The Nashville Predators magical run for a Western Conference playoff spot ended abruptly with a loss to Minnesota Friday night. This year’s team was defined by it’s heart and character that took a team with average talent much further than anyone expected before the season started.
Predators Coach Barry Trotz and Captain Jason Arnott met with reporters the morning after the Pred's season ended. Both were disappointed with the early end of the season but were proud of what the team had accomplished.
Barry Trotz reflected, “Obviously, you are always disappointed, you play 82 games and want to get to the post-season and have a chance to win the Stanley Cup and we fell a little short, one game short”.
He continued, “Today, it seems a little surreal that we are out, but with where we were at the all-star break and based on our situations regarding injuries and all that, I have a lot of pride in what we were able to do at the end when everyone had counted us out. From thirty five games ago we kept hanging around and unfortunately last night we couldn’t get it done.”
Trotz’s mid-season goal was right on target, “We set out a plan at the all-star break that if we could get to 90 points, we would get in. We felt it would be a tough order but that if we did, it would be the benchmark. We just fell a little short”.
On missing by a couple of points, Trotz explained, “You look back and say if we had been a little better in the first half or you wonder which game or which point you let go, or a season series that might have been the difference. That is why this sport is so tough, you never know what play at what time in the year might be the difference”.
Trotz pointed to the game against St Louis on February 12, as a turning point in the season., “If we lose that game, we’re not in the race for game 82. We score with three seconds left, then win in overtime. To me, that was a defining moment. We found a way to get it done and built some momentum off that”.
That game was one of many turning points according to the coach, “I can go through the last thirty games, different situations where we were considered buried and gone and we just crawled out and made a game of it and got a point or even won”.
Coach Barry Trotz reflects, “We defined ourselves as a team, that if we to 90 points we will get in. What emerged is a team with a lot of character, a lot of resiliency and a lot of heart. It was a team you wanted to cheer for”.
“The one thing that never changes in our locker room is on a sign that says ‘No Excuses’. We were an average team for 45 games and we could have stayed an average team for 82 games but we didn’t. We became a very good team and that’s what we accomplished”.
Trotz pointed out that other folks noticed what the Preds accomplished, “We earned respect around the league that Nashville is a team that will never give up or quit, and that defines this group, and defines our culture here”.
Long after individual wins and losses are forgotten, Predator fans will remember this team the same as Barry Trotz, “This team will be defined by their character, their commitment and their resiliency as a group”. Many of the teams that will play deep into the post-season will never match up with the Predators in those areas. Despite not making the playoffs, the Nashville area has a team that they can be proud of, both on and off the ice.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass
Part two of this series will focus on Jason Arnott’s refection on the end of the season.