(CP) - The surprising Nashville Predators continue to have the best record of any team in the NHL, but coach Barry Trotz says simply being good in the regular season won't be enough to satisfy his club this year.
The Predators have lost in the opening round the last two years the NHL has held playoffs. That will be on the team's mind when this year's Stanley Cup playoffs begin. "I would be very disappointed if our team didn't have higher expectations," Trotz said Monday during a telephone conference call. "We were disappointed last year losing to San Jose.
"We recognize where we lost. Hopefully, we've had growth in those areas where we showed weaknesses."
Nashville currently leads the NHL standings with a 37-14-2 record for 77 points. The Predators are averaging 3.44 goals a game, second only to Buffalo, and are 19-3-3 at home.
Trotz has coached the Predators since Nashville joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1998-99.
Nashville first made the playoffs in 2003-04, losing in six games to Detroit. Last year, the Preds were the fourth seed heading into the playoffs, but again lost in the first round in five games to San Jose.
"I think (this year) we'll probably have a different mental approach as a team," said Trotz. "I knew we had growth last year in the playoffs.
"When we lost out, I could tell after the series was over that our players had a better understanding what it takes to win in the playoffs.
"I think this year we have a better understanding of how we are going to prepare for the playoffs and how we are going to use the regular season to hopefully catapult us to a deeper playoff run."
Good teams learn from their mistakes, said Trotz.
"Before you have long-term success you probably have a few failures," he said.
"You can look at every Stanley Cup champion the last 10 or 15 years. All those teams probably had a little disappointment before they had ultimate success. Maybe last year was a little bit of our disappointment. Hopefully we can go deep and have a shot at the Cup."
Trotz said his team has gained playoff experience through the additions of veterans like Jason Arnott, who won the Stanley Cup in 2000 playing with the New Jersey Devils, and J.P. Dumont.
The team has strong goaltending in Tomas Vokoun and Chris Mason, plus a good, young defence with players like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Dan Hamhuis.
Trotz has coached all 626 regular season games Nashville has played. That gives him the distinction of having the longest tenure of any expansion team coach in NHL history.
He admits coaching in a non-traditional hockey city may have assisted his longevity. Trotz also credits management with sticking to a long-term plan to develop the team and resist quick fixes.
"You are more under the microscope in a Canadian market than you are in most U.S. markets," he said.
"There were times when I didn't know if I was going to be around. In this world, it's all about winning and losing. At the same time management let me go through the process.
"I think I'm a better coach now than I was eight years ago. I've had to change and do things differently, with different personal and egos."