Upon their move to Brooklyn in 2015, the New York Islanders placed a strong desire to revive the winning tradition of the past. Three years later, the organization seems poised on cultivating the tradition. The addition of Lou Lamoriello was the first step towards building a viable foundation, and on the eve of the NHL Draft, the Islanders turn to Stanley Cup-winning head coach Barry Trotz to guide their vision behind the bench.
“Barry brings to the New York Islanders franchise a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience, and success,” said Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello in a press release issued by the team. “He is and has been one of the top coaches in the National Hockey League. I am excited to have the opportunity to work with him.”
Aside from Mike Keenan departing the Rangers over a contract dispute in the summer of 1994, seldom had a head coach walked away from his job after winning the Stanley Cup. When the Capitals couldn’t come to terms on a new contract with Trotz, he left the organization two weeks after guiding the franchise to their first Stanley Cup. Trotz emerged as the leading candidate in the Islanders’ coaching search soon after the firing of former head coach Doug Weight.
Trotz joined the Capitals as head coach before the 2014-2015 season and won consecutive Presidents’ Trophies before capturing hockey’s ultimate prze. His ability to transform Alex Ovechkin into a natural leader helped shed his label as a star player who had yet to elevate the play of his team in pressure situations. Ovechkin enjoyed the most productive stretch of his career Trotz, leading the league in goals in three of the past four seasons.
Before joining the Capitals, Trotz spent 15 years with Nashville Predators, seeing their rise from an unheralded expansion team to a playoff contender within six years. Along with General Manager David Poile, Trotz identified vital pieces that developed cornerstones for the franchise on a limited budget.
Their first-ever draft pick David Legwand became the team’s all-time leading scorer while Pekka Rinne was a Vezina Trophy finalist on four occasions after being the 258th player taken in the 2004 NHL Draft. Many of the players obtained by Trotz and Poile formed the nucleus of the 2016-17 Eastern Conference championship club, which lost to the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.
Trotz’s coaching style should address the Islanders’ most essential deficiencies since his focus is primarily on solid defensive play and impeccable goaltending in front of the net. If his teams control play at their own end of the ice, they can convert stops into scoring chances. Defenseman Shea Weber and John Carlson formed a reliable two-way game for Trotz in both of his previous coaching stops, ranking among the top players at their position. Trotz also expects accountability from his players along with consistent effort.
“We want to play fast, with a lot of skill. We can play with pace,” Trotz said in a conference call. “We’ve got to clean up the backend in terms of playing without the puck, get our goals against down. But this team is exciting.”
Not since Al Arbour’s retirement had the Islanders employed a head coach with a Stanley Cup reputation and the credibility of a proven winner. While Peter Laviolette, Ted Nolan, and Jack Capuano each had their moments and experienced moderate success behind the bench, they were unable to exceed their initial promise and execute the necessary steps to ensure growth. With the team of Lamoriello and Trotz in place, the Islanders plan to build for the long-term with a steadfast commitment to championship level play.