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One-on-One with: Preds Head Coach Barry Trotz

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
In light of today’s NHL schedule release, sat down with Preds Head Coach Barry Trotz to talk about the 2009-10 schedule, the depth of the Central Division, and the challenges of coaching in an Olympic Year.

Schedule Highlights
Regular Season Opener:
Oct. 3 at Dallas

Regular Season Finale:
April 10 vs. St. Louis

Olympic Break:
Feb. 15 - Mar. 1

Longest Homestand:
5 games
(Nov. 14 - 23; Montreal, San Jose, New Jersey, Columbus, Detroit)

Longest Road Trip: 5 games
(Oct. 17 - 28; Washington, Boston, Ottawa, Chicago, Minnesota)

Games By Month:
October - 13
November - 13
December - 15
January - 13
February - 7
March - 17
April - 4 Last season when you looked at the schedule you talked about surviving the first half since the schedule was so front loaded with road games. What sticks out at you this season?
Barry Trotz: Looking at the schedule, we are going to have success this year if we can maintain a pretty solid record against our own division. Our division has grown over the past couple of years to become the toughest division in hockey.

Last year, four of the five teams made the playoffs and we were just a few points from becoming the fifth. Our division – other than Detroit – the Chicagos and the St. Louises have all had down years recently, collected high draft choices, waited for them to mature, and now they have added free agents. Marian Hossa to Chicago; that is an impact player they have added. St. Louis didn’t do a lot in free agency but their youth has really evolved. They have five or six really tough years and now those five or six tough years have reaped high draft choices that are maturing. Paul Kariya is back for a full season and Chris Mason has regained his form; they are a team that has not been very strong the past five or six years but now they are one of the best young teams in the league. You expect Detroit to continue to be as good as they have been and Columbus has made the step. Their young high draft choices have matured and they’ve added a lot of free agents. They’ve got the Calder Cup winner in Steve Mason which really gives them another dimension. I think their belief system is a lot higher than it used to be.

I could go through every team in the West; the whole Western Conference is really going to be tough. I think because of the point separation, every game is going to be like a playoff game. As I said to the guys last year, you don’t know which game is going to knock you out or which is going to get you in. If we’d had one more win against Anaheim last year in the stretch, then we would have probably knocked them out and gotten into the playoffs. Obviously, from our standpoint having Steve Sullivan for a whole year would have a good impact. Our strength is in goal and on the back end and this is the year that David Legwand and Martin Erat have to elevate their game. I think if they have career years, we are going to make the playoffs and if not it will be a battle right to the end to make the playoffs. The team opens the 2009-10 season at Dallas and plays 11 of the first 17 games on the road. Are there benefits to opening on the road?
BT: The benefits to opening on the road are that you knock of a lot of the travel while you are still fairly fresh. The bad thing is it maybe does hinder you on getting a good start sometimes because you are the road team and let's face it, a lot of teams play better at home.

The other advantages to opening with road trips are that your team gets to bond a little bit. We’ve always had a fairly close team so being on the road is not a bad thing for us. But we are going to have to get some road wins this year and a lot early so we don’t fall behind the eight ball in terms of the rest of the division and the conference. For the second consecutive season you will play Atlanta and Florida twice this season. What do you know about those two teams?
BT: I think Florida has drafted quite well and done some retooling a little bit. Tomas Vokoun in net is a building block. The one thing they have done really well is that they play a high-tempo kind of game so they are going to be a really good opponent. Obviously Atlanta, which is our closest city in the league, is an up and coming team. They have Kovalchuk who is arguably one of the top forwards in the world and they have drafted well and made some significant trades adding to their blueline. They are going to be much improved and last year they beat us pretty handily in our own building. Rich Peverley was a good pickup for them who was with us last year; he blossomed in Atlanta. Those will be really tough games for us. Are there any games on a personal level or as a coach that you are looking forward to?
BT: I think looking at the schedule, any time you play the Red Wings it is always special in our building. I think those games, from the standpoint of a coach, are a real challenge and you look forward to them. I think Chicago is going to turn into that. We’ve had some battles with Chicago. They have a little more of a physical element than the Red Wings do and that is sort if starting to grate a bit more. And any time you play Columbus it is an all-out war it seems and it is turning into that more and more every year. All the division games are really important but outside the division I think any time you see a Montreal or Toronto come into your building it is special for a lot of the players and coaches. I grew up watching the Leafs and the Canadiens and they have such a storied history so those games are always special and ones I look forward to.

This year we have a couple of road trips going to New York and that is always a good thing for us. New York is such a different animal compared to Nashville that I think it is a good experience. We always enjoy going up there and playing the Islanders and Rangers. I think that will be really good for us. The team finished strong last season. Do you see the start of this season as a carry over or do you wipe the slate clean?
BT: I think you are starting all over every year. You take things from last year that you learned. We had a fairly decent start cause we had a lot of road games early. We got through that but we weren’t able to take advantage of the long home schedule. Last year we had a lot of road games early; it seemed like we were on the road forever. We got through that and were in pretty good shape at the .500 level and then we didn’t take advantage of being home for long stretches. We had trouble scoring goals as people remember and our offense sort of dried up during that time. We were four or five games over .500 and then we dropped to four or five games under. Then going from the All-Start Break in, when you are four or five games under .500 it is tough to make up those points – especially when you only have 35 games or so. Those are really things we have to avoid. If you lose a game, you just can’t lose two – you’ve got to get it back. This year, I still believe it is going to take 93-94 points to get in and that’s almost ridiculous when you look at what it was before. In the ‘80s you could get in with 65 points. Now you almost have to get 100 points to assure that you are in and that is very scary when you look at the quality of teams. The league set out with a salary cap system hoping they could bring an equal playing field for everyone, and it has to a certain extent for some teams. But you saw the parity that is in the league and it is a little scary to think you need to get 94-95 points to get in. In an Olympic season, do you have to change any of your plans?
BT: Yes, a little bit. The biggest thing will be that during the Olympic period your depth will be really challenged. If you are a deep hockey team you have to use more lines because you have more back to backs and more games in a week. What the Olympic break does, instead of being at three-and-a-half games a week it almost pushes it to four-and-a-half games a week because you have the long break. That is a major challenge for teams. If you are a deep, talented hockey team you have a major advantage during an Olympic year. If not, you are going to need some luck and for some people to step up. You need really good, consistent team play throughout because you are going to be tested physically and mentally a lot more than a normal season. Is it an advantage then to have two legitimate goaltenders this season?
BT: That is huge when you have a really condensed schedule having two quality goaltenders going into games. You look at our situation and I would take our goaltending tandem of Pekka (Rinne) and Dan (Ellis) and match them up with anybody in league. Whoever your backup may be, that goaltender has to win you hockey games because he is going to get to play a lot more. Teams that don’t have the ability to get wins from their backup goaltender are going to be challenged more this season.
This team has the second most home wins over the last four years. What, if anything, do you need to do to keep that record?
BT: I think a lot of that has to do with the energy that our building has. The fans bring a tremendous amount of energy. Obviously there is some advantage from a coaching standpoint for us. But we come with good energy in Nashville and that is a tribute to the quality of our fans. They have fun at the games and our players feed off that energy. There are times when you are behind the bench and maybe it is a tied game and they get that last TV time out and all of a sudden the fans for no other reason just stand up and get that place rocking. I’m standing behind the bench and there is nothing I can say. The players probably feel like I do in that we can’t let the game slip away. That this is too incredible to let it slip away and the fans are a big part of that. As good as we are at home, I’d like to say it our system and our coaching and all of that. It is the energy the fans bring and hopefully our system and our staff being prepared for home games. I just think that all of that comes together and that is why we have a good record.

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