In a stunning announcement Monday, the Islanders — after one year of consecutive contests to the Eastern Conference Finals — fired coach Barry Trotz.
Only two coaches in National Hockey League history — Red Wings legend Scotty Bowman and Joel Quinville — have won more games than Trotz, who also won the Stanley Cup in 2018 with the Capitals. Of course, he’s a prime candidate for nearly every coaching vacancy in the league this off-season.
It will take Barry Trotz at least a week to gather his thoughts and think about his next move. Will his future in the NHL be marked by a managerial role somewhere or a return to coaching? to be announced later on. Tweet embed Tweet embed
– Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 9, 2022
Don’t expect news to leak out from Fort Yzerman about whether the Red Wings will be among those suitors. But potential fit makes sense for several reasons.
The Red Wings struggled defensively last season, conceding the second-most goals in the league, and Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman made it clear in his season-ending press conference last week that he hopes a new coach can tackle that aspect. the game.
Trotz would surely do just that: From 2018 to 2022, his islander teams conceded the second-lowest number of goals in the league (2.56 per game), second only to the Bruins in that period. This ranking drops slightly based on projected goals, as measured by Evolving Hockey, but the first three years of the Trotz’s Islanders’ tenure nonetheless saw the team ranked eighth in five goals against five.
Even more impressive is the severity of the transformation that has occurred in New York. In the year before Trotz took power, the islanders were in fact The The worst defensive team in the league, conceding 3.57 goals per game (and allowing for the second most projected goals in all of five to five overall, according to Evolving Hockey).
So this is a big box checked for Red Wings, right away.
Yzerman also spoke on Stoney and Jansen last week about looking for a coach who “pays and demands our players.” This may not be as revealing as it may sound – there are plenty of ways to claim – but it’s clear that Trotz has gotten the most out of his New York rolls. Last season wasn’t going well, and he likely played a role in the shooting, but last year his islanders took eventual champion Lightning to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals after leading them to six games in the same round the previous year. That’s with a list that, based on talent alone, might not have ranked in the top 10 in the league on paper.
It’s no surprise that the team were hot in the playoffs and outsmarted their talent – hello, Dallas 2020 and Montreal 2021 – but doing so back-to-back showed that it wasn’t a fluke for the islanders. Training was almost certainly a big reason for that. The islanders had an identity.
So, yes, Barry Trotz would be a great employee of the Red Wings. He even checks the peripheral box for some experience working with Yzerman, having served as the assistant coach for the World Championship team for Canada in 2013, when Yzerman was the general manager.
But Trotz would be a great hire for just about any other team, too, where fitting in is more difficult.
The Red Wings have many desirable elements in attracting a new coach. They have some young building blocks in place and more on the way. Detroit is an excellent hockey market, with great fans and plenty of history. And the GM will likely have more security than any other GM rebuild, which is important in the league where a change at the top often has significant ripple effects.
However, Trotz’s reputation is first and foremost as a winner, and the Red Wings may not be in a position to win immediately. Trotz’s experience with the Islanders – taking them from the bottom 10 to the playoffs in his first season – is proof that he can engineer big turnarounds (something Detroit will certainly find attractive). But at the same time, other lists are better positioned to immediately make the leap.
The first, which is currently vacant, is in his hometown of Winnipeg, where the Jets have a very talented group of strikers and a Vezina award-winning goalkeeper already in place. Their defensive weapon is another matter – but then again, maybe Trotz can help out there.
Another, who currently has no vacancy, has shown a willingness to make a surprising change in his short life: Vegas, which missed out on the playoffs after trading with Jack Eichel but still has an extraordinarily talented roster.
There’s also the big market magic in Chicago, a close in-section opening in Philadelphia, and who knows what happens when teams start eliminating the playoffs this week.
Being one of the best and most experienced coaches in the sport comes with options. And it’s not clear where Detroit will end up between them in the big picture.
But what seems clear, even after only hours of availability, is that Trotz will cash in a lot of important chests for the Red Wings.
(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)