity? We'll delve a bit further into the question after the jump.
UPDATE: Sam over at the truly excellent PredsBlog takes a look at much the same question, using this post as a bit of a guide. Give it a read, as Sam is churning out some great work over there and this is no different.
Over four hundred wins. Currently one of only four teams to win 40 games five years in a row (Devils, Sharks, and Red Wings being the others). One Jack Adams nomination, which led to a second place finish. Three 100 point campaigns. Until 2008-9, the Predators had qualified for the playoffs four consecutive years with teams that were typically closer to the salary cap floor than ceiling. For a franchise that has always operated under budget constraints and with financial issues, Barry Trotz's achievements have indeed been impressive.
Ultimately, however, an NHL coach is judged on his postseason success, which the Predators have had next to none of. The playoff failures are many and not worth rehashing here, but they reside in the back of all our minds. While certainly there have been extenuating circumstances such as suspensions to Alexander Radulov and Scott Hartnell, or injuries to the likes of Patric Hornqvist and Tomas Vokoun; these do not overshadow the inability to convert on power play after power play (it is worth noting, though, that Trotz will take an increased role with the man advantage in the coming year), or the difficulty of winning a road game in April.
Barry Trotz is often credited with making more out of less than any coach in the league. To some extent this is true, but its also an underestimation of the quality of team he's iced on several occasions. Consider the 06-07 team, which consisted of players such as Paul Kariya, Kimmo Timonen, Peter Forsberg, Marek Zidlicky, Scott Hartnell, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Jason Arnott, healthy Steve Sullivan, Alexander Radulov, and others. On paper, that is a winning squad. And win they did - in the regular season. 110 points later, they lost to fifth-seeded San Jose in five games.
To under-appreciate Coach Trotz's work in Nashville would very much be the wrong thing to do. On the other hand, overvaluing his contributions would also be a mistake. Though the Predators have repeatedly defied the odds by succeeding in the regular season with a hard working, cheap roster, they've never once come close to the Stanley Cup. It'd be one thing if they kept squeaking into the playoffs on the last day of the year, but Nashville has been by far the most successful 'recent' expansion team (Minnesota, Columbus, and Atlanta), and have contended for the Central Division title at least twice.
It becomes an increasingly difficult situation. The Nashville Predators are set to field perhaps the most promising team in their history, and expectations are justifiably higher than ever. Expectations are all for naught, though, if you can't come through when it really counts.
In conclusion, I can't say that I have a suitable solution. I'm willing to give Barry Trotz at the very least another two seasons as Colin Wilson, Patric Hornqvist, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Pekka Rinne hit their prime playing years. But what about you? Just how much longer do you think the Nashville Predators should let Barry Trotz figure out how to win in the playoffs?