Trotz pulls off Music City miracle
Paul Friesen, QMI Agency
WASHINGTON - He's a Manitoba boy, through and through -- grew up in Dauphin and cut his hockey teeth in the Manitoba Junior League and at the University of Manitoba.
|Barry Trotz cut his coaching teeth in Manitoba, and has turned the Nashville Predators into a success story.
So you'd think his first game against the new Winnipeg Jets, Saturday in Tennessee, would be pretty special for Nashville Predators head coach, Barry Trotz.
"From my standpoint, we need the two points," Trotz told the Sun, Friday. "That's about it."
Welcome to the pressure-cooker of the NHL playoff race, where there's little room for sentiment or nostalgia.
Trotz may have grown up with the Jets top of mind, but it's the Red Wings and Blackhawks on his brain these days, the teams Nashville is clustered with in the four-through-six positions in the Western Conference.
The new-look Predators (1-3-1 in their last five) haven't exactly been lighting up the league since undergoing a makeover at the trade deadline, outscored 11-4 in back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Edmonton.
The Preds make no bones about their new identity. No longer is this the small-market, low-budget outfit that was content simply to make the playoffs.
This is a team built to last, to win, behind a coach trying to become the first Manitoban since Fred Shero in 1975 to guide his team to the Stanley Cup.
"We're all in," Trotz acknowledged. "We probably made the most moves at the trading deadline. We were a decent team at the trading deadline. We've added some pieces, now we've gotta make them fit."
Going to the Music City via trade: rugged forward Paul Gaustad, skilled winger Andre Kostitsyn and big defenceman Hal Gill.
And the big coup: the return of Alexander Radulov from a four-year exile in Russia.
"On paper we look better," Trotz said. "But you know what? It's not necessarily the best teams that win. It's the team that plays the best. And right now we could be playing a lot better."
Trotz's challenge is managing the team chemistry the Preds have always seemed to have in spades.
Because adding players means some who've been around for 60 games get bumped down -- or out altogether.
"If you want to win the Cup... you need everybody buying in," the coach said. "And in order to win the Cup you have to have a deep team. We are a deep team, in terms of talent. Now we have to become a good team."
That job falls to the only coach Nashville has ever known, a finalist for the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL's top coach the last two years.
Three more victories and Trotz will join Al Arbour (Islanders), Lindy Ruff (Sabres), Billy Reay (Blackhawks) and Toe Blake (Canadiens) as the only coaches to reach 500 wins with one franchise.
After Saturday, it better be two more victories.
Or he's going to be one grumpy guy.