Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Top Coach This Season

It is always hard to evaluate coaching.  The NHL writers often do not do this well.  They often select the coach of the most improved team.  This has led to coaches and coach of the year nominees being fired shortly after their nomination because they cannot keep up their often improbable run with their team for which they got their nomination.  That is a very poor way to evaluate coaching.

Coaching evaluation is a long term thing that requires looking at the system and circumstances a team plays.  I think that in an ideal world, it is something that could be evaluated sabermetrically, but there is no theory that comes close to doing this.

One team that continually does well despite a low payroll that always plays a strong system is the Nashville Predators.  This year is no exception, so I pick Barry Trotz as the leading candidate for coach of the year at this point.

Nashville has an 8-7 record with two regulation tie points.  While that isn’t too extraordinary, it is currently good enough for sixth in the West Conference.  Trotz has been a nominee for the coach of the year in each of the last two seasons.  Voters are beginning to recognize how good he is despite the fact Nashville is not the most improved team in the league.  Why should Nashville improve suddenly?  Trotz is their only coach in history and their improvement would not be due to Trotz and his new system, as the past seasons had Trotz and that same system.

Nashville has two top defencemen in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.  Pekka Rinne is a good goalie.  Historically the team has not had many big offensive stars.  So far this season rookie Craig Smith leads the team in scoring with David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist behind him.  These are not proven offensive talents and may not be able to maintain their current scoring rates for an entire season.

Nashville is a hard working tough team to play against.  They have been just below the level of division leader in the past few seasons and will likely maintain that level this year.  Barry Trotz is a big part of the reason for their continued success.  I think he has shown he is more valuable to his team than any other coach in the league.  It is possible that won’t last all season and one other team will have a strong showing that is related to coaching, but for now Barry Trotz is my top coach of the year candidate.

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FYI, the writers do not vote for the coach of the year, that is handled by the NHL broadcasters Association

Posted by Erik from St. Louis on 11/12/11 at 04:49 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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