Before the madness of the Stanley Cup Playoffs grips us all, I thought I'd poll the Nashville hockey writing community on the stories which will stand out when we look back on this 2011-2012 Predators season. This series will celebrate events on and off the ice, some momentous, some just plain silly. I hope you enjoy them. Today's selection: Dan Bradley of Predlines on another remarkable season behind the bench for Barry Trotz.
It's like deja vu all over again, isn't it? The pundits look at Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz at season's end, lauding the work he has done to lead a team full of question marks back in October & November to another 100-point campaign and playoff berth, and shake their heads over the fact that he still hasn't won a Jack Adams Award for being the NHL's best head coach in any given season yet.
He won't win it this year either, as Ken Hitchcock's work in St. Louis should easily carry him to that honor, but that doesn't diminish what has been another fine season for the Preds' main man.
Back in February, Dan Bradley over at Predlines talked about Trotz's balance of consistent structural play with practical flexibility, which has not only enabled him to develop younger players coming up from Milwaukee, but to integrate veterans picked up by David Poile into his system as well:
As much credit as the organization gets from bringing up the kids and drafting smart and safe, the outside additions show more light in Barry's direction. Mike Fisher had as good of a month as he's ever had in his career in January. Sergei Kostitsyn is flourishing at times, and proclaims his love for the team every time a microphone is near him. The latest, Brandon Yip, has played some good hockey in his short time in Nashville so far.
You certainly can't argue with how seamlessly Fisher and SK74 have worked themselves into the fabric of this team. They seem to embody "Predator Hockey" every bit as much as long-time Nashville fixtures like David Legwand and Martin Erat.
One factor which works in Trotz's favor is the stability that both he and GM David Poile have enjoyed in Nashville - unlike some markets which hit the panic button when adversity strikes, allowing the leadership group to implement a long-term vision has had an effect on team culture:
He knows he [is] darn near invincible at the this point in Nashville. His comfort trickles down to the roster, and is passed on through the organization. "Do your job, do it well, and good things will happen." The press conference with his son next to him after a big game against the Blues is a prime example of his comfort level on display. As a fan... I love it. He's a dad to his family, and a father figure for quite a few young men on the team. He's a player's coach, but still motivates the team- a difficult balance to achieve in sports.
And here's that press conference Dan refers to, it came after a big 3-1 victory on February 4 over St. Louis:
Yup, he drives us crazy sometimes with the way young talent (like Colin Wilson) gets handled, but the results have been consistently strong so far. Can Trotz add to his resumé with a deep playoff run this spring? That's what we're all waiting (and hoping) to see...
Thanks to Dan for participating in this series. You can find him on Twitter as @DanDBradley and his writings at Predlines.