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Trotz Has High Expectations

Nashville coach Barry Trotz took part in a NHL tele-conference today…
Q. When you took the job when the Nashville Predators, I’m sure you were well aware the career expectancy of an expansion coach historically has not been very good. Can you remember back to what your thoughts were? Could you ever have anticipated you would have been around to enjoy the success of the Predators?

BARRY TROTZ: Yeah, really looking back, I remember when I first got the job, I obviously was excited going from the Portland Pirates and Washington’s organization to Nashville. I remember talking to David. When I sort of had a moment by myself, I said, Am I ready for this? A, you’re going to be a head coach in the National Hockey League. I felt I was ready for that. I didn’t know if I was ready for an expansion team in a non-traditional market. That was probably the one thing that crossed my mind.
After reflecting another moment, I said, If I’m ever going to do anything in this business in the coaching aspect, there’s probably no bigger challenge. I sort of took that as the challenge to see if we could be competitive as an expansion team, just do what you do best, see if you can do it for a long time. I’ve been very fortunate. I remember reflecting over that moment. Am I sure I’m ready for this with an expansion team? It’s been a great process.

Q. Last year obviously you went through the playoff experience. A lot of your guys got more experience from that. As you approach the playoffs, it’s not that far away, can you talk about how you think your team has addressed what it needed to do to be more ready for the playoffs this time around?
BARRY TROTZ: I think in the off-season in terms of personnel, obviously adding a guy like Jason Arnott, a little more experience in a guy like JP Dumont. We’ve gone with the young guys. The one thing that goes under the radar is how well our young defense has played, guys like Shea Weber, the development of Ryan Suter, Danny Hamhuis, and obviously with stable guys like Kimmo Timonen and Zidlicky back there. From our standpoint, I think it’s a different mental approach as a team. I knew we had growth last year in the playoffs. When we lost out, I could tell after the series was over that our players are more determined, had a better understanding what it takes to win in the playoffs. I think this year we’ve had a better mindset of how we’re going to prepare for the playoffs, how we’re going to use the regular season to hopefully catapult us to a little deeper playoff run than we’ve had in the past.

Q. You’re playing the Penguins tomorrow night. They have a guy, Ray Shero, who seems to do doing well. You have a little familiarity with him, as he does with you. Can you talk about his role with Nashville’s development? Do you expect him to offer some trade secrets?
BARRY TROTZ: I think he will. Obviously what we’ve built here, I think Ray within the organization had a big hand in it with David Poile. Obviously we’ve had a great relationship with Ray. I would expect him to trade some secrets to his coach and to the people because he’s very competitive. I think a lot of the things that he’s instituted in Pittsburgh are things that we’ve done here. I think he’s done a real great job of finding a balance of young guys. Obviously they have the great talent of Crosby, Malkin, Staal, the young guys they do. They have the good goaltending. Ray is adding some real quality veteran guys. You look at the guys that he added, he didn’t make any big splashes in terms of the free-agent market, but what he did was bring in quality guys. Obviously a guy like Mark Eaton, a guy under the radar in the league, he knows what kind of person he is, he knows how he can fit in. Some of the subtle moves of bringing the sandpaper type of guys like Dominic Moore and Ruutu into their lineup.
I think he’s just building a real solid foundation. A lot of things we’ve done here I think he’s doing in Pittsburgh. Ray is a guy that is going to try to win a championship in Pittsburgh. He’s got some great insight into the game, how the game should be played, what he wants in his team. I think he’s going to do just an absolutely wonderful job in Pittsburgh as he did here.

Q. This is a Penguins team that’s quite different, quite a bit better than what you were used to in the past.
BARRY TROTZ: There’s no question. I’ve watched them. They’re a hard team not to watch because they have the exciting players like Crosby, Staal, Malkin. They play a very up-tempo game. They’ve added a lot of character. For years I think Pittsburgh relied a lot on just pure skill. That doesn’t get you all the way that you want to get to. I think they’ve got a good balance of some hard-working, hard-nosed type players, obviously the gifted skill guys they do have. Their special teams are real strong, especially the power play, Crosby running it off the half wall, a guy like Sergei Gonchar. I’ve had Sergei in the minors, in Washington. I know what he can do on the power play and obviously with Malkin and Staal there, as well as an old pro like Mark Recchi. They’ve really got some dynamic guys in certain areas and they’re dangerous off the rush, on transition, and obviously one-on-one they can beat you. It will be a real good challenge for us because of the fact that I look at a guy like Crosby, who can do so many things, and guys like Malkin. It gives you sort of a different type of challenge for our hockey team. I think both teams are going to play a very hard game tomorrow. I think it will be pretty exciting. Both teams have some dynamic offensive ability.

Q. How is Shea Weber doing? The Ducks lead the league in fighting by a large margin. You’re right up there, but there’s a lot of distance in between. Do you think at all that’s part of their philosophy, the personnel they have? Do you think they cross over the line at all?
BARRY TROTZ: Anaheim?

Q. Yes.
BARRY TROTZ: A couple things I think happened is they’ve got a lot of hard-nosed players. I think they’ve got a good team concept. I think it’s just the makeup of a lot of their players. I look at the types of players that they have. You look at a guy like Shane O’Brien, who is a young guy, who always has been a very aggressive player. They’ve got guys like Thornton, Travis Moen is doing a great job. I just think—and plus they’ve been a top team. Teams come after you a little bit more. We’ve found that with us. As we’ve become a better team, teams come after us a little harder. They’ve got a lot of players like we do. We have some guys that will get under your skin. A Jordin Tootoo gets under your skin as good as anybody. They have some of those guys that do that. They have a team-first mentality therefore, they get in a lot of those confrontations and do that. That’s part of their genetic makeup individually, and collectively that comes out a little bit more probably.

Q. Is it just team toughness or does it ever cross the line?
BARRY TROTZ: If I say it never crosses the line, I’d probably be lying. Any time you have aggressive players, they’ll cross the line. That’s just the nature of the beast, I think. At the same time I think collectively they’re a good, solid, hard-nosed team. Our game the other night, I didn’t think they really crossed the line anywhere. It was just a hard-nosed game. There’s nothing wrong with a hard-nosed game.

Q. When you were first talking, you talked about being a coach in an expansion team in a non-traditional market. Did that give any more leeway as opposed to a like a Canadian city? Do you think there would have been more pressure on you and the team to build quicker than the market you’re in now?
BARRY TROTZ: Probably. The reason I say that is I’m Canadian. I’ve been in the States for so long, but obviously you’re more under the microscope in the Canadian market than you are in the U.S. market - in most U.S. markets. I know a couple markets on this side of the border that are tremendously tough on their coaches, and even their teams unduly, it almost affects their teams. Yeah, probably a little bit more leeway. But when we went into this process, the one thing that we did a good job of selling is the fact that there was a five-year plan from our standpoint. I think David Poile, Craig Leopold, our whole management team, really sold the fact if you’re going to build a long-term winner, it doesn’t happen overnight. We didn’t make the playoffs till our sixth year, which was one year behind. At the same time the marketplace changed a lot in terms of, say, some of the free-agent signings, payroll-wise where teams went with their payroll. When we first—I think our first year I think we started, Detroit was in the mid 40s, and in our fifth year they were in the 80s. It changed a lot in terms of that. One thing I give our management and ownership team is that we were always on the same page. The coaching staff, the management team, the ownership, we had to build this team a certain way through the draft. We had to be patient. We had to sign the right guys when we had an opportunity to. We sort of went down that path. There are times where I didn’t know if I was going to be around because in this world it’s all about winning and losing. At the same time the management let me go through that process. I think I’m a better coach now than I was, you know, eight years ago. At the same time our team’s a lot different. I’ve had to change and do different things differently with different personnel, different egos, if you will, all those things that come with the growth of a hockey team. I have a lot of friends in the coaching fraternity that sometimes I know if teams would be a little bit more patient, let the coach come through the other side maybe through a long losing stint or whatever, they’d probably be stronger in the long run. But at the same time a lot of times the marketplace and ownership have different patience levels or different levels of understanding of the team concept. I think our management team has always had a plan and believes in what we’re doing. We just have been going forward.

Q. Do expectations rise now that you’ve had a playoff? Do they rise more and more each playoff run?
BARRY TROTZ: Absolutely, and they should. I’d be very disappointed if our team didn’t have higher expectations this year. I mean, we were disappointed obviously last year losing to San Jose. We recognized where we lost it. Hopefully we’ve had growth in those areas we showed weakness. From our standpoint, I think—I know for a fact actually we do have higher expectations. I want our team to have higher expectations. Any time you’re learning, I mean, I’ve always been one that looks back at how teams have had success and how teams have built their organizations. Before you have long-term success, you probably have a few failures. You can almost look at every Stanley Cup champion in the last probably 10, 12, 15 years, all those teams probably had a little bit of disappointment before they had ultimate success in winning the Cup. Maybe last year was a little bit of our disappointment. Hopefully we can go deeper and have a shot at the Cup.
To me the Stanley Cup is purely the hardest trophy in all sport to win because of the fact of the length of time and the number of games you have to go through to win it. It’s just amazing. You have to have a lot of things fall into place for you.

Q. Let me ask you about Karlis Skrastins. You coached him when he first got to the league. He is about to break Tim Horton’s record for most consecutive games by a defenseman.
BARRY TROTZ: He’s a throwback to the early years of the NHL. He’s one of those warriors. He plays through injury. He’s a very low-maintenance guy, doesn’t say much. His game is pretty old-school in terms of he gets the puck, he moves it. He defends very well. He battles through stuff, blocks every shot. What’s most amazing to me is he’s still in this consecutive game streak with the way he blocks shots. I mean, he’s the first guy to put his body down and get in front of a shot. He’s a great penalty killer. I know when he played for us, there’s times when he’d get a shot, certain body parts, take a hit, what have you. Most players wouldn’t play, and he would play. He just tapes himself up, doesn’t say much. Never is in the training room other than to come up with a new device to sort of keep himself together and keep himself in the game. He’s just one of those old-school warriors. I hope he breaks the record. I hope nothing happens in the next game or two.

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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