LAS VEGAS — Barry Trotz couldn’t have regarded extra relaxed in the course of the Washington Capitals‘ postseason run. On the finish of most information conferences, the Capitals coach grabbed a Gatorade or water bottle sitting on his podium. Earlier than leaving the room, he blurted out: “Hydrate! Everyone hydrate!” which grew to become considerably of an inside joke with reporters.
At all times comfy in entrance of a microphone, Trotz was particularly loquacious. The 55-year-old even murmured “real smooth,” mimicking Gatorade’s ubiquitous postseason business.
Twice, Trotz — donning a full purple sweatsuit and baseball cap — did the standard pre-practice “hot lap,” powering his manner across the rink (riling up the gamers on his bench) and ending by balancing, albeit a bit wobbly, on one knee in stride — like his famous person captain, Alex Ovechkin.
After the Capitals wrapped up the Stanley Cup with a Four-Three win in Recreation 5 Thursday evening, Trotz was noticed sharing fun with group staffers exterior the tunnel. He was seen strolling the few blocks from T-Cellular Enviornment to the group’s lodge, choosing contemporary desert air over a trip on the group bus. “He seems positive,” famous veteran defenseman Matt Niskanen. “And loose.”
“He’s buzzing for sure,” middle Evgeny Kuznetsov mentioned. “That’s good, when you’re a coach, to stay positive. He’s so emotional. At the same time, we understand it’s big for him, too. A big moment.” Certainly, after 19 years within the league — together with his first 15 seasons in Nashville — Trotz had lastly gained his first Stanley Cup.
However effervescent beneath the floor all season was a dueling narrative of an unsure future. Trotz’s contract expires on the finish of the season, and in a yr the place the Capitals have been anticipated to regress — after back-to-back President’s Trophy seasons, 2017-18 was not the season they have been purported to lastly recover from the playoff hump — administration was not able to decide to Trotz.
He by no means obtained an extension in the course of the season. And even because the playoffs started, GM Brian MacLellan didn’t publicly supply help. On the finish of Washington’s first-round sequence win, cameras noticed Trotz shaking palms with Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella. Newbie lip readers instantly jumped when Trotz appeared to inform his peer: “I’m gone. I’m gone. I’m not coming back. I’m gone.” (Trotz has denied the character of the dialog.)
What’s extra, Washington has a pure succession path for a post-Trotz period. Todd Reirden, 46, was voted second in an NHLPA participant ballot asking what assistant is most able to turn out to be an NHL head coach. The Capitals have been territorial over Reirden, selling him to affiliate head coach in 2016 and blocking him from interviewing for head-coaching vacancies final offseason.
All the things appeared in place ought to the Capitals undergo one other early playoff exit, as was anticipated. So … now what occurs?
“I know, talking to [Trotz], at different points in the season, he’s not worried about it,” veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik mentioned. “He knows, as experienced as he is, and as long as he’s been around the game, I think he knows that it will all take care of itself at some point, and that’s probably allowed him to enjoy it a lot more.”
Niskanen mentioned whereas the complete group is aware of what’s looming, Trotz’s future remained a taboo topic — particularly in these playoffs. “Do we talk about it? Not one bit. I can’t think of an instance where anyone has even talked about it,” the defenseman mentioned. “I do not assume something is frightened about it. I am unsure he is worrying about it. It is simply the way in which it’s, in most jobs, I imply I name it a job. It is the identical factor with John Carlson, who is aware of what is going on to occur there? We’re targeted on this proper now. If it is the common season, doubtlessly there may very well be some points there. Issues come up when issues aren’t going nicely, these form of questions are requested. However proper now we’re having enjoyable and targeted on this sequence proper now.”
Trotz, to his credit score, has performed it cool. In a information convention on the eve of Recreation 5, the coach cryptically defined why he has been capable of challenge a zen angle. “I’ve gone through a few things last summer that gave me some really good clarity on how I define myself or how I define people or whatever,” Trotz mentioned. “I think it’s just given me real clarity.”
On the ice whereas celebrating the Stanley Cup, Trotz provided this: “I’m not even going to go there. I said to [GM] Brian [MacLellan] there’s no reason that I don’t want to be there. No matter what happens, give me a couple of days to enjoy or not enjoy what happens. But … these are my kids. This is a pretty special group. We’ll talk. I’m not worried, one way or the other. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I don’t lose any sleep over it.”
So maybe Trotz himself is aware of precisely what’s subsequent for him. Right here is an examination of his choices:
Return to the Capitals
It will appear silly now if MacLellan did not supply Trotz a contract extension. When requested if he thinks he has a future with the Capitals after Recreation 5, Trotz mentioned: “Oh, absolutely.”
Working within the coach’s favor is how extremely his gamers consider him. Ovechkin — whose phrase carries a lot weight with proprietor Ted Leonsis — has gone out of his strategy to praise Trotz this postseason. Trotz has all the time had a popularity as a gamers’ coach. “One of the things that separates him from many coaches I’ve had before — not all of them — is he takes the time to ask how your family is, or how guys’ kids are doing,” mentioned Devante Smith-Pelly, who joined the Capitals this season. “He gives you an extra day or two off so you can be home with your family. That’s something that I noticed right away. That’s something that stood out. It’s the communication part, the fact that he cares about us as a person, it makes us care about him as a person as well.”
Sooner or later world the place Trotz stays, it feels pure that Reirden would pursue alternatives elsewhere. Not solely would possibly or not it’s awkward to remain on workers, however the rising star would possibly really feel stunted by the present construction.
Coach some place else
We’re taking a look at one group specifically right here, as in the one present emptiness within the league: the New York Islanders. Sure, a group in the identical division because the Capitals.
In response to a supply conversant in the teaching market, a number of NHL groups with head-coaching vacancies this yr thought of Trotz as an choice, however knew he wouldn’t be out there till after the Capitals’ run. Trotz might really feel slighted by the Capitals’ lack of religion earlier on this season and would possibly need to transfer on. The Islanders wish to reinvigorate with Lou Lamoriello now in management. Ought to the group retain John Tavares, they’re a defenseman or two and a goalie away from changing into critical contenders.
In reality, one goalie who is sensible for the Islanders is pending restricted free agent Philipp Grubauer, who many within the league anticipate the Capitals to deal away this summer time. Nevertheless, it is unclear if Washington would need to do enterprise with the Islanders — particularly if Trotz is on board. Ought to Trotz take one other alternative, Reirden is the pure subsequent rent in Washington.
Take a yr off
So that you simply gained the Stanley Cup, what’s subsequent? Barry Trotz might go to Disney World … then take a number of holidays after that.
Think about Trotz’s postgame feedback: “I’ve done lots of good things in my life and I will continue to do that, and so I wasn’t getting consumed with what was said or what my future holds or whatever. I’m in a pretty good spot.”
It is attainable he takes time without work, however most likely unlikely. Previously 40 years, solely 4 Stanley Cup-winning coaches didn’t return to their group the following season. In 2002, Purple Wings coach Scotty Bowman retired. Additionally after successful in 1979 with the Montreal Canadiens, Bowman left for a promotion — to turn out to be Buffalo’s GM. In 1991, Pittsburgh’s Bob Johnson stepped away due to sickness.
After which there’s the outlier: Mike Keenan. Two weeks after successful the Cup with the Rangers in 1994, Keenan abruptly give up resulting from a dispute with administration.
Would Trotz do one thing as rash as Keenan’s transfer? There’s a delight ingredient, of strolling away on one’s personal phrases. However one NHL supply, who is aware of Trotz nicely, mentioned this: “Barry is a prideful guy, but coaching is his nature. I think it would be really hard for him not to coach next season. He has a lot left to give.”