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Barry Trotz fired as Nashville Predators coach, but real problem remains

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Predators coach Barry Trotz (with Shea Weber) was synonymous with conservative, defensive hockey. (AP)

Barry Trotz and Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators

By Allan Muir

It's been clear for some time now that the Nashville Predators were a stale mix in need of a fresh perspective.

They're finally going to get one ... only it's not the one they really need.

It was announced this morning that Barry Trotz’s contract will not be extended and that the organization is in the market for a new head coach for the 2014-15 season. According to a team statement, Trotz has been offered a position within the organization’s hockey operations department and will consider his options before making a decision on the position.

"Our organization has high expectations and we have not met them in the past two seasons," general manager David Poile said. "As a result, it is my decision and determination that we need a new voice and a new direction. Our change in direction began over a year ago as we have made several personnel changes, including the trading of long-time veteran players and a change to our coaching staff last offseason. Our goal is to return to the playoffs with the ultimate goal of contending for the Stanley Cup. We know that once we get into the playoffs, anything is possible.

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"I also want to thank Barry for everything he has done for our franchise. He has been the face and voice of our team for 15 years. He created, developed and lived The Predator Way – on the ice, in the office and in the community. There could be no finer ambassador for the Predators or Nashville than Barry Trotz. He has laid a foundation and culture that will benefit the next coach of the Nashville Predators."

Those are kind words, exactly the sort you'd expect for someone who has been as loyal a soldier as Trotz has been while serving as the only coach in franchise history.

And it's true that a new voice, the right new voice, anyway, could help this club regain some of the ground it lost during the past two seasons.

But it's laughable that Poile isn't walking the plank with him.

Say what you want about Trotz and his commitment to a brand of hockey that often challenged paint drying for entertainment value. The truth is that he could only work with what he was given, and he's won more than his share of hands with some lousy cards over the years.

But you know how it is with coaches. Even the best ones have a shelf life, and after 15 years Trotz had run his course in Nashville. But the coach of a team without a legitimate top line or a reliable backup in place when starter Pekka Rinne went down for most of the season doesn't deserve more than a share of the blame. After all, it certainly wasn't Trotz who assembled that pool of "talent."

To be fair, the Preds have always been run on a shoestring, and Poile -- a graduate of the Joe McGrath school of management where every nickel dreams of becoming a dime -- has dealt with financial constraints every step of the way. That he managed to construct so many teams that overachieved through the years will probably earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame some day.

But this club has slipped into a spiral of mediocrity over the past few seasons as Poile has either run out of tricks or made too many bad bets. His decision to give term and big money to 2013 summer signings Viktor Stalberg, Matt Hendricks and Eric Nystrom was more desperate than a college kid after last call, and he was badly outmaneuvered on Shea Weber's offer sheet from the Flyers. And while Poile has shown a terrific eye for grit, his search for elite scoring talent always seemed to come up short.