Less than two weeks removed from standing behind the bench in Game 7 of the American Hockey League's Calder Cup Finals, Karl Taylor found himself outside of the Predators locker room at Bridgestone Arena, the Nashville logo draped behind him.
It was quite a transition in such short order, leaving the Texas Stars - a team he had served as an assistant coach with for the past four seasons - but a chance had arisen to become the boss of his own club once more. There was a vacancy in Milwaukee that needed filling, and it didn't take Predators General Manager/President of Hockey Operations David Poile, Predators Director of Player Development/Milwaukee General Manager Scott Nichol and Predators management long to decide Taylor was the right man for the job.
On June 29, the 47-year-old native of North Bay, Ontario, became the seventh head coach in Admirals' history, the next to be tasked with developing players at the AHL level to become mainstays in the NHL, specifically in Nashville.
"To come into Nashville and be part of this organization is an outstanding opportunity," Taylor said. "I don't take the trust lightly that they've given me."
Prior to his stint in Texas, Taylor was an assistant with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, and he spent six seasons as a head coach in the ECHL before that, three with the Reading Royals and three more with the Ontario Reign.
Combine that with experience coaching at the Canadian university level and playing time as a forward in the Ontario Hockey League, as well as five seasons at the University of New Brunswick, and Taylor is simply one of those who has paid his dues in the game, worthy of a chance to become a head coach in the AHL.
Taylor recognizes the balance that is necessary between filling out the NHL roster while also putting together a competitive product for the top minor-league affiliate. The Preds have signed a number of players to two-way deals in the past 10 days, including names like Connor Brickley, Rocco Grimaldi and Jarred Tinordi, who will undoubtedly assist with those goals.
Those free-agent acquisitions will team up with prospects already in the system in an attempt to get the Admirals back to the postseason after missing out in 2017-18 for just the third time in the past 17 years, and it's up to Taylor to guide the way.
Video: Karl Taylor named Milwaukee Admirals head coach
"The way it's done now with the salary cap, your young players must get to the NHL sooner, and our job is to get them there before they're expected to be there," Taylor said. "As we move forward, the main focus for us is just trying to get good people, as Nashville always has, in the right positions so we can be successful in Milwaukee."
Over the years, Taylor has honed his skills in getting the most out of his players, a philosophy that starts with him becoming just as familiar with their personality as their slap shot.
"Every player is different… You have to treat everyone individually," Taylor said. "For me, the No. 1 thing is getting on their ground and finding out what makes them tick. You can't treat everyone the same, that's not what it is… but getting to know them on that personal level so that when you do need the fire or you need to ask for more, they know it's for the right reason. It's not for the coach's personal gain, it's to help them get where they want to go."
And make no mistake - every player under Taylor's tutelage strives to skate on the ice in an NHL rink with regularity. In order to do that, they must impress the man who helped guide his previous club to within one win of a Calder Cup title.
Poile and others in the Predators organization often say the road to Nashville runs through Milwaukee. The 12 skaters on the current Predators roster who have traveled that trail are living proof, and Taylor is more than familiar with the pattern.
For him, this is an opportunity to help shape the next wave of Predators stars, to join a group all working for the same thing.
"When you're part of something bigger than yourself like here in Nashville, [that's special]," Taylor said. "Everyone's in it together trying to build something special, the final goal being the Stanley Cup. For us in the American League it's the Calder Cup, but for us as an organization, obviously the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal.
"When you're part of something bigger than you, it's a great feeling, an opportunity to have an impact with these kids and how you develop them, with the final goal being winning that last game."