While the Washington Capitals are watching their Stanley Cup banner rise to the rafters, Barry Trotz will be fresh off a plane in North Carolina, preparing for his own season opener.
Trotz guided the Capitals to their first title last season and in winning it triggered an automatic contract extension far under the present-day market value for top NHL coaches. He resigned less than a week after the parade, joined the New York Islanders and brings with him almost two decades of NHL coaching experience along with that Cup ring.
“Everything he’s gone through and his success, it’s going to be just perfect for us,” Islanders forward Anders Lee said. “There’s plenty of guys on our team that are going to be able to learn from him and his experiences and he’s going to be able to give it to us and make us a better team.”
The Islanders are one of six teams with a new coach this season. The cross-town Rangers went the college route by hiring David Quinn from Boston University, while the Dallas Stars hired Jim Montgomery from the University of Denver. The Carolina Hurricanes promoted assistant Rod Brind’Amour to replace Bill Peters when he left for Calgary and the Capitals made the no-brainer choice of elevating associate coach Todd Reirden to take over for Trotz.
As Trotz begins what he and general manager Lou Lamoriello hope is an organizational culture change with the Islanders, Reirden has assumed control of a team he knows well from four years as an assistant. Familiarity is Reirden’s biggest asset as he becomes just the fourth coach to take over a defending Cup champion.
“This is probably going to be the smoothest transition of any coaching change that I’ve ever heard of,” Capitals right winger T.J. Oshie said. “Everyone respects Todd, respects the way he coaches, respects how he treats people. What a guy Trotzy is. He’s going to be missed. But he’s on the other side now.”
Trotz bears significant responsibility for changing the culture around the Capitals, buttoning down structure and fostering the right habits for success. New York doesn’t have the talent his old Washington teams did, especially after captain John Tavares left to sign with Toronto, but the Islanders will get a taste of how Trotz makes teams perform better than they look on paper.
“When you say culture change, it’s just a way of doing things,” Trotz said. “It may be the way we present ourselves, the way we react, the way we respond to adversity and all those things.”
Trotz could easily go back to his coaching style from 15 years in Nashville, when he oversaw a team that was short on high-end skill but long on hard work and fundamentals. It worked there, as Trotz took the Predators to the playoffs seven times. He made four postseason appearances in six seasons with the Capitals.
While it’s Trotz’s goal to get the Islanders back into playoff contention as soon as possible, Quinn’s job with the Rangers is much more about teaching and developing. New York still has All-Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and some veterans but is in the middle of a youth movement Quinn seems perfect for.
“(He is) communicative, disarming, caring, approachable,” Rangers forward Chris Kreider said. “I think kind of the ideal pedigree that you’d want in a coach.”
Even though Quinn, Montgomery, Reirden and Brind’Amour have a combined zero games of NHL head-coaching experience, it didn’t stop teams from committing to them in a league always looking for the next great idea . Quinn and Montgomery follow Philadelphia’s Dave Hakstol from the NCAA to the NHL, something that hadn’t been done for decades until this new mini-wave.
Brind’Amour took the more traditional route from a long playing career to seven years as a Carolina assistant before new owner Tom Dundon and general manager Don Waddell picked him to succeed Peters. It’s a popular choice for players eager to end the league’s longest playoff drought that currently stands at nine seasons.
“He’s a guy that’s easygoing, but still he’s going to demand respect from the players and demand a work ethic from the players,” Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin said. “He’s still in the gym every morning with the weight vest on working out, so he’s going to have that work ethic and put that into coaching as he did as a player.”
Peters, Carolina’s third coach during their dry run without a playoff appearance, resigned amid the ownership and front office changes and went immediately to Calgary. From Johnny Gaudreau to Sean Monahan and a deep blue line, the Flames are stacked in the kind of way the Hurricanes never were under Peters, who is being asked to get them back to the playoffs.
“I think he’ll do well,” Slavin said. “Obviously they’ve got a pretty good lineup over there, so I think he’s going to be able to work with it and be able to do good things there in Calgary.”
AP Sports Writer Vin A. Cherwoo contributed.
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