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Should the Nashville Predators Go After John Tortorella?

While Preds fans debate which prospect the team should pick at #4 this summer, or which free agents might help the team rebound, the question is raised as to whether more fundamental change might be required...

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Justin K. Aller

While Nashville fans have had to content themselves with watching the playoffs, speculation naturally turns to the steps required to return to the Predators to post-season competitiveness. Will this summer's #4 overall draft pick do the trick? What about a splashy free agent signing, or a major off-season trade?

Or... perhaps something even bigger? This caught my eye on Twitter:

Would the Preds Really Fire Barry Trotz?

Now I know what you're thinking - firing Barry Trotz is just about unthinkable considering he's the only head coach the Predators have ever had. He is currently the longest-tenured bench boss in the NHL, and frankly, I don't even hold him to blame for the team's disappointing finish this season. Early on, I thought he did some pretty clever juggling to make the best use of his defense corps, for example, often dressing seven and deploying each to their best advantage. Even as playoff hopes faded, it didn't appear that he had lost the locker room in any way - the team may have lacked talent, but not work ethic.

Then again, there have been quite a few "unthinkable" things going on lately around Smashville. Martin Erat was traded at the deadline, and associate coach Peter Horachek was summarily dismissed after nearly a decade of service, with Phil Housley shortly thereafter announced as a new assistant.

The Horachek situation was particularly noteworthy, given David Poile's assurance that no coaching changes were coming just a few weeks ago:

Asked whether he would make any changes to the coaching staff, Poile said no.

"They are totally prepared and are preparing for next year," he said, "and they will be the coaches of the Nashville Predators next year."

--- Josh Cooper, The Tennessean (4/28/2013)

What was it that changed the thinking at 501 Broadway? If it had anything to do with the opportunity to hire a fetching name like Phil Housley, then perhaps that same logic could be at work again, with names like John Tortorella and Alain Vignault suddenly hitting the market.

As much as I'd love to ponder the notion of Vignault in Nashville, a development which would surely set the francophone wing of the local media in a tizzy, we'll confine this discussion to the American-born Tortorella.

What Hiring John Tortorella Would Mean

There's no question that bringing in John Tortorella would represent a significant culture change for an organization which has been characterized by so much stability in the front office and behind the bench. Tortorella is a firebrand, known for either getting the absolute best out of players or chewing them up and spitting them out.

In other words, there's a higher range of risk & reward with a guy like Torts. He may take you all the way to the top, but he's going to ruffle a lot of feathers along the way, and there's a chance of a spectacular flame-out.

He does, however, boast a pretty impressive resume. He took Tampa Bay from the NHL's outhouse to the Stanley Cup in his 4th season as Lightning head coach (winning the Jack Adams Award along the way), and was generally commended for his work in New York. Last year, he was an Adams finalist after leading the Rangers to the Atlantic Division title. He boasts career percentages that are slightly better than Trotz's, too (.541 vs .532 in the regular season, .494 vs .380 in the playoffs).

The "sexy name" mindset could certainly latch on to Tortorella as being the guy to jump-start the Nashville Predators and perhaps take them farther than they've ever gone before.

Would I make such a switch if I was David Poile? No - but these days, it seems like nothing is completely off the table.