Sunday, October 23, 2011

Kick Start, or Kick in the Ass?

This past week, Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz very publicly called out one of his players for his poor play. Rookie defenseman Mattias Ekholm was singled out after his play in the Vancouver game, a 5-1 loss by the Predators. Trotz called the play of Ekholm "horrible, absolutely horrible."

Trotz went on to refer to his younger players as needing to either step up their game against the best players in the League or "go get a dog" if they couldn't man up and elevate their level of play.

The next contest saw the Predators break a 4 game losing streak with a 2-0 victory over the Calgary Flames.



Call it a coach pushing the right buttons to get his team's attention. A team that was desperate to break out of their funk needed a kick start.

Or a kick in the ass.

The play of the Predators in this early season has been spotty at best, and their 3-3-1 record belies the fact that they have generally been outplayed in every contest, giving up an average of 12 more shots on goal by their opponents. In fact, the Predators have been outshot in all but two periods they have have played.

Barry Trotz is known as a master motivator and a coach that can squeeze everything out of the squad that he puts on the ice. Trotz usually conducts any chastisement of his players behind closed doors, treating discipline and motivational efforts as a "family matter" that doesn't need to be aired in public.

So why did Trotz publicly chew on Ekholm and his younger players?

The Predators are the youngest team in the NHL, with an average age of 26. After a 7-1 pre-season effort and a 2-0 start to the regular season, one has to wonder if the team- especially the younger players- were not hearing the coaches. Had they started to believe it was easy to win in this League?

One doesn't know the answer to that question, but I have to believe that whatever the coaches were doing and saying behind the closed doors of the locker room or at practice was not being received in a manner that translated into the team playing Predator hockey. The defensive breakdowns and lack of effort for stretches in a game are evidence that what was being said by the coaches and practiced on the ice were not translating when it counted the most, in games.

Obviously, one of the tools that any coach has is to limit ice time of a player or players that are not buying into their system. Trotz does not have this luxury available due to injuries to key players, so the young players are seeing ice time regardless of their level of commitment.

This team is going to rely on young players to carry a big work load this season, and their game is going to have to grow.


Unfortunately for the Predators, the growth spurt of this young team had stopped and taken a step backwards. Something was needed to get their attention.

Is the public thrashing of some of the players a "new" Barry Trotz?


I have talked to Coach Trotz after the team has played poorly. I know what he has said to the team on those occasions, and he can peel the paint off a locker room wall. He has chosen in those instances to keep it within the confines of his team.

This public criticism is a masterful motivator pushing another button to get his team to elevate their level of play. Watch closely, for if this team plays like they are capable, you will not see public criticism again. As fun as it is to watch John Tortorella publicly explode at his team, you will rarely see this out of Trotz.

Unless this team needs a kick in the ass to get them started.

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