- Craig Custance
It all changes so fast in the coaching world. One moment you’re marveling at the job Adam Oates is doing in reviving the career of Alex Ovechkin, whose production showed signs of slipping. The next, he’s fired.
One moment you’re wondering if Dan Bylsma will survive April while an upstart Columbus Blue Jackets team threatened to unravel high hopes in Pittsburgh, and the next he’s making the adjustments necessary to calmly navigate his group through a dangerous first round.
And then there’s the San Jose Sharks. Up 3-0 against one of the best teams in the league, the Sharks looked like they were ready for a postseason statement, perhaps make the long run we’ve all been waiting for. Now, it’s perilously close to completely unraveling, and you have to wonder what a completed meltdown would mean to the future of coach Todd McLellan. It's a crazy thought, because he’s one of the best coaches in the league.
It’s curious to watch from afar, but it has to be something else altogether when it can impact your livelihood or what city you may be spending the next portion of your life in. When the Nashville Predators decided to move on from Barry Trotz, there wasn’t another coaching vacancy for him to slide into. Now, the possibilities change daily for a guy who immediately becomes a leading candidate for any job that opens up. Really, can you imagine a better person to instill a sense of defensive structure and responsibility in Washington?
And yet, that’s not how he watches the games going on right now. He’s not watching a Minnesota or Pittsburgh or San Jose or any playoff series wondering if the result could somehow impact his employment opportunities. He’s enjoying the time with his family, spending his days taking in everything from horseback riding to a swimming lesson and then he shifts to hockey at night. He’s watching as a colleague looking to learn a thing or two that could help him in his next job, not from the perspective that the result could lead to an opening he might fill.
"No. I don’t [watch games that way] because these are my friends. To me, it’s disrespectful to wish that on anybody," Trotz said when we chatted last week. "Some of my best friends are under heat in certain markets and my name has come up there. It’s strange. I’ve called friends and you feel a little bit uncomfortable calling them because your name is getting thrown around in that market. These are my friends at the end of the day. I call them for friendship and support. It’s not about the job."
Things are starting to slow down for Trotz, who must have heard from every single person in hockey when news circulated that he wouldn’t be back in Nashville. The final tally was around 400 texts of support, over 100 phone calls and close to 100 emails.
Being the type of guy he is, Trotz spent the following days trying to respond to most of them, although those who got in early might have been missed because of the avalanche of messages that piled on.
He even took the time to put a full-page ad in the local paper in Nashville, a thank you to the fans and management in Nashville, along with an expression of hope that the community continues to support organizations such as Best Buddies and My Friend's House into which Trotz poured so much time. Pure class from start to finish.
"They’ve treated me well. I love the fact that I’ve been part of a non-traditional market,” he said. “You never saw a hockey net in the middle of the street, now you see them all over the place. Ownership has been fantastic. They’re dedicated to building rinks in the area, for more ice time. The more that you can build those, the more you’re going to have families and kids wanting to play the game.”
It’s about as well-handled a split-up as there could be between a coach and a franchise.
Now, comes the next step.