I’ve been watching the Predators, and therefore Barry Trotz, for 12 years now and never have I seen a player so bluntly thrown under the bus as Carter Hutton was last night. It’s completely out of character for him. The doghouse? Yeah … he friggen loves the dog house. And you’ll get the occasional “Stalberg wasn’t there tonight” or like the full 2011-2012 season of Craig Smith needs to develop a bit better. But to come to a press conference and essentially blame the full blunt of a 2-1 loss against a mediocre team on a goalie is uncharacteristic of not only Trotz but any head coach in the National Hockey League.
“Fortune favors the bold” may have been the slogan under which David Poile was operating when he signed goaltender Carter Hutton to a one year, $550,000 two-way contract. Hutton’s primary responsibility would be to back up Pekka Rinne, a netminder who has traditionally required very little back up playing in 114 of 130 (87%) games over the last two years.
Management took quite the gamble on a second stringer, and now Barry Trotz is coaching a losing hockey team. Blame it on unmotivated/unconfident players or the dire straits situation in net, people across the board are calling for Trotz to go. I’m sure the same thing is happening behind closed doors. Whether it be Poile or the owner’s group, Trotz’s job looks more and more at risk every day.
This is why I think his comments after the game were about more than Carter Hutton. They were a dig back at management. It was Trotz saying, “Yeah I’m losing, but this is not an NHL caliber goalie you gave me,” and then maybe he whispers, “plus some of your other offseason acquisitions were questionable”.
Hutton didn’t look bad in his first start for the Predators, and second ever career NHL start when he played the Winnipeg Jets on October 20th, game two of a double header only 9 games into the season. But little did we know at the time that Hutton would soon be the Predators starting goaltender.
Rinne would play one more game before being sent to IR due to a hip infection. Carter Hutton, with two career NHL games under his belt, was now the starting goaltender for the Nashville Predators.
33 games and 109 goals later, the Predators are one of the worst teams in the league. They are a reasonably sized miracle outside of the playoffs and definite sellers at the trade deadline. It’s not all because of the goalies, but rotating two rookie goaltenders who are both just barely over a .900 sv% can’t be good on a team’s confidence.
It seems like since the 2012 playoffs there has been debate over who has been at fault for this hockey team’s shortcomings. Did Poile poison the waters when he signed AK and Radulov to help in the playoff run only to see them destroy team chemistry and make an unforeseen exit to the Phoenix Coyotes? Or was Trotz unable to coach an offensive team? Unable to adjust to the shutdown method of the Coyotes and their ability to run four lines all games.
After a bitter year of losing our way to a fourth overall draft pick, followed by a second consecutive underachieving season it appears that the debate is no closer to being solved. This latest move by Trotz could be a strategic move to keep him in his place of employment for the last 15 years and to shift some blame onto Poile.
The General Manager knew that Rinne was out for 3 months (minimum) and had the opportunity to go after an unsigned Ilya Bryzgalov or to make a trade for some of the performing backups in the league but he held his card tight placing his second vote of confidence in Hutton. But no one is confident now.