Barry Trotz switched from NHL coach to GM. It has been a success with Predators back in the playoffs

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Barry Trotz never put a label on whether he was rebuilding, retooling or simply trying to reset the during his first season as general manager.

Revival might be the best word to describe what he has done.

Not only has Trotz helped the Predators reclaim their “Smashville” identity, Nashville is back in the a year after the franchise missed the postseason for the first time since the 2013-14 season. That was Trotz’s last year as the only head coach the expansion team had ever known. His new stint with his old team has been a rousing success so far.

The Predators won’t learn their first-round opponent until later this week. The postseason opens this weekend and it will be the ninth time in 10 seasons Nashville has reached the playoffs and 16th in the last 20.

“Smashville was the Coliseum, it was a place that you didn’t want to come in on a Saturday night and have to play the Predators because you’re just trying to get out, and I think we got away from that,“ said Tuesday.

Captain Roman Josi, who played his first three NHL seasons under Trotz, said it was awesome hearing that Trotz was returning as their new GM . Trotz took over for , who retired last summer as the NHL’s longest-tenured and winningest general manager in league history.

Josi said he can’t imagine it’s easy to switch from being coach to a general manager, yet believes Trotz has made an amazing transition after coaching championship and also coaching the New York Islanders before returning to Tennessee.

“A lot of credit to him for what he built,” Josi said. “And, obviously now being in the playoffs is pretty cool, right, and that was always his goal. He was clear on that, and it was always our goal.”

Some of Trotz’s former players aren’t surprised at all by his winning transition from coach to general manager. T.J. Oshie won the Stanley Cup with Trotz in 2018 and sees Trotz as knowing how to fit in a system.

“He’s a very big guy on character,” Oshie said. “You put together a room of a bunch guys with a lot of character, they’re going to do some pretty special things.”

Defenseman Karl Alzner played three seasons for Trotz in Washington and admits he didn’t initially see him as a GM. Alzner said Trotz is such a thoughtful, genuine person that being a tough-skinned GM could be tough.

Being nice didn’t stop Trotz from making the moves he felt were needed to recapture the identity he had helped build.

Trotz as coach last May and replaced him with , the man who scored the first goal in Predators history. Trotz signed top two-way center and , rugged Cup-winning defenseman Luke Schenn and winger Gustav Nyquist.

He also traded Ryan Johansen and bought out Matt Duchene, making Nashville big winners in

Nashville started the season slowly at 5-10-0 before climbing to .500. The Predators struggled after the All-Star Game, bottoming out with a 9-2 loss Feb. 15 on home ice to Dallas. Trotz canceled team plans to see U2 at the Sphere in Las Vegas and the Preds then went 16-0-2.

Alzner said Trotz is like the quiet man in a room who gets everyone’s attention when he speaks up or puts his foot down.

“Unfortunate that they got a concert canceled, but in the end everybody’s jobs are on the line, so you have to make the right choice,” Alzner said. “I guess it worked. He’s definitely not dumb. This guy knows what he’s doing.”

The franchise-record points streak for the Predators moved them firmly into the postseason chase. Better yet: After starting 14-15 on home ice, the Preds went 9-1-2 down the stretch for a 23-16-2 record in Nashville.

Fans responded, shaking the ice with the return of the standing ovation during stoppages in play.

Trotz said Nashville is a good hockey market with ownership that allows a more even playing field with other NHL teams. Re-establishing its rugged identity helped get fans reconnected with a team on the ice they could enjoy.

“We are in the in the entertainment business,” Trotz said. “So I wanted to have a team that was entertaining, but also a team that was not sitting back.”

And certainly not rebuilding.…Read more by TERESA M. WALKER

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