Game 22: Red Wings-Nashville Enotes

No overtime needed. No shootout necessary.

The Red Wings found a way to lose this one quietly, within the normal allotment of 60 minutes.

The Wings sleepwalked their way through a 2-0 loss to the Nashville Predators at the Joe tonight. Forget about where the game was played—although the home winless streak is now at a grisly eight games. They could have played this one in Timbuktu and the Red Wings wouldn’t have had a chance to win.

When you don’t play with confidence, you look like you’re uninspired. The Red Wings are starting to show cracks, starting to exhibit evidence of a team being crushed in spirit by the inability to grab two points.

The game was scoreless until :05 left in the second period, when Red Wings killer Shea Weber blasted a slap shot past Jimmy Howard, through traffic, and the power play goal gave the Preds a 1-0 lead. Gabriel Bourque added an un-needed insurance goal at 7:13 of the third period, tapping in a loose puck after a shot wide banged off the boards and into the goal crease.

But even though the teams played 39:55 of scoreless hockey before Weber’s goal, the Red Wings weren’t terribly engaged. They, frankly, were playing like a team expecting the other skate to fall.

The Red Wings iced the puck with maddening regularity, usually as a result of poor outlet passing. They created precious few scoring chances. They didn’t crash the net. Nashville goalie Marek Mazanec won’t get a much more stress-free shutout than the one he got tonight.

It was yet another night when the visitors came in and had their way with the Red Wings. The crowd was too stunned—or too bored—to boo or put up much of a fuss.

BOX SCORE

BOTTOM LINE: The Red Wings took a giant step backward tonight. Chris Osgood and Darren Eliot each used the word “disturbing” in describing the team’s play on the FSD post-mortem. Hard to argue.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: 22 games have been played and the Red Wings are still struggling to find their way. The 9-6-7 record doesn’t look terrible, but with the way they performed against the Preds, it gives one pause. Are they tuning coach Mike Babcock out? This was an effort that was mystifying and troubling. I believe it’s a lack of confidence and nothing more sinister than that. This team needs a win in the worst way.

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Spotlight on the Opponent: Barry Trotz

What: Nashville at Detroit
When: Tuesday, November 19, 7:30pm (TV: FSD+)

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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.