Few ultimately will be affected more directly by Ryan Suter’s decision last week to sign with the Minnesota Wild than will be Barry Trotz. The Nashville Predators coach reflects on the decision and what it might mean for the coming season and beyond.
How surprised were you when you learned that Suter planned to sign with Minnesota?
Not going to Minnesota. It was a little bit surprising in that all the elements you talk about, that Ryan talked about being a part of for a long time … we were all that. I’m sure a lot of that applied to Minnesota too. In the end, the trump card ended up being his family with his wife being from the Minneapolis area and them having just had children.
Is this move any more disappointing than previous player departures?
It hurts a little bit more because he’s been with us for a little while and started his career with us when we were in the ‘can’t’ stage and we’ve grown to where we’re in the ‘can’ stage. … Sometimes you have to cut ties with certain players you’ve developed – it’s just time. But with Ryan we felt we wanted him to finish his career and go the distance with the Predators.
How much of an adjustment does Shea Weber face after having played with Suter for so many years?
I think both those guys will adjust real quick because they’re good players.
How good were Suter and Weber together?
To have a pair like that … people always talk about who was Bobby Orr’s partner or who was Al McInnis’ partner or Ray Bourque’s partner, any of the great defensemen. They had multiple partners but no one remembers the partners, they just remember the great player. This was a situation where you could remember maybe the greatest pair of defensemen – if they would have finished their career together – that ever played the game. That would have been really special.
I know we would have hoisted the Cup at some point with that, and I still believe we will.
Is there someone currently with the team who can fill Suter’s role?
Roman Josi at the same stage of his career as Ryan Suter, you could argue that he’s right there or maybe a little ahead of the curve. We still have to see what his growth rate will be the next couple of years.
Is there a concern that Suter’s decision will make the Predators look less appealing to future free agents, both within and outside the organization?
Shea and Pekka [Rinne] can be our best recruiters in the next couple years if we can get Shea under contract. Pekka is under contract. Those are two of the biggest building blocks you can have.
What does losing a player of that caliber mean to the team as a whole?
I look at where we are now and where we started last year and it’s night and day. Adding [Paul] Gaustad and [Hal] Gill and the development of guys like [Colin] Wilson and [Craig] Smith keeps inching up, then you have Ryan Ellis and Josi – we’re really in a good spot. We have great leadership with Mike Fisher and Marty Erat and Gill and Gaustad and those people.
So you’re not concerned about any potential effects from lingering disappointment?
We’re disappointed but you have to accept the disappointment and realize we have to go in a different direction.
I was saying that to David [Poile] the other day. There was lots of disappointment, but it doesn’t mean we can’t win the Stanley Cup, we just have to do it without Ryan. When Wayne Gretzky got traded, two years later the Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup. There’s going to be a little bit of a mourning period but we’ve got a good hockey team.
… It’s disappointing, but it’s a little bit of a new challenge. You never know. What we think is a setback today may open the door to something else.