On Tuesday, the Washington Capitals introduced Brian MacLellan as their new general manager. Also introduced was…some other guy with some kind of bench role with the team. Finally when a reporter asked who the individual sitting next to MacLellan was, we learned it was actually the team’s new coach, Barry Trotz.
At least, that’s what it felt like.
With all the talk and scrutiny surrounding MacLellan, Trotz taking over as the Caps’ new bench boss has been pushed below the fold (that’s a newspaper reference from back when there was such a thing). Yet, MacLellan’s ability to build the team back into a contender will matter little if the Caps cannot play like one on the ice.
While MacLellan’s hire has left many scratching their heads, there is no such confusion over why the Caps pursued Trotz. Here’s a list of reasons Caps’ fans should be happy with the new coach:
Comes in with a successful track record
In his 15 seasons as the head coach for the Nashville Predators, Trotz compiled an impressive 557 regular season wins and made the playoffs seven times. These numbers may not jump off the page, but given the financial constraints of a team like Nashville, it is extremely impressive.
Trotz made an expansion team into a hardworking, successful franchise and he did it without major financial support.
The Caps have tried repeatedly to find the new up-and-coming coach and it was successful to a point, but with the team still trying to keep their championship window open, the time for experimenting is over.
The last coach the team hired who had prior NHL head coaching experience was Ron Wilson and he brought the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Caps have had five coaches since then with Trotz being the sixth.
They needed someone who has already proven himself and they got the best coach on the market.
His strengths are an antithesis to the last coaches’ major weaknesses
Trotz has been described as the type of coach who will hold all of his players accountable (unlike Bruce Boudreau) and as a great communicator (unlike Dale Hunter).
Though he has been described as a defensive minded coach and is taking over a team full of offensive talent, he made it clear in Tuesday’s press conference that he intends to mold his philosophy around the team and its strengths.
That is music to the ears of Caps fans who watched last season as Adam Oates made a myriad of bizarre and foolhardy decisions all in the name of his philosophy.
Whatever his strategy may have been in the past, he emphasized he would is not here to drastically change the team’s philosophy.
“You play to your strengths,” Trotz said to reporters.
It sounds simple, but let’s not forget that Hunter had Ovechkin riding the bench and Oates allowed his philosophy to trump common sense. Trotz will not be so hard-headed.
He is a very likeable person
You don’t have to listen to Trotz for very long to realize he’s an affable guy. If you’re still not sold, read the story of him talking hockey with a Caps fan in the Nashville airport or watch the video of him answering questions at a postgame press conference with his son who has Down’s syndrome because “he needs some dad time.”
Why does that matter?
Dan Bylsma is likely on his way out in Pittsburgh for losing the team even though he won a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh. Bourdeau lost the locker room after four seasons; Trotz lasted in Nashville for 15.
In his time in Nashville, the players rarely if ever had a negative thing to say about their coach. Having a coach the players want to play for is important, especially as we ponder what to do with Ovechkin.
Ovechkin and the rest of the team are going to love playing for Trotz and that is not something I think the majority of the team could say of any coach since the early Boudreau years. The players are going to buy what Trotz is selling and they will be successful for it.