DALLAS — The highly organized, thoroughly detailed side of Barry Trotz was on full display.
Serving as an assistant coach under Andy Murray for Team Canada at the 2003 World Championships in Finland, Trotz ran the special teams video sessions.
“It’s a short tournament, two, three weeks,” said former NHL goalie Marty Biron, who played for Team Canada. “Those video sessions lasted like 45 minutes to the point where we were like, ‘Hey, listen, we’re in Europe at the World Championships, we don’t want to sit in a ballroom for 45 minutes.’ ”
That’s when the side of Trotz that relates so well to players took over.
“We said, ‘Shorten them up a little bit,’ ” Biron said. “And he started laughing.”
And complied. Result: happier players. Team Canada won the gold.
Trotz, who led the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup earlier this month but resigned Monday because of a contract impasse and was hired to coach the Islanders on Thursday, brings a reputation as one of the NHL’s best communicators. His resume adds instant credibility to the culture change that new team president Lou Lamoriello is trying to implement.
Trotz, 55, who spent four seasons behind the Capitals’ bench and coached the Predators from their inception in 1998 until 2014, is commonly described as “down to Earth.”
“He’s the most down-to-Earth guy of any coach I’ve met,” said veteran broadcaster Kenny Albert, who spent 1990-92 as Trotz’s road roommate when he was broadcasting Baltimore (AHL) Skipjacks games and Trotz was first an assistant and then head coach. “He does not let anything get to his head. He’s the same guy as when I first met him and it seems like that carries over to the team.”
“You’ve got to find a way to connect with young men, in certain cases with teenagers,” added former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes, now an analyst for the NHL Network. “Barry Trotz has a great ability to do that.”
Trotz has a career regular-season record of 762 wins, 568 losses, 60 ties and 134 overtime losses. Since he led the expansion Predators to their first playoff berth in 2004, his teams have missed the postseason only three times.
Trotz’s teams had never advanced past the second round until the Capitals won it all. Yet he did his finest work as a coach in what others might have considered an untenable situation. Trotz was in the last season of his contract while associate coach Todd Reirden, expected to replace him as Capitals coach, had a longer deal.
“It was a very tough situation for him and he had to make some tough calls and he probably saw the writing on the wall before the season started,” Biron said. “He was able to push through more than he has in the past.”
In fact, it seemed to make Trotz even looser.
“I thought, this year, he was really, really relaxed and it seemed like he just kind of went about his job fearlessly, which is kind of amazing considering all of the circumstances,” said Isabelle Khurshudyan, who covers the Capitals for The Washington Post.
“But he wasn’t afraid to challenge [Alex] Ovechkin or be hard on Ovechkin,” Khurshudyan added. “I think other guys see that when it’s the star player. Ovi obviously responded to it. I thought maybe more than any other coach, Ovechkin responded to him. I think Trotz understands this balance of when to push, when to go at the team and when to give them their space, and it comes probably with experience, knowing how to read a room.”
Trotz’s connection with Ovechkin was helped when he visited with the Capitals’ captain in Moscow in the offseason when the coach was also visiting his son Tyson, who works as an English teacher in Russia. Trotz was seen communicating with his son via FaceTime as soon as the deciding Game 5 of the Cup Final ended in Las Vegas.
When Trotz took the Capitals’ job in 2014, a Washington Post article detailed Trotz’s efforts to make the move from Nashville as easy as possible on his youngest son, Nolan, who was born with Down syndrome.
Trotz’s connection to the Nashville community runs deep, and Albert recalled the coach running Hockey 101 courses to educate the fans about the sport during the Predators’ early days. He also was part of the effort to put up posters around town to help sell tickets to the expansion team’s games.
“He’s not going to coach the team and go home,” Albert said. “He wants to be involved with the city and the fans.”
Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who guided the Capitals from 2007-11, has no doubts that Trotz can handle the New York market after meeting the heightened expectations in Washington.
“His communication skills are really good,” Boudreau said. “He can talk to you like a normal guy. Players, especially, love that and I think that’s his big thing. He has the common sense of a former player that knows, ‘Hey, listen, we need to be this and we need to be that.’ I think he’s going to do great. I think he’s going to bring a great structure to the Island. I think you’ll see a completely different type of team next season.”
Trotz has yet to complete his coaching staff with the Islanders but said Capitals assistant Lane Lambert and director of goaltending Mitch Korn are candidates to join him.
Biron said Trotz’s relationship with the Bronx-born Korn, who joined the Predators in 1998 as their goalie coach, also separates him from other NHL coaches. The Sabres drafted Biron in 1995 and Korn was Buffalo’s goalie coach from 1991-98.
“There’s a lot of goalie coaches that focus just on the goalies and there’s a lot of coaches that don’t even want to talk to the goalie coach,” Biron said. “I think those two have a really good relationship. It makes it that much stronger.”
Stanley Cup champions 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983