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Capitals coach Barry Trotz held in high regard

Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals speaks with

Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals speaks with the media following a 2-1 victory against the New York Islanders in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on April 27, 2015 in Washington, DC. Credit: Getty Images

The Capitals' playoff media guide offers a remarkable nugget about coach Barry Trotz, who is in his first season with the team after 15 with the Predators.

He is one of six coaches or managers in the four major North American team sports to lead a team for the first 15 seasons of its existence, joining Connie Mack, Curly Lambeau, Tom Landry, Hank Stram and Paul Brown.

Here is what's even more remarkable about that: Trotz is the only one of the six who did not win a championship during his term. Actually, he never has even reached a Stanley Cup Final, or so much as a conference final.

That level of patience seems difficult to believe, certainly from a New York sports perspective, but it does illustrate the extent to which Trotz is personally and professionally popular around the NHL.

He suffered from a deficiency of talent during many of those years in Nashville, but there will be no such excuse with the Capitals, who opened their second-round series against the Rangers Thursday night with a 2-1 win at the Garden.

Led by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, Washington has the raw ingredients of a deep run -- something rare for a franchise that only twice has reached a conference final and once a Cup Final.

Both of those seasons ended up playoff series sweeps.

Testaments to Trotz are easy to come by, but let's start with Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein, who played parts of nine seasons for the Predators before coming to the Rangers during the 2013-14 season.

"He taught me how to be a true pro," Klein said before Game 1. "I came in as a young kid and the first year I only played 13 games and it was a tough year. We had eight defensemen. He's a very personable guy, which I was thankful for. You could go in and talk to him and he'd come and talk to you.

"He's hands-on and really tried to instill coming to the rink every day and be a true professional even if I wasn't playing, and that helped a lot in the long run."

Trotz, 52, still is learning the nuances of Eastern Conference stars after spending so many years in the West. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault -- who spent seven seasons in Vancouver -- can relate to that.

What does Vigneault see in Trotz's Capitals team so far? "Very similar to his other teams,'' he said. "Always defend well, always stick to the system and they play hard, and that's what I remember from Nashville and that's what I saw this year in Washington."

Said Joel Ward, now of the Capitals and formerly of Trotz's Predators: "He's a good guy. He's a very family-oriented guy. He cares about the individual. It's not just about what you can do on the ice but off the ice as well. It's a lot easier when you're playing for a guy like that."

Rangers radio play-by-play man Kenny Albert roomed with Trotz on the road when Albert was a young announcer for the AHL's Baltimore Skipjacks in the early 1990s and Trotz was an assistant coach and eventually the head coach.

"He's a guy who never played in the NHL, worked his way up the ladder, just a tremendous guy, one of the nicest people I've ever met, not only in hockey, but in life," Albert said. "I really learned a lot from him about hockey as well."

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