Is Trotz the NHL’s Version of Jeff Fisher?
By Greg Moshopoulos
The Nashville Predators are 31 games into the 2013-14 season and hover around the .500 mark as they typically do from year to year before they make a playoff push (last year’s lockout shortened season not withstanding). As the Preds mire in mediocrity, the majority of the Western Conference has sailed past them and will force them to come up with a highly overachieving second half to the season if they plan on being relevant in the playoff chase.
We tend to see this every year and have the same questions. Who will pick up the scoring? When are we going to get a dynamic offensive player to help with our scoring? I have long been a proponent of coach Trotz and GM David Poile. They have a strategy on the type of player they want and teach the same system from Milwaukee to Nashville. Solid two-way hockey is their scheme, but if you don’t follow through, you can get in the doghouse quickly. History has shown that Trotz has scratched players that aren’t defensively responsible at times. If you recall, Colin Wilson played all 82 games during the 2010-11 regular season, only to be a surprise scratch for the majority of their playoff run. Here’s a guy that scored 16 goals, 34 points, and finished with a +9 during the season, and his reward was getting to watch the playoffs from the rafters? It doesn’t really add up.
Fast forward to this season and Filip Forsberg. Injuries have put him on the shelf for the last month, but even when healthy, he wasn’t really given much of a chance to showcase his talents. At only 19, he has shown glimpses of his potential and may very well be the most talented scoring forward this organization has seen since… dare I say… Alexander Radulov. Largely being relegated to 4th line minutes with grinders Gaustad and Nystrom, Forsberg has only 5 points in 12 games. Trotz then came out yesterday and stated he is allowing him to play in the World Junior Championships for his native Sweden. This is a player on IR already, so I’m not sure why he would allow him to expose himself to possible further injury while not benefiting the team in any way.
So here are the Preds, stuck in neutral in an ultra strong Western Conference, only ahead of the perennial doormats in Alberta. There is plenty of blame and excuses to go around. Rinne has played all of 9 games this season and won’t be back for several weeks. However, Marek Mazanec put together an unbelievable stretch of games in his absence, earning the Rookie of the Month for November. Though his play has tailed off of late, I can’t blame goaltending for the Preds’ mediocrity.
The common denominator here is Trotz. Has his time finally come? I’m not one to push for the firing of anyone because if you step back from the fandom, these are human beings trying to do their job to the best of their ability. I believe the Nashville market, even though we are now 15 seasons into their existence, is still largely in the ‘honeymoon’ stage with the team and are just happy to still have a team to cheer for, no thanks to Blackberry mogul Jim Balsille. Trotz has a winning percentage of .531 through this last decade and a half. Compare him to another Nashville coach of equal longevity, Jeff Fisher. Fisher coached for 16 seasons and finished his tenure with a .542 winning percentage, also very average. Both coaches have had very limited playoff success. If you take away the ‘Music City Miracle’, one could argue Fisher would’ve finished his career in Nashville with 2 playoff wins during that stretch. Likewise, Trotz has but 2 playoff series victories during his time in Music City.
Make no mistake, if this team is going to make any hay, it needs to start now, with 7 of their next 9 games at home. They blew an opportunity with the last home stand going 0-3-1. Trotz likes to say we want to make it difficult for teams to come in and play in ‘The Coliseum’ with the 17,113 Pred fans behind them. The turnaround needs to happen now.