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Former Players Say Andrew Brunette Hire A Full-Circle Moment For Predators



Andrew Brunette

As the Nashville Predators undergo a front office change, the team is making a change behind the bench too, bringing in Andrew Brunette — a name Day 1 fans will remember all too well.

Brunette, 49, who scored the franchise’s first-ever goal on Oct. 13, 1998, will be named the Predators’ fourth head coach after firing John Hynes following a 134-95-18 overall record in 247 games.

Assistant coach Dan Lambert was also relieved of his job after four seasons in Nashville.

“John Hynes is a good man and a good hockey coach,” incoming general manager Barry Trotz said in a statement. “He did an outstanding job after the trade deadline with our team, especially with our young players, and he is a well-prepared, hard-working coach who will continue to grow in the NHL. After our year-end meetings and some additional evaluation, it was time to change the voice and time to go in a different direction.”

Brunette spent last season as an assistant coach in New Jersey, where the Devils scored the fifth-most goals per game (3.52) and had the 13th-best power play, converting at a 21.9 percent rate. He himself was a power-play threat during his playing days, scoring 114 times on the man advantage during his 16-year career that included one season and seven power-play goals in Nashville.

One of Brunette’s best moments as a player was scoring a Game 7 goal to clinch the Minnesota Wild’s first-ever trip to the second round of the NHL playoffs during the 2002-03 season.

Prior to his stint with the Devils, Brunette was the interim head coach of the Florida Panthers during the 2021-22 season after Joel Quenneville resigned after the first seven games following his involvement in the Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse case with Kyle Beach.

Though some may point to Brunette’s relative inexperience as a head coach, he led the Panthers to a 51-18-6 record over the final 75 games of the regular season and capturing the franchise’s first-ever Presidents’ Trophy before the team was ousted in the second round of the playoffs to the Tampa Bay Lightning in four games.

“I really think learning a little bit from (Quenneville) and just his experience he’s had in coaching (has prepared him),” former Predators forward Cliff Ronning told Nashville Hockey Now on Tuesday. “I know he really looked up to Barry Trotz and he was always listening, and he just has that personality that I always thought would be a great head coach.

“He’s very calm on the bench, but inside he’s doing whatever he can to win and he has that fighting spirit. I think it’s good, I think it’s what the Predators needed right now — they needed a fresh change and everything is going to look brighter and brighter as a new era begins.”

As that new chapter for the Predators is being written, there are zero recurring themes to look for in either Brunette or Trotz.

“Trotz was always a coach that tried to think two steps ahead, he was looking past that,” Ronning said. “I think that’s why in the early years that’s why we were successful with not a lot of talent compared to some other teams.”

According to Ronning, Trotz coached players who were “rich in character” and wore their hearts on their sleeve in the early days of the franchise. That same mentality is what’s expected of him now as he officially takes over as general manager on July 1.

“He’s going to be the same way,” Ronning said. “Working with his grit all the way from the scouts down to the people in the office and the people who sell the beverages at the game. He’s a very bold, likable person, and he has a little bit of that Pat Quinn to him because he is a very caring person and he comes across that way.”

The Panthers find themselves in their second-ever Stanley Cup Final one season after letting go of Brunette and replacing him with Paul Maurice, who stepped down as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets 29 games into the 2021-22 season.

“I think [Brunette is] very relatable to the players, especially younger players,” former Predators defenseman Jayson More said. “He had a great rapport with his players in Florida even though they let him go and replaced him with Paul Maurice. I thought he’d be a great fit for a combination like what we have here in Nashville. I think Brunette is a good guy to bring everyone together because his personality is that way and that’s the way he was a teammate. He had a calming effect and never panicked.”

More also gave Brunette rave reviews as a sharp special teams mind with strong knowledge of the intricacies of how to run a power play both as a player and a coach.

“He surrounds himself with good people that he relates to as every coach does,” More said. “He’s going to bring in people that understand his ability to get that skill set across and what they want to achieve.”

Nearly two and a half decades after joining forces as a player-coach tandem, Brunette and Trotz return as a coach-GM duo tasked with  course correcting the Predators in what More considers to be a serendipitous full-circle moment.

“I don’t think he’s afraid to take that step and bring in a young guy that doesn’t have 15 years under his belt,” More said of Trotz hiring Brunette. “The challenge is going to be who can motivate the star players?”

While Brunette has yet to be officially introduced as the Predators next head coach, he has his work cut out for him. Nashville missed the playoffs in 2022 for the first time in eight seasons, and Brunette will have to decide what the proper mix is between the team’s core group of veterans and young talented group of forwards in the AHL.

“He’s going to let the top players have a little bit of freedom and everyone will play within their means,” Ronning said of Brunette’s style. “Your checkers are going to check, your scorers are going to shoot and your playmakers are going to make plays.

“Once this team can get to the playoffs, everyone will add a little bit more. During the regular season what [Brunette] will bring is more structure in the sense of a little bit of relief for the guys who are offensive to make the plays and you might get the third and fourth line with more grinding and making the other teams pay the price.”

Follow Nick on Twitter: @KieserNick