NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Barry Trotz, the NHL’s longest tenured head coach with one team and the only coach the Predators have ever known, will not be back for a 16th season with Nashville.
The Predators announced Monday they have told Trotz his contract will not be renewed and that they are starting a search for a new coach immediately. Trotz is being offered a job in the team’s hockey operations department, though the two-time Jack Adams finalist could be a top coaching target for other teams.
Missing the playoffs two straight seasons — the first time since 2001-02 and 2002-03 — was too much for a franchise that needs to reach the postseason to sell tickets and generate crucial revenue. Trotz’s contract expires June 30.
“Our organization has high expectations and we have not met them in the past two seasons,” general manager David Poile said in a statement.
“As a result, it is my decision and determination that we need a new voice and a new direction. … 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.”
Poile hired Trotz in August 1997 when the Predators were gearing up for the expansion franchise’s debut season in 1998-99, and Poile credited Trotz with laying the foundation and establishing the culture that has helped make the Predators successful.
Trotz and Poile are scheduled to appear at a Monday afternoon press conference.
He coached 1,196 games with Nashville. That puts him second only to Greg Popovich of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs for longest active coaching tenure in the four major sports. He is the only NHL coach to take his team to the playoffs in a span of seven of eight seasons between 2003-04 and 2011-12. He is 21-21-7 in the playoffs advancing to two conference semifinals.
But the Predators have been in transition since losing defenseman Ryan Suter to Minnesota as a free agent in July 2012 and also matching a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet to keep captain Shea Weber.
With the lockout shortening the season, the Predators had a batch of injuries in posting their first losing record (16-23-9) since 2002-03.
Nashville spent more than $36 million on five free agents last July. Goalie Carter Hutton did post 20 wins in Rinne’s absence, but the rest of the spending spree didn’t produce the offense they wanted. Poile traded Matt Hendricks for goalie Devan Dubnyk in January, but Viktor Stalberg was a disappointment with only eight goals and 19 points.
Goalie Pekka Rinne missed 51 games this season because of an E. coli infection in his surgically repaired left hip, and they finished 10th in the Western Conference missing the final playoff berth by three points. Nashville went 38-32-12 and finished the season with points in 10 of their final 12 games, going 9-1-2 down the stretch.
It wasn’t enough to save Trotz.
“We support this decision, and believe change is necessary if we are to reach our goals,” ownership chairman Tom Cigarran said in a statement.