Housley Hiring Sheds Light on Horachek Firing

Nashville's hiring of former NHL great Phil Housley to the coaching staff lends a little explanation to the Peter Horachek firing.

A t long last, the Predators have signed their elusive scorer.

Unfortunately, he’s 49, he’s a defenseman and he’s retired. Also, he’s their new assistant coach.

Less than 24 hours after Darren Pang first leaked the news of Peter Horachek’s firing, the Predators have announced his replacement – former NHL All Star Phil Housley.

In perhaps a testimony to both the aging of the Predators franchise and to Housley’s longevity as a player, Housley actually appeared at Bridgestone Arena as a player on a handful of occasions with Chicago and Calgary. Until Mike Modano broke his record against the Predators, Housley had for years been the NHL’s highest-scoring American-born player. With 1,232 points in 1,495 games, the retired defenseman is one of the best American players to ever play the game. He is a member of both the IIHF Hall of Fame and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Housley has only been out of the game as a player for 10 years, but has made his mark as a coach with the USA Hockey program. In January, he coached the United States to a gold medal in the  World Junior Championships. Most recently, Housley served as an assistant as the United States took the bronze medal in the World Championships; Predators general manager David Poile is a member of the United States men’s team advisory group.

Make no bones about it, the hiring of Phil Housley is a fantastic “get” for the Predators. Both Poile and head coach Barry Trotz were quoted in Nashville’s press release praising Housley’s skills as a player and both, interestingly, make reference to the team’s power play.

“Phil brings a unique skill set to our coaching staff,” Poile said. “He was one of the most talented offensive defensemen to play in the NHL, and he has worked extensively with young players during his coaching career. He will continue to focus his efforts on our young defensemen and assisting on the power play.”

“A coach with history as a defenseman who was offensively gifted and excelled on the power play is something we have never had on our coaching staff,” Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz said. “His insight and viewpoint will bring a fresh perspective to our team.”

For all intents and purposes, the Predators have hired a coach on a tremendous upswing who should be able to command respect  simply from his longevity as a player.

However, the reason Housley is in Nashville is because he filled an opening, an opening created when the Predators released associate coach Peter Horachek.

The organization has remained largely silent on Horachek’s firing, issuing no press release and only publishing a single statement on the news subpage of their website which was not distributed to the press.

The statement from Poile features all of the “thank you for your contributions” and “best of luck in your future endeavors” that you would expect from such a statement. David Poile doesn’t burn bridges that don’t need burning.

According to Joshua Cooper at the Tennessean, Horachek was fired by telephone while he was getting ready to come to Nashville for team meetings. In fairness to the Predators, this was the organization’s first actual firing of a member of the coaching staff. In 2003, Paul Gardner – Horachek’s predecessor - was removed from the bench, but he was offered a position within the organization as a scout – an offer he ultimately refused. As unceremonious as it appears, David Poile had not fired a coach since January 1994 when he fired head coach Terry Murray and assistant John Perpich while with the Washington Capitals. He can probably be excused for not knowing how to swing the axe.

At first glance, it appeared that Peter Horachek was being blamed for the issues with the Predators during their horrendous 2013 season. Many, including me, questioned whether Horachek was being used as a scapegoat for Nashville’s failure to appear this season. When the Housley announcement came so quickly after the Horachek firing, the reasoning behind Horachek’s departure seemed a little clearer.

In the end, it appears not so much that Horachek was a scapegoat – it simply appears that the opportunity to hire Phil Housley was just too good to pass up.

Unfortunately for Peter Horachek, he was the odd man out.

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A native of Franklin, Tennessee, Patten Fuqua is the managing editor of PuckScene.com. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science from Belmont University in Journalism and Broadcasting.