The Nashville Predators are slated to make a huge change, but a very familiar face will run the place. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported a stunning double-shot of news: David Poile is slated to retire as Predators president and general manager, handing the GM keys to former head coach Barry Trotz. The Predators confirmed the report on Sunday.
Trotz will get to work right away, although the official title change won't kick in until June 30. Poile will remain affiliated with the organization as an advisor.
"This is a decision that is best for me personally and best for the Nashville Predators," Poile said in a release. "For the Predators, I believe it is time for a new voice and a new direction. I am proud of the foundation we have put in place in our hockey operations, investing in and improving every area of the department. This is the right time for someone else to move our franchise forward."
One long-time face of the Predators hands the GM job to another
Generally, the Predators have given the impression that they’re a franchise that’s reluctant to change — at least at the executive level and when it comes to truly tearing down the roster. If Friedman’s reports are correct, this accomplishes an interesting mix of interjecting change with familiarity.
Poile, 73, spent 26 years as Predators GM, the team’s only general manager up until now (or “June 30”). Poile already came to Nashville as an experienced executive, as he was the Washington Capitals' general manager for 25 years.
Your opinion of his work may hinge on expectations. On one hand, about a half-century of work never translated to a single Stanley Cup win. Both the Capitals and Predators became playoff regulars under Poile’s watch, which was no small feat for an expansion franchise that didn’t enjoy the jumpstart afforded to the Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle Kraken.
Of course, Trotz was just as integral to the Predators' ascent to competence, serving as their head coach for a whopping 15 years (1998-99 to 2013-14). While the Predators reached a Stanley Cup Final after Trotz left, the defensive-minded coach only added to his impressive coaching resume after being fired by Poile. Trotz won a Stanley Cup with the Capitals and guided a New York Islanders team that lost John Tavares to deep playoff runs.
That’s impressive stuff, but will Trotz be able to translate that coaching mastery to the skills that suit a GM?
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) February 26, 2023
Trotz is certainly experienced in hockey at 60 years old, highlighted by 23 seasons of NHL coaching experience. He’ll need all of that wisdom to turn the Predators around.
Poile leaves Trotz with a serious challenge as Predators GM
The Predators signalled at least a moderate retool/rebuild starting with the decision to trade Nino Niederreiter this weekend. Following that move, reports surfaced that the Predators are open for business, with players like Dante Fabbro on the block:
.@JeffMarek reports on @Sportsnet that the Predators “are very much open for business.”
• Forsberg/Josi/Saros are believed to be untouchable
• Fabbro is expected to be traded (SJS considered the favorite)
• Jeannot is highly coveted, but ask is high (Jeff mentioned DAL)
— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) February 26, 2023
One would assume that Trotz agrees with Poile that Roman Josi, Juuse Saros, and Filip Forsberg are untouchable. That said, the Predators are such a mess that they should probably consider any and all options.
Take Saros, for instance. He’s easily ranked as one of the best goalies in the NHL for years, yet that elite work has really only dragged Nashville to the status of a playoff bubble team (if that). He’s a bargain at $5 million per year, and has a good chance to maintain a high level of play at 27. However, Saros’s team-friendly contract runs out after the 2024-25 season. The Predators would be making a big bet that they can turn things around quickly, because by the time they improve, Saros may be due a big raise.
Being that Josi is already 32, it’s also fair to wonder if that $9.059M cap hit will go from a relative bargain to an albatross by the time the Predators reverse their fortunes.
Those red flags don’t have to force a total revamp, yet it’s a little discouraging not to at least have those tough conversations. A fresh voice at GM — perhaps someone not steeped in decades of tradition — might have at least entertained such thoughts.
Instead, the Predators are making a crowd-pleasing move, and maybe Trotz will be as brilliant a GM as he was a coach. He’ll need to be.