What: Nashville at Detroit
When: Tuesday, November 19, 7:30pm (TV: FSD+)
The coach of any expansion team in professional sports is often the sacrificial lamb among his brethren.
He’s the haggard guy who’s given a roster of misfits and kids and aging veterans and asked to survive the season. That’s it—just survive it. Winning is a pipe dream.
History shows that it usually isn’t very long before the expansion coach either has enough, or his bosses have enough of him. Either way, he’s out the door, forthwith. Typical staying time is no more than two seasons, tops.
There are exceptions, though very few. Tom Landry comes to mind. Landry was hired as a young coach back in 1960 to guide the then-new Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. Landry cut his coaching teeth with the NY Giants, coaching the defense while someone named Vince Lombardi coached the offense for head coach Jim Lee Howell in the late-1950s.
Landry ended up lasting 29 years with the Cowboys, winning two Super Bowls. He’s in the Hall of Fame.
Barry Trotz was once a haggard expansion coach. When the Nashville Predators tabbed him to be the franchise’s first coach in 1998, Trotz suddenly became the oldest 36-year-old in the world.
Well, it’s 15 years later and Trotz is still behind the Preds bench.
But unlike Landry, who took his Cowboys to the NFL Championship game in his seventh season (1966), Trotz’s Preds haven’t been past the second round of the playoffs. Ever. His career record, going into tonight’s game at Detroit, is 528-456-150.
That’s 1,134 games coached by an expansion guy. Not too shabby.
Trotz, like so many hockey coaches, rode the buses and took his teams into the cracker jack arenas of the minors for several years. Trotz led the 1994 Portland Pirates to the AHL’s Calder Cup.
His was a typical resume for an expansion hockey coach: some minor league success, on the young side, looking to coach in the NHL in the worst way.
That’s what coaching an expansion team is, you know—coaching in the NHL in the worst way. Cue the rim shot.
Trotz is loved by his players, but more importantly, by his ownership and upper management. They’re the ones who have kept Trotz around for 15 years.
Not surprisingly, Trotz holds the NHL record for most games coached by the first coach of an expansion team. His 1,134 is 1,118 more than Lynn Patrick, who bailed on the expansion St. Louis Blues in 1967, giving way to a young assistant and scout—Scotty Bowman.
Trotz’s longevity with the Predators may, at first glance, appear to be hard to explain, given the lack of playoff success (his record in the post-season is 19-31). But Trotz won 28 games out of the gate, which at the time was the third most for an expansion team in league history. He got the team over .500 in his sixth season, and didn’t experience another losing record until 2013’s truncated, lockout-shortened season.
Still, in this day of high expectations and low patience, it’s amazing that Trotz, even with his winning record, remains the coach of the Predators.
It took change of ownership in Dallas to get Landry canned by the Cowboys. Trotz has survived two changes of owners in Nashville. So he’s up on Tom there. All Trotz needs is two Stanley Cups to match Landry’s team success.