Trotz very familar with Predators, Penguins
May 30, 2017 3:04 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
Barry Trotz might be the single person in North America who knows more, collectively, about both of this season’s Stanley Cup Final participants Pittsburgh and Nashville.
For 15 seasons Trotz, the current head coach of the Washington Capitals, guided the expansion Predators, becoming the longest-tenured NHL coach at the time when Lindy Ruff was fired in Buffalo.
Given great patience by franchise owner Craig Leipold (who now owns Minnesota), Trotz needed five campaigns before reaching the playoffs in Year 6. When better results were expected under new leadership, Trotz knocked on the door to reach the Western Conference final, but came short three straight times.
In Trotz’ three seasons in D.C., the Caps recently captured not only the Metropolitan Division title, the franchise also took the President’s Trophy for the best overall record in the NHL. Thus, who hails from the Winnipeg suburb of Dauphin, Manitoba, knows quite a bit about the team’s greatest rival, the Penguins.
With expectations of not only reaching the Final, but also taking the championship, echoes of disappointment surrounded Washington after the defending champion Penguins took out the Caps in six games in the second round earlier this month.
Although some negative thinkers may believe Trotz didn’t know enough to propel Nashville or Washington over the top, he is well-regarded – his next victory will be a Ruthian 714 during his staunch NHL career.
His coaching awards include the 2015-16 Jack Adams Award (NHL coach of the year), 2005-06 Sports News Coach of the Year (as voted by his peers), and even the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award winner (AHL coach with Calder Cup champion Portland, the Caps farm club).
Thus, Trotz offers some thoughts on who shall hoist the Cup in the best-of-seven series, which started on Memorial Day Monday in western Pennsylvania.
Some saw the signs of greatness in Tennessee in 2013-14, when the Predators set an NHL record by becoming the first and only club not to allow a short-handed goal all season.
“It tells all about their defense and the play of Pekka (Rinne, the starting goaltender),” said Trotz.
It also dates back to the building of the team’s foundation as an expansion club in the late 20th Century.
“We knew there was going to be a lot of horse trading,” added Trotz. “Some of the best deals we made in Nashville were those when you didn’t want one of their players, so you gave them a pick and you take from a list of players.
“Some of those turned into Tomas Vokoun and Kimmo Timonen. They were better than anyone we could’ve picked in the expansion draft. Some were throw-in guys who turned into prominent guys; those picks can be very valuable.”
Which is why last season’s trading of Shea Weber to Montreal for P.K. Subban turned out to be a key.
“Different players give you different dimensions,” he added. “Often being different makes you better because groups (rosters) are always going to change because of the financial part of (the game). But if it just changes a little bit doesn’t mean you can’t have the pieces that are even better.”
The recent run of three Cups over a decade in Chicago demonstrates this philosophy. Trotz always seeks a “higher standard.”
“We don’t talk about playoffs, we talk about Cups,” he noted. “When your business or organization is talking about being anything but the absolute best, he’s a failure. You need to look at the big picture.”
Thus, there’s no surprise how one historically inexperienced club (Nashville) and a defending champion (Pittsburgh) both reached the Final.
As for who will win, since Trotz is a current coach, he stuck to neutral ground.
“The league is so unpredictable, so random, that it’s hard to grasp. Sometimes as an organization, the fans, the media, the difference on how close you are from winning/losing isn’t about inches, it might be millimeters – that’s how close it is to change a series.”
As for the disappointment in Washington after another Caps playoff mishap, “It was tough that night; it’s not any easier today.”
One of the most telling comments coming out of the Washington exit interviews came from Capitals D Nate Schmidt, noting on Pittsburgh, “You see how banged up they were and we had a chance to beat them, the defending champs. It makes it tough.”
Considering how Pittsburgh survived a pair of physical, seven-game series with the Caps and Ottawa (the double-elimination game lasted into double-overtime), plus the unsteady goalie situation, it’s hard to go with the Pens.
Meanwhile, Nashville only needed to play 16 games and are rested in reaching the Final. They have a red-hot goalie and the Predators have one of the best home-ice records in playoff hockey. Throw along the precedent for the bottom seed to win it all in the form of “my” Los Angeles Kings, look for Nashville to “upset” Pittsburgh in six games.