ARLINGTON, Va. -- Hockey players, coaches and front-office staffs often speak of instilling cultures. David Poile and Barry Trotz literally built one from scratch.
The Nashville Predators were in their infancy in the late 1990s, and as the franchise's first general manager and coach, Poile and Trotz set out to entrench an identity in a nontraditional market.
"When you have someone that's working alongside you for so many years, you certainly have to be on the same page in terms of your overall strategies and game plans," Poile said. "Our thought process in a nutshell was to make Nashville a hockey city."
As the Predators matured, they inherited the personality of their demanding coach. They were blue-collar, no-nonsense and accountable.
"[It was] the person and the personality, the work ethic," Poile said. "It wasn't just the work ethic for our team. It was his work ethic and commitment to the community, the consistency that he brought on a daily basis, his purpose as the coach of the Predators."
After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the second time in as many years and Trotz's contract up for renewal, Poile sought a new direction after 15 seasons.
Trotz, the longest tenured coach from the start of an NHL franchise, will return to Nashville for the first time as coach of the Washington Capitals on Friday.
"It'll probably be a little emotional," Trotz said. "When I left there, they were nothing but first-class. Not a typical parting of the ways, if you will. Nashville became my home, and it still is to this point, just because my family's there and I've got some of my friends there. It'll be a busy time, but I'm going to try to go low-key as low as I can. I don't blend in there very well, so might be a little more difficult. I'm looking forward to it."
Trotz's transition expectedly took time. In early interviews, he would say "Nashville" instead of "Washington" out of habit. At home, he and his wife, Kim, have attempted to make their new surroundings as comfortable as possible for their son Nolan, who has special needs.
"Originally, it was a little bit difficult," Trotz said. "Big change, a different type of city. … The transition at first was a little bit difficult because you uprooted everything, but it's actually been pretty exciting. Meeting new people, new area, different lifestyle. Being in the Eastern Conference is a little different than the West, all those things. I've actually embraced it. It's been fun. I've got some great people to work with and a team that I think is embracing what we're trying to do here."
Trotz said he thought he might originally be jealous of Nashville's success without him. At 29-9-4, the Predators are off to their best start. Coach Peter Laviolette's more aggressive, attacking style has Nashville among the NHL's highest-scoring teams, and him among Jack Adams Award candidates.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne, prior to sustaining a sprained knee Tuesday that will force him to miss 3-5 weeks, was the frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy and received midseason Hart Trophy consideration. Rookie forward Filip Forsberg, drafted by Washington in 2012, has blossomed into a dynamic offensive player and is likely to be a Calder Trophy finalist.
"[Laviolette] has done a fantastic job in Nashville, and it has been refreshing for me," Trotz said. "It was time for a new face in Nashville, and a new challenge for myself as well."
To Trotz's credit, the Capitals have flourished under his guidance, having earned a point in 18 of their past 19 games (14-1-4).
Similar to how he constructed the Predators' foundation, Trotz has renovated the Capitals' mindset. Washington has become a much more structured team, capable of combining its offensive firepower with defensive stinginess.
"It felt like we played against Nashville there for a bit," Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg said after a 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Saturday. "They played really tight."
A warm welcome will surely greet Trotz at Bridgestone Arena on Friday. The Predators have something planned to honor him, though Poile was mum on exactly what.
Nashville will continue to operate without Trotz, but he will forever be intertwined with the franchise.
"He got a chance to build culture," said Capitals goaltending coach Mitch Korn, who has worked with Trotz throughout Trotz's NHL coaching career. "He got a chance to pick the carpet, put up everything on the wall.
"While there will be other coaches from now until eternity there, when you're the first, someone's always sitting in your chair. And that's cool."