If you’ve followed the Predators long at all, you’re probably aware that head coach Barry Trotz has been at the helm for every one of the team’s games.
For 1,114 regular season contests, the team from Music City has listened to one man, played under one system and predominately tried to win games in one fashion.
After a less-than-stellar performance last season, many fans were calling for a major shake up in the coaching staff. Those fans got their wish, at least in part, with the firing of associate coach Peter Horachek, who had been with Nashville for the last nine seasons.
But after listing Trotz and Horachek (and this one doesn’t even count anymore), many fans’ ability to name the Predators coaching staff (let alone understand their strengths and weaknesses) comes quickly to an end. So as a part of our preparation for the 2013-14 season, we thought a four-part series introducing and analyzing the Nashville Predators coaching staff would be beneficial.
Today’s look at the Preds coaching regime begins with the other coach who has been with the team for its entire existence.
Korn has been with Nashville for so long for one simple reason: he absolutely excels at his job. His ability to produce top-level, NHL goaltenders is almost unbelievable.
A “great” coach gets the most out of his players, places them in a position to succeed, communicates effectively and has the ability to outsmart his opponent. Korn has a rare blend of all of these attributes.
Let’s just look at an abbreviated list of goalies Korn has guided over the years:
–Grant Fuhr (NHL hall of famer)
–Dominik Hasek (Four-time Vezina Trophy winner and five-time leader in season save percentage)
–Mike Dunham (2002 silver medalist with United States Olympic team)
–Tomas Vokoun (NHL All-Star in 2004 and 2010)
–Pekka Rinne (Two-time Vezina Tropy Finalist and ranks second in shutouts the last four seasons)
And that’s only a list of his most well-known players. What makes Mitch Korn an even more impressive coach is how he consistently gets top-notch performances out of previously unknown netminders or goalies that were stashed in the minor leagues.
When I think about the history of the Nashville Predators, one thing that quickly comes to mind is high-quality goaltending that gives the team a chance to win—night in and night out. Korn is a big part of this organizational strength. He’s been able to use Dan Ellis to get the Preds into the playoffs (after he had previously only played in one NHL game), transformed Tomas Vokoun from a player abandoned by the Montreal Canadiens to an NHL All-Star and coached several late or last-round picks to starting jobs in the NHL, including a former seventh-round pick you may have heard of named Pekka Rinne.
Overall, the goaltending techniques and strategies Korn imparts to his players are rock solid and proven. Additionally, he often works to spice up his instruction methods with innovative and somewhat odd drills. He’s been known to have goalies try and stop white pucks to enhance their ability to watch the angle of a shooter’s stick blade, used smaller-than-normal pucks (to work on rebound control) and screened netminders with wood-walled constructions.
These quirky drills when combined with Korn’s everyday messages preaching consistency and control produce praiseworthy results.
Coaching at the NHL-level for 22 years is nothing to sneeze at and neither is 35 years of player instruction overall. There’s a reason Barry Trotz calls Korn’s students, “children of the Korn.” Once you receive instruction from this man, it’s hard to not play the game of hockey differently.
The goalie currently penciled-in to backup Pekka Rinne demonstrates final proof of how much the Predators organization believes in Korn’s abilities. On the first day of free agency in July, the Preds signed 27-year-old Carter Hutton, a player previously buried in the Blackhawks organization. He’s played in a single NHL game. But if there’s anyone who can turn him into a solid No. 2 option—capable of playing 15 to 20 games next year—it’s Mitch Korn.