In a blog post this afternoon, the Tennessean's John Glennon makes the point that with some of the Nashville Predators key players receiving contract extensions (David Legwand, J.P. Dumont, Jordin Tootoo), it's high time for David Poile to sign up the coaching staff long-term as well. On first blush, this looks like a slam-dunk argument; despite a salary purge last summer that had most experts picking Nashville to miss the playoffs, Trotz & Co. have the Predators in prime position for a Western Conference playoff berth. Based on points, Nashville is in 5th currently, just two points behind 4th-place Anaheim, although if one uses winning percentage (to accomodate for Games Played) the Predators sit in 6th.
Either way, they've climbed ahead of several teams that were supposed to surge past them in the NHL standings, such as St. Louis, Chicago and Colorado. The Preds have earned 33 points since January 1st, tops in the league, so naturally optimism is riding high and many would believe that locking up that coaches is imperative so the coaches can focus on the job ahead.
Lest the team make a long-term decision based on short-term performance, however, it's worth considering one area of the team that has consistently underperformed, and might well be addressed by a change within the assistant coaching ranks; the power play. Part of the problem, as noted here a few days ago, is that Nashville ranks dead-last in the NHL at winning faceoffs while on the power play, wasting precious seconds as they attempt to regain possession and set up in the offensive zone. Nashville sits 26th in power play effectiveness, after a switch was made in the offseason to hand it over to Brent Pederson, who was going to dictate a "shoot early and often" policy. In 2006-7 the team ranked 18th, and in 2005-6 they were 10th, so clearly things are headed in the wrong direction. Yes, the loss of Kimmo Timonen and Paul Kariya might be blamed for a part of that dip, but by now that should be overcome with the talent available. Despite the recent overall team success, this ineffectiveness with the man advantage remains a cause for concern, especially with the playoffs approaching.
Perhaps, then, Poile could sign Barry Trotz to a multi-year extension, and address the rest of the coaching staff this summer after evaluating how things turn out. In the larger sense, Trotz still clearly has the attention of his players. He's adjusted to the changing talent in the locker room, and has iced a competitive squad on the shoestring budget that Poile had to work with. He's taken a stern approach in awarding ice time to Alexander Radulov that's seen the young Russian improve his defensive awareness, earning him 20+ minutes a night lately and leading the team in goal-scoring (24). It's been an outstanding effort that's definitely worth consideration for the Jack Adams Award, but I'd give a second thought before handing out contracts to everyone standing behind the bench...