A younger Barry Trotz would have been ripped up inside dealing with all the tumult this season with his Nashville Predators.
After hitting deep depths last season, when his club finished 27th out of 30 teams in the NHL, the Predators head coach hoped for better times. He hoped his team would return to being the hard-working, determined bunch that made back-to-back trips to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2011 and 2012.
But all-world goalie Pekka Rinne suffered a hip infection that kept him out of action for 51 games. Then news came down that assistant coach Lane Lambert's wife had cancer. Then popular play-by-play man Peter Weber suffered a heart attack (he has recovered nicely and is back at work). Then general manager David Poile was hospitalized after he was hit in the face with an errant puck while watching practice in late January.
"You almost feel you've been cursed this year," Trotz said. "But this team has a lot of character. It has grown a backbone. We've always been a team that works hard, a team that has a lot of push and a lot of resiliency. I thought we lost some of that last year, but we've regained that this year with all we've gone through.
"As a coach, this has been one of my most difficult years because of the injury to Rinne, the young defence and our own expectations of bouncing back from last year. But at the same time it has been one of the most fulfilling years because I've seen so much growth in this group."
Nolan 'puts things in perspective'
The 51-year-old Trotz has grown, too. He still is intense. He still wants to win just as much as the next guy. But what gets him through the difficult times, and has been the source of so many good times, is his 12-year-old son Nolan.
Nolan is the youngest of Trotz and his wife's four children. He has Down syndrome and he has given Trotz and his family perspective.
"We could lose real badly," said the old University of Manitoba defenceman. "I'd be real angry. But then I see him after a game, waiting there in the hallway and he comes over to give me a big old hug and that anger goes away in a hurry. He has put things in perspective for me."
Trotz is in his 15th season behind the Predators bench. There have been 179 coaching changes in the NHL since he took over in Nashville in 1998. He is the second-longest tenured head coach in North American professional sports, behind Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and his 17 NBA seasons.
When Trotz steps behind the bench for the Predators' game in Chicago on Friday, it will be his 1,180th regular-season game. With 547 career NHL wins, he is two shy of catching Marc Crawford for 13th on the all-time victories list.
There used to be a time when all Trotz cared about was wins and losses. But that changed with the arrival of Nolan.
"As I have evolved as a coach, I was a guy who was all about the game and a person who focused on the wins and losses. With Nolan, I have balance in my life," said Trotz, whose relationship with his son has been documented in the short film A Coach's Life, to be shown on NHL.com/nhllife on Monday afternoon.
"He's had an affect on our whole family. He's been a real inspiration. He's a child who keeps our family together. His brother and sisters love him. He doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He's pure love. As a father, he really puts a lot into perspective. There is a lot of good in our family and I think he brings that out."
Barry and Nolan are inseparable in the summer at their vacation home in Vernon, B.C. Nolan can't get enough time on the water, whether in the boat with Barry, swimming or being pulled in a tube behind the boat.
It's their time together. And they stay in touch when Barry is on the road with the Predators, like he has been this week. Nolan will grab the phone and tell Kim it's time to call Dad or the three of them will FaceTime on the computer.
Not giving up on season
Back-to-back wins this week have given the Predators a lift. Maybe the impossible is possible. Maybe the Predators can overcome an eight-point deficit with 16 games remaining, jump over four teams and make the playoffs.
"With the amount of three-point games and the amount of teams we have to jump over, we're long shots to make it," said the Winnipeg-born, Dauphin, Man.-raised Trotz.
"What we need to do is to play hard and play to our capabilities. If we play  really good games and get into the playoffs, we're going to be prepared. If we play  really good games and don't get in, it will say a lot about this group."
It's worth a try. And if it doesn't happen, Nolan Trotz will be there with a smile and a hug.
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