Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trotz knows all about challenges

Only head coach Preds ever had offers wisdom on changes at top

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BARRY Trotz, the NHL's longest-tenured coach, has seen this movie more than a few times and arrived in Winnipeg on Monday to find it running again.

The Jets changed coaches two weeks ago and this time there was a personal connection -- the dismissed Claude Noel is a friend and former colleague who coached the Predators' AHL club in Milwaukee.

"He is a friend of mine," Trotz said Monday at the MTS Centre, asked about the Jets' coaching change. "I think he did a terrific job. He was trying to change a little bit of the culture here from moving the team. I think he did a really good job with the group.

"When there's a coaching change, it's not necessarily always... in the coaching fraternity. When we win, we get too much credit, and when we lose there's too much blame."

Trotz said that under new coach Paul Maurice, the focus in Winnipeg has likely gone back to the players, not the coaching.

"I think sometimes in a coaching change, it puts the onus back on the group, and that onus on the group can drive the team for a while," Trotz said.

"I know Paul is a terrific coach, Claude is a terrific coach and... the group has to buy into what you're selling, and sometimes when that change is made, it goes to the group to get it solved."

The Predators have been the picture of stability since joining the NHL in 1998. Trotz has been their only coach and he's certainly exhibited another wave of patience after starting a rebuild last season, then having to go without stud goalie Pekka Rinne for all but nine games this season.

Oh, and there's also the matter of having the NHL's youngest -- by far -- defence corps, average age 26.0 years.

"It's been a bit of a challenge," Trotz said, his team at 54 points in 54 games, one point back of tonight's opponent, the Jets. "I believe we'd be eight or nine wins better in the standings (with Rinne). We've lost a lot of games on goals where you go (grimaces). He's a difference-maker."

Rinne, out with hip trouble, has resumed workouts but has not yet been on the ice.

"For me, it's been a really hard year because expectations coming in were high for us to get back in the mix," the coach said. "I was confident we would, but did not expect to lose maybe the best goaltender, the backbone of our team."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 28, 2014 C3

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