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Islanders' Barry Trotz sees pressure on coaches leading to big coaching turnover in NHL

Islanders coach Barry Trotz speaks after a game

Islanders coach Barry Trotz speaks after a game against the Winnipeg Jets at the NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Coaching turnover in the NHL is frequent, with the average tenure lasting less than three seasons.

But there have been surprisingly rapid changes this season, with seven coaches already losing their jobs for various reasons. The Islanders’ Barry Trotz, 47 games into his second season with the team, already has been in his current job longer than 16 of the other 30 NHL coaches have been in theirs.

Is Trotz surprised at the number of coaching changes that have been made this season? “I would say yeah. I’m not lying,” he replied. “But at the same time, there’s different pressures. There’s so much on the line for ownership, management.”

The Vegas Golden Knights became the latest team to change coaches, firing Gerard Gallant 18 months after he led the expansion franchise to the Stanley Cup Final, where it lost in five games to Trotz’s Washington Capitals.

Gallant was replaced by Pete DeBoer, fired 34 days earlier by the Sharks after leading San Jose to the Western Conference finals last season.

“Expectations are the death of a lot of coaches,” Trotz said. “Some expectations are realistic. Some are sort of hidden in terms of what do you think your team can do. I think it is hard sometimes to live up to those expectations in this league because there’s not much difference between the top team in the league and even the worst team in the league.

“A lot of it has to do with depth, a little bit of personnel. There’s ways of nullifying some of that, the personnel stuff. But there’s not as big a gap as sometimes people think. Chemistry is everything for any team and then you’ve got to have some luck.”

Some coaching changes this season have been performance-based. For instance, John Hynes lost his job with the last-place Devils, then was hired to replace the Predators’ Peter Laviolette with Nashville struggling to stay in the playoff picture.

Mike Babcock’s firing in Toronto was considered performance-based, but some of his abusive tactics toward players were revealed after the fact.

The Flames had to let Bill Peters go after racist comments that he made in the past surfaced. The Stars fired Jim Montgomery, who later revealed substance-abuse issues.

But as much as Trotz is surprised at the volume of turnover this season, he’s not shocked.

“I’m not surprised anymore,” he said. “There’s only so many layers. With contracts the way they are, the whole pressure comes on the coach.”  

Confusion explained

The Islanders’ Matt Martin and the Rangers’ Brendan Smith both looked somewhat confused as they were sent from the ice with game misconducts at 2:13 of the first period in the Islanders’ 6-2 loss on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

The reason: After the Islanders’ Ross Johnston fought former Islander Micheal Haley at 2:13, Martin and Smith lined up for the ensuing faceoff and their fight occurred before linesman Tony Sericolo dropped the puck. That meant it was considered a continuation of play from the first bout.

Martin said there was no confusion over that rule. The confusion came because Martin and Smith thought Sericolo had dropped the puck.

“The linesman double-clutched it,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “You’ve probably seen in the past where both guys back up and say, ‘OK, wait for the puck to drop.’ But they were a little closer and the linesman didn’t like the way the guys set up, or somebody jumped early. So he double-clutched it and held on to it.”

“We were both kind of a little surprised,” Martin said. “Even when they the officials] huddled up, they were talking about the fact they had double-clutched. They were having a pretty long conversation.”  

Picked from the pod

Islanders Hall of Famer Mike Bossy, who surpassed 50 goals in all but one of his 10 NHL seasons, including five 60-goal seasons, was the guest on Episode 16 of Newsday’s Island Ice podcast.

Bossy praised the work president and general manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz have done in reversing the team’s fortunes. He particularly likes the way the players have bought into the structure of Trotz’s system and notes that a similar framework helped Trotz’s Capitals win the Stanley Cup in 2018. But perhaps the best pure goal-scorer of all time noted that the Islanders “maybe could score a couple more goals” and seemed to suggest a trade to bring in more production.

“I watched Barry with Washington and he had a lot of goal-scorers on that team,” Bossy said. “But they weren’t able to get over the hump and play enough defense and didn’t get good enough goaltending to get right to the end. I think he finally convinced everybody that that’s the only way you’re going to win a Stanley Cup, and everything came together when they beat Vegas.

“I’m sure there must be times he might be frustrated behind the bench, saying, ‘Holy cow, if we could get a goal or two, I know that my system is good,’ ” Bossy added. “Let’s hope that they pull something off in the next month.”   

Not getting the calls

The Islanders finally received their 100th power play in their 46th game as they went 0-for-5 with the man advantage in Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to the Rangers at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. But they still are last in the NHL by a long shot in power-play opportunities through Friday’s play:

1. Canucks (48 games) – 176 power plays

2. Avalanche (47) – 168

29. Maple Leafs (48) – 133

30. Ducks (48) – 127

31. Islanders (46) – 104

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