Barry TROTZ says he could have been fired a few times and David Legwand should have been traded away by now, but that's just not the way of the Nashville Predators.
Trotz is the only coach in the team's 15-year history and Legwand was the organization's first draft pick.
"They kind of grew up together around here," said Predators forward Mike Fisher Thursday. "They're the best example of the stability and continuity this organization stands for. Leggy (Legwand) and Barry are part of the foundation. They're Predators."
The Preds touched down in Winnipeg and headed straight to the MTS Iceplex for a quick skate. The Predators are in the midst of a 17-day road trip and have collected five of a possible six points so far, including a win in Denver over the Avs Wednesday. The Predators sit fifth in the Central Division with 18 points, just four ahead of the last-place Winnipeg Jets.
Tonight's match is key in the early Western Conference playoff picture.
"That's life in the Western Conference. Nobody seems to lose and if you get out of the pack it's hard to get your way back in," said Trotz.
Predators GM David Poile has fired just one coach in his career as GM, first of the Washington Capitals and now the Predators.
Trotz, a Dauphin native, has led his team to the playoffs seven times in 14 seasons, including seven of the last 10.
Stability is easy to talk about but it's much harder to live.
"In the fifth season, and the franchise did this more for marketing, but they did a five-year playoff guarantee," said Predators play-by-play man Pete Weber. "And they did not make the playoffs that year. They just missed going down the stretch and made it the next year.
"If you talk with Barry, he'd tell you there have been three or four times where he thought it might be over here. For Nashville fans, they didn't have professional sports until 1998, and then the Houston Oilers move here and the Predators got started. For 13 years, both franchises only had one coach (Jeff Fisher with the Tennessee Titans and Trotz). So they only know about stability in Nashville. David Poile has only fired one coach, and he replaced that coach with his brother, Brian Murray with Terry Murray. Trotzie doesn't have a brother so I think he's safe."
Trotz smiled when he's asked about the continuity his organization has had behind the bench.
"We have a foundation. People ask me a lot, 'Does your message get old?' If the message of playing well as a team, having a good work ethic, playing good defence and having people with good character is a bad message to keep pounding the rock with, then maybe I'm in the wrong business," said Trotz.
"We've gone through rough patches where it would have been very easy to say let's change the coach. But David Poile is a big believer of the answer is in the room. Unless it's unfixable, the answer is with the players. Sometimes when you pull the plug on the coach it sends a message that the players can be let off the hook. It sends a message through to the players that this is the way we want to play and it will lead to winning. If they don't believe it you can show them."
Trotz won a Calder Cup with the Portland Pirates before making his move to the NHL and one of the first players he came across when he joined the Predators was Legwand.
Legwand, chosen second overall in the 1998 draft, has 204 goals and 540 point through 909 games. This season he has four goals and 10 assists. Legwand may not have developed into a superstar but he's had a long, productive career.
"I've gotten to play with a lot of good players over the years and we've had good teams," said Legwand. "Stable organizations are the best. You look at the top franchises and they've all been stable for long stretches. We know what Trotzie stands for and what he wants for us and we play for him. It's a good situation for everyone."
Legwand smiled when asked to compare his situation as the first draft pick of the Predators and Mark Scheifele, the first selection of this version of the Jets.
"It's obviously totally different with this being a Canadian city and everything that goes with that," said Legwand. "There's a lot of pressure but he's Canadian kid and he grew up with it. He'll be fine. He's a good player and a smart player. He just needs to go out and try to prove himself every night."
Weber said Legwand has done it all for the Predators and is finding another gear at the age of 33.
"Coming out of Plymouth (Whalers), David was known as attack, attack, attack. So he had to learn the defensive game under Trotzie. He basically became a third-line checking centre. With the Predators, you can argue, they've had four third lines over the years. Never really having a top centreman other than Jason Arnott and the best forward no question was Paul Kariya," said Weber. "So David, over the years, has had to fill a lot of roles. He's had to deal with some injuries but is still closing in on 1,000 games. But right now, he's probably playing the best hockey of his career."
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