Barry Trotz on Capitals: ‘That bond will be there forever’
NEW YORK He’s been coach of the New York Islanders since the summer, but it had to feel strange for Barry Trotz to refer to the Washington Capitals in the third person.
The Capitals have a three-point edge over the Islanders at the top of the Metropolitan Division, prompting Trotz to explain the significance of Monday night’s game between the two sides at the Barclays Center.
“It’s an important game for us,” Trotz said. “I mean, we’re chasing the Caps. We’re chasing Columbus right now. You get weighed and measured every game in this league, but they’re the Stanley Cup champions.”
“They” became champions under Trotz’s leadership. The 2018 Cup was the franchise’s first championship, and it was Trotz’s first as well in what is now a 20-year career as an NHL head coach.
Trotz left his post as Washington’s bench boss 11 days after the Capitals won the Cup four games to one over the Vegas Golden Knights in June. Soon after, the league’s only team with a coaching vacancy gave him a ring, and the Islanders landed the fifth-winningest coach in NHL history.
Trotz said Monday night’s game and the private ceremony before it in which he and former Capitals coaches Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn will receive their Stanley Cup rings would be closure for “a really good chapter in my life.”
“What we went through the last four years was pretty incredible in terms of the wins and losses, and some of the hard times and some of the good times,” Trotz said. “We all share that together and that’s why that bond will be there forever with that group of young men.”
That echoed how some Capitals felt about the matchup. Trotz and his former players generally have good feelings toward each other, and Trotz’s departure from Washington was about contract negotiations rather than bad hockey relationships.
“It’ll be good to see them before and tie it, come full circle, get them the ring that those guys really deserve and have a little bit of a fun celebration,” Tom Wilson said. “Then it’ll be all business.”
Trotz’s new players in New York also know this is a special game for their coach.
“It’s a big game for Barry, and Lane on our team too, so we obviously want to get them a win,” Islanders center Mathew Barzal said, “and obviously as a team we want to get another win and kind of keep this thing going.”
Forward Anders Lee added, “I know he’s looking forward to it,” which might be an understatement. Another Islanders player, Cal Clutterbuck, said before the Islanders played the Predators that Trotz had mentioned “a couple of times” the fact that he coached Nashville for 15 years.
If he mentioned the Predators a couple of times, it’s easy to figure how Trotz feels about facing his more recent team, the one he took to a championship.
“The bond I have with that group of players in the organization, obviously winning a Cup, that’s everlasting,” Trotz said. “It’s undeniable.”