Time for change in Nashville

4/14/2014 - NHL

Sometimes it's just time.

Sometimes it doesn't matter how good you are at your job, especially as an NHL head coach, the sands simply run out.

It was so for Barry Trotz on Monday, a day after the Nashville Predators' regular season came to an end and the reality of a second straight season out of the playoffs sunk in.

Although there had been rumors for weeks, the team made it official Monday morning that they will be looking for a head coach for just the second time in franchise history.

It wasn't just time for change for the franchise but for Trotz, who has coached every single game the Predators have played, regular season and postseason, since they entered the league in 1998.

Time for a fresh face, a new voice, a different plan.

That doesn't mean it won't be powerfully strange next season to look across at the Nashville bench and not see Trotz -- looking for all the world like Vladimir Lenin -- presiding over the Preds' games.

It is a testament to his coaching abilities -- and they are significant -- and more to his personality and the way that he embraced the team and the community from the get-go that this is a moment shot through with great emotion.

Trotz will be missed. Deeply. As he should be.

His work in building a love affair between this country music mecca and the hard-working team that couldn't quite get to the Promised Land will never be forgotten. His is a lasting legacy with this franchise and with this community.

With all due respect to David Legwand, Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg and even Ryan Suter and captain Shea Weber, Trotz has in so many ways been the face of the franchise, the person with whom the public could relate, could connect.

Nashville is a heck of a hockey town and should continue to be for years to come. Barry Trotz, the longest tenured head coach in the NHL and the coach with the second longest active tenure in all four major sports behind only NBA head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, had a significant hand in that being so.

This season, the loss of netminder Pekka Rinne for an extended period of time to injury and the lack of consistent scoring doomed the team to a second straight playoff miss. But even before that, this was a Predators team that had never been able to get beyond the second round of the playoffs.

Some believed that a late-season revival with the return of Rinne and a sudden outpouring of goals might see Trotz return next season. But the dye was already cast.

At some point in the coming days, GM David Poile will turn his attention to finding a replacement for Trotz, interviewing candidates for the first time in almost two decades. Remarkable that Poile, who hired Trotz when the team was given life, has never had to make such a decision until now.

Phil Housley, an assistant in Nashville and former head coach of the U.S. under-20 team, will get a look. But if I had to bet money, I'd suggest Peter Laviolette will get a long look, too. Poile and Laviolette are well familiar with each other through international competition and I think Laviolette is a fine NHL head coach who would be a good fit in Nashville.

As for Trotz, the joke on Twitter was that the Toronto Maple Leafs' news conference on Monday announcing the hiring of Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan needed to be halted to make sure Shanahan had Trotz's cell phone number.

It might turn out to be less of a joke pending the future of Randy Carlyle in Toronto.

And here's the thing, the Predators' decision will undoubtedly have a ripple effect around the NHL. Trotz's reputation is so strong that teams that might have been considering a coaching change could see Trotz's availability as a tipping point in their own situations.

Who couldn't imagine Trotz bringing stability to the Leafs after their stunning late-season collapse?

Or the Vancouver Canucks or the Winnipeg Jets, although Paul Maurice likely deserves another shot with the underachieving Jets next season.

How about the dysfunctional Washington Capitals?

It's expected GM George McPhee will be looking for work after the Caps' disappointing season. Would a new GM be interested in Trotz's calming presence?

For my money Adam Oates deserves another shot in Washington, but if there is a change at the top there, the pressure may be on a new GM to make a clean sweep of things in the nation's capital and Trotz would be an interesting option.

In short, Trotz will be able to call his own shots.

The Nashville Predators, always the classy organization, offered Trotz a place within the fold moving forward. Both sides realize it is an offer that isn't likely to be needed.

No, it was time for Trotz to move forward as a coach and that means moving to a bench somewhere else in the NHL community.

Just as it was time for the Predators to move forward in their goal of becoming a contender, a champion. And that meant looking for another man to stand behind their bench.

As strange as it will be, it is as it should be.