Trotz makes it work

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:15 PM ET

You wonder if sometimes, late at night, when he’s licking his wounds from yet another first-round playoff exit, Barry Trotz doesn’t allow himself to wonder.

Wonder what it would be like to coach a star-studded lineup like the Detroit Red Wings. Or Chicago Blackhawks. Or San Jose Sharks. Or Vancouver Canucks.

You know, one of the Western Conference teams with mega-stars and a mega-payroll.

Because every year, Trotz, the only head coach the Nashville Predators have ever known, cobbles together a lineup on one of the NHL’s smallest budgets, and every year it competes for a playoff spot, earning one five of the last six seasons.

And then the Preds go up against the Red Wings or the Sharks — this year it was the Blackhawks — only to come up empty.

An inability to win even a single series would have a lot of coaches on the hot seat.

Trotz, though, for the first time in 12 seasons, is a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL’s coach of the year.

Not bad for a guy from Dauphin, who got his start as a bench boss in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and then with the U of M Bisons.

“I really look at it as a team award, I really do,” the 47-year-old told the Sun from Nashville, Wednesday. “Sometimes you almost feel embarrassed. Because winning is not about just the coach. It’s about your assistants, your goalie coaches, the players, the scouts, everybody. That’s probably our mentality in Nashville — everything we do, we have to do as a team.”

Trotz doesn’t have to worry about feeling more embarrassed — he’s not going to win the Jack Adams. Phoenix’s Dave Tippett has a virtual lock on it.

The simple fact Trotz was named one of three finalists Wednesday (Colorado’s Joe Sacco is the other) proves the rest of the hockey world feels the same way we do: that simply getting his teams to the post-season is a Music City Miracle.

This time around, he took his group and its approximately $47-million payroll against a Chicago franchise shelling out some $60 million.

Yet the Preds put a real scare into the ’Hawks, recording a couple of 4-1 wins and being seconds away from taking a 3-2 series lead before seeing Chicago score shorthanded, late, to tie Game 5, then win it in overtime and eventually win the series in six.

“A very tough way to lose,” Trotz said. “We gave it away in Game 5. And then I thought we showed great resiliency. We had great growth in our team. We felt like we were going to knock off a Cup contender. No disrespect, but we felt we could beat them. In the past you couldn’t say that.”

Belief is a great start, but it takes more than that to seriously chase the Stanley Cup. Bucks can certainly help.

Nashville, though, is a small market struggling to make ends meet. And it seems the unassuming kid from Dauphin is the perfect fit.

This past season, Trotz became just the sixth NHL boss to coach 900 games with the same team, joining Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff, Al Arbour (N.Y. Islanders), Billy Reay (Chicago), Toe Blake (Montreal) and the man himself, Jack Adams (Detroit).

While the Sporting News named him the NHL coach of the year in 2007, this is the closest he’s ever come to winning the Adams Trophy.

Not that it’s any consolation for losing another playoff series.

“I would trade it in a heartbeat,” Trotz said.

And then it was time for a meeting, time to begin planning for next season.

I had to know, though: did he ever quietly wish he was the one pulling the strings on a $60-million roster?

“You say that every year,” Trotz said.

But as quickly as it came, the moment was gone.

“I just worry about us,” he added. “We just deal with it. We have to find a way, that’s all.”


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