He’s coming home.
Many Nashville Predators fans clamored for the team to bring back Barry Trotz in some role after he decided to take a break from coaching (and when it appeared he wasn’t going to be back in the practice). After all, he was instrumental in the franchise becoming what it is today.
While he was away, he won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals before moving on to the New York Islanders, where he took a juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning team to seven games—so he gained plenty of experience outside of the organization that he said he will be using to help influence his decisions. And now, he’s returning to replace David Poile as the Predators' general manager.
The biggest knock on Trotz isn’t that he doesn’t have experience or knowledge to use and learn from, but that he has never specifically been in a managerial position in the NHL. For some, that might be terrifying to think about because the fact that there is unpredictability can be scary, even though most of the Predators fanbase was not in support of Poile being in the driver’s seat.
The Predators are in a fragile spot now and will still be when Trotz takes the reins fully. One wrong move could send them into a spiral, and having someone without experience could potentially lead to a mistake.
However, the good news is that Trotz, even with his inexperience in management, understands what makes a good team, what makes a good coach, and what it takes to win the Stanley Cup. Sure, he may not be skating a hard lap before practices, but not every general manager can say they possess the knowledge that Trotz does, despite this being the first managerial position he’s held.
So, what can Predators fans expect?
Well, first, it doesn’t appear that Trotz will severely affect how Nashville approaches the next season or two, or even further down the road. He knows what this team is, judging by some of his comments in the press conference that he and Poile held at Bridgestone Arena.
Another thing that Predators fans can expect is not having a huge influx of analytics. For some, that might be great news, and for others, that might be disconcerting. Trotz is no Kyle Dubas. He believes that analytics are useful, but in a moderate capacity, judging by some of the comments he’s made in the past.
This is a totally fair viewpoint to hold and one that many around the NHL in all sorts of positions continue to embrace.
Some (including myself) might encourage a little bit more influence of analytics on decision-making, considering that the Predators have one of the smaller analytics staffs in the NHL. Here’s a list of “analytical hires” around the league, compiled and consistently updated by Shayna Goldman.
The final item on the list I want to touch on is one that I’m less confident about but could certainly see happening, and that is a coaching change.
Trotz, when speaking to the media yesterday, said John Hynes is “a great coach” and that he’s going to be evaluating everything over the next four months until he takes the reins full-time. Obviously, there’s no way that the soon-to-be general manager comes out and says that the guy his predecessor hired is a bad coach, but I don’t believe seeing Trotz go with a new voice behind the bench would surprise many people.
First, if there’s anyone I would want to evaluate a coaching hire, it would be Trotz, so that’s a distinct advantage the Predators have.
But also, from a pure management perspective, we’ve seen new general managers pick their own coaches before. They want to build a team a certain way, and that starts by getting a strong voice behind the bench that they can trust to help lead the team through whatever lies ahead. For the Predators, that most likely means a coach that is good at developing young talent and is willing and able to go through a reset.
Currently, there is no official word on anything that Trotz is planning to do behind the bench, and there most likely won’t be until the offseason. However, it wouldn't be unfair to assume that a new coach will be the route chosen over the summer.
There are plenty of things to be excited about with the Predators organization. While Poile has built teams that made Nashville a staple in the hockey world and gifted fans with some incredible memories, it was time for a new voice, and who better than the man who helped him at this franchise’s genesis?