Sweat streamed off Ross Johnston after his group’s 90-minute practice at Islanders training camp on Friday as the burly left wing explained how much respect a coach earns by winning the Stanley Cup.
“They went through it all last year,” Johnston said of the Capitals. “That was a team that wanted to play for its coach.”
Barry Trotz, who led the Capitals to that franchise’s first Cup in June and now is the Islanders’ bench boss, led three groups through meticulous practices on the first day on the ice at Northwell Health Ice Center.
The new coach’s message emphasized attention to detail and “going the distance” — in this case, the rink’s 200 feet.
The Islanders again will have three groups skating on Saturday before starting their eight-game preseason schedule against the Flyers on Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum. The 68-man training camp roster includes 40 forwards, 21 defensemen and seven goalies, which will be pared to 23 for the regular-season opener at Carolina on Oct. 4.
“We talked about foundations,” Trotz said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in sports or in business, you’ve got to be willing to work. We weren’t afraid of working today. We learned we weren’t afraid to compete, either against ourselves or against someone. I thought we learned the importance of details and accountability in some areas.”
Friday’s hard skates were designed more as tests of endurance and willingness to compete — as well as to shake off the offseason’s rust — than as an installation of Trotz’s system. He said the systems implementation will be a little challenging with six games in seven days, starting Sunday.
Friday also was the real start of a two-way learning process as Trotz gets to know his players and the players learn about their new coach.
“It’s good,” left wing Anthony Beauvillier said. “His mentality, his drive, his way of talking, his energy. It was a good practice. It was a tough practice, but you want it a little hard. Everything is clear. It’s black and white.”
“The compete level is the biggest thing,” center Mathew Barzal added. “He definitely has a high standard, so it’s going to be good for us.”
The Islanders have missed the playoffs the last two seasons, leading to the offseason removal of former general manager Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight in favor of Lou Lamoriello and Trotz.
“We all knew this was going to be tough,” left wing Anders Lee said. “It wasn’t going to be easy. We don’t want it any other way. We need to reset ourselves and start laying a foundation that we can really build off of the entire year.”