Barry Trotz's Nashville Predators continue to be in the hunt for first place in the overall NHL standings. They've also been the talk of the hockey world since acquiring super Swede Peter Forsberg in a trade with Philadelphia 10 days ago. If the heat was already on Trotz to take his team deep into the playoffs, it got turned up several degrees Feb. 15. Born in Winnipeg and raised in Dauphin, Man., Trotz is proving that patience pays off: the Preds have stuck with him for nine seasons, making him the second-longest serving head coach in the NHL, next to Buffalo1s Lindy Ruff. Sun Media columnist Paul Friesen talked to Trotz about his longevity, Nashville's new superstar and the pressure to win a Stanley Cup.
Q: You're one of the top Western teams, and the top Eastern team is Buffalo, and those happen to be the two teams with the longest-serving head coaches in the league. What does that say?
A: You get continuity, there is something to that in terms of the way you play. Sometimes when you start from scratch, it doesn't always work. Sometimes you have to let the pieces evolve a little bit, and keep putting the right pieces in. Players want some stability, as well. No one wants the feeling of not knowing what's coming around the corner. I've always said that when you win, the coaches get too much of the credit and when you lose they get too much of the blame. I try to keep that in perspective.
Q: Talk about adding pieces -- you got everybody's attention by trading for Peter Forsberg. Talk about the discussion the organization had leading up to that move.
A: We talked about who would make the biggest difference, who would give us a chance to win the Cup. We identified Peter. Obviously he has a no-trade clause, and when Peter said he'd consider coming to Nashville, he was the primary guy. We had Plan A and Plan B and Plan C, but he was the primary guy. We'd have to step out on the limb. We said there's nothing wrong with that, because that's where the fruit is.
Q: How much of a factor did the whole marketing aspect play into it?
A: All the decision with Peter was hockey related. The original decision wasn't based on whether this would help us, marketing-wise. It is a former MVP and legitimate star player, so obviously we got a lot of national attention from that. But it was done for hockey. All the other stuff is bonus. Obviously, we've sold some tickets since he got here. And we made the statement that we're doing this because we believe we have a chance.
Q: It's been said if Peter Forsberg can't solidify hockey in Nashville, nobody can. Can he?
A: To put it on one guy, that's really unfair. I've always said there's a lot of hockey fans in the south, there's a lot of hockey fans in the U.S. There's just a lot of other fans, too. There's 300 million people. It's perspective. I think it takes a whole generation to create a market. Our market is growing ... it's growing like crazy. But we still have a long way to go. It's growing from zero.
Q: We always hear about the importance of team chemistry and how tricky that can be to find. How did you know he wouldn't disrupt that?
A: We did a little bit of homework. A guy like Paul Kariya played with him, so we asked Paul about him a little bit. And some of the people that might know him. You've never heard anybody say a bad word about Peter Forsberg. He deflects a little bit of the attention, but ... you've always heard good things. We knew there would be a little bit of a transition period. Any time you bring a player of his level, guys' roles change a little bit. The biggest challenge is making it all work. Finding everybody a role and a comfort level they can all accept.
Q: I don't know if you're the Cup favourite now, but safe to say the pressure's cranked up a notch?
A: It's been cranked up probably last year and this year, because we're a better team. This probably puts us even at a higher level. It's something we're learning to deal with. There's probably 10 teams that are feeling the same way.
Q: How hard will you try to re-sign Forsberg this summer?
A: Peter is not tipping his hand. He's going to play out the year and then decide what he's going to do. That's how he and Paul Kariya operate. So if you're trying to figure out what they're going to do, good luck to you. They're not even going to think about that until the season's over.