Barry Trotz is a marvel of Western Civilization. He was hired as the coach of expansion Nashville Predators for the 1998-99 season. He remains the boss of the Preds today, after 14 ½ seasons and 1,204 games, including playoffs.
For Trotz to have maintained his job for this long is the equivalent of Nik Wallenda making it across the Grand Canyon on his tightrope … in high winds.
NHL owners change coaches routinely. And they usually do so by sorting through those familiar scowling faces that we’ve seen behind NHL benches in the past.
That means Peter Laviolette is the name being mentioned most frequently as the next coach when Wild owner Craig Leipold makes the decision to replace Mike Yeo.
Why Laviolette? No good reason, other than he’s in the Recycling Club, and he was fired three games into this season by Philadelphia, and that makes him available.
Maybe it won’t be Laviolette. Maybe it will be Ron Wilson or Paul Maurice. They are both members of the Recycling Club.
What seems certain is when the change comes for the Wild, Leipold will not give General Manager Chuck Fletcher another chance to hire a first-timer behind the NHL bench.
Leipold brought in Fletcher to replace Doug Risebrough as the hockey boss in May 2009. He hired Todd Richards as a rookie NHL coach. After two seasons, Richards was fired and replaced by another NHL rookie in Yeo.
The other candidate was Ken Hitchcock. Leipold allowed Fletcher to convince him that Yeo, the coach with the Wild’s AHL team in Houston, was the right man to take over for the 2011-12 season.
One month into that season, St. Louis fired Davis Payne (a first-timer) and replaced him with Ken Hitchcock. He came to the Blues with a résumé of 14 NHL seasons.
Hitchcock has turned the Blues into a threat in the Western Conference. Yeo has become so rattled by his team’s second free fall in three seasons that he’s taken the novel approach of not talking to his players in the postgame locker room.
Yeo revealed this after his team’s sixth consecutive regulation loss — 2-1 to the Blues on Tuesday night in St. Paul.
Apparently, Yeo is going to last until Thursday, when Buffalo comes to town. It’s hard to imagine that a win over the Sabres, the NHL’s worst team, will change Yeo’s predicament.
Leipold has too much invested to allow this season to go down the tubes without taking action. And if the owner is assessing Yeo minutely, the NHL first-timer couldn’t have done himself much good with his odd admission after the latest loss.
Asked his message to the players after the game, Yeo said: “I stopped talking in the locker room the last couple of [game]days.’’
Yeo was referring to talking to the players immediately after the past two losses. The rest of his rhetoric — at practice, pregame and between periods — has continued.
Still, Tuesday might not have been the right time for Yeo to be revealing strange psychological ploys, not with Leipold in a state of high anxiety — and perhaps silently slew-footing himself for not insisting on Hitchcock as the hire three seasons ago.
Including Trotz, there are 11 head coaches among the 30 who are with their first NHL teams. The Recycling Club leaders are Darryl Sutter, with his fourth team with the L.A. Kings, Stanley Cup champs in 2012, and Hitchcock, with his fourth team and with a Cup won in Dallas in 1999.
This would be the fourth NHL job for Laviolette or Maurice (including two runs in Carolina), and a fifth for Wilson, if one of them winds up in St. Paul.
There’s no guarantee. Maybe there’s another member of the Recycling Club we’re missing. Heck, Jacques Lemaire is only 68, and he had three stretches with the New Jersey Devils, so why not a redux with the Wild?
And we don’t have to feel sorry for that nice young man Yeo when he does get axed. Look at Todd Richards. He’s got another NHL job in Columbus, proving that once a coach has had an NHL job, he’s only one firing away from becoming a card-carrying member of the Recycling Club.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500.