Once Barry Trotz was fired from the Nashville Predators as head coach, speculation immediately circulated that Trotz could potentially be the next in line behind the Washington bench. His roots with the Capitals organization in his early years of coaching are what made Trotz a favorite for the head coaching vacancy.
Vancouver and Washington were the two franchises that seemed like they would have had the most interest in Trotz after his firing. Coach Trotz was with the Nashville Predators the last 15 seasons and their only coach in franchise history. He coaches a defensive type of structure, but that was also due to the kind of talent he had within the Predators organization.
For a comparison of this hire in another professional sport, this is similar to when the St. Louis Rams hired Jeff Fisher. Fisher was the longest tenured coach in the league until the Titans fired him. In this case, Trotz was also the longest tenured coach in the NHL. I like this hire for the Washington Capitals team for several different reasons.
The last coach that had previous head coaching experience in the NHL before getting hired as headman for the Capitals was Ron Wilson, whose final season was 2003-04. Ever since Wilson, the Caps have tried coaches that had no experience coaching an NHL team.
After the Adam Oates experiment, it was time for Ted Leonsis to hire a coach with years of experience at the helm. Trotz was the best candidate on the market having coached the Nashville Predators for 15 seasons.
There is more talent in DC than there was for the most part during Trotz’s tenure. He coached for a small market and the franchise had a small ceiling when it came to spending their money on prized players.
Now Trotz comes to DC where he has good pieces to work with. He has offensive firepower that he has never had coaching in Nashville and some promising young prospects as well. Ovechkin is the games best goal scorer, Backstrom is a top tier playmaking center and Evgeny Kuznetsov is a future star.
Where this Washington team struggled so mightily last season was on the defensive end. The current roster lacks defensive depth and is missing a top four-caliber defensemen to pair with Mike Green.
The best thing that Trotz can bring to this team that Adam Oates was unable to bring the past two seasons is structure. When the defense was struggling, Oates made adjustments that did not help the defense one bit.
Nashville’s teams were best known for their defensive structure, but there were years when Trotz had solid playmakers offensively and team rankings offensively and defensively were in the top ten. So for Trotz, this is a great opportunity in Washington due to the playmakers he is now surrounded by. He has made it known he will tailor his game style and structure toward his team, so it will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments he makes in terms of style from his days with Nashville to Washington.
When the Capitals introduced Barry Trotz Tuesday afternoon, Leonsis also introduced the team’s new general manager Brian MacLellan. This is a familiar face within the organization as MacLellan has been with the Caps since the year 2000. He has been a pro scout and then promoted to assistant GM and director of player personnel.
This was a surprise to some including myself that Leonsis decided to hire a GM that was in-house. He claimed to wanted fresh new eyes, but went with a guy who was considered George McPhee’s right hand man. There were other quality names out there and some of those came up in the presser.
We do not know much of how “GMAC’, as I am calling him for now on, will do at the helm of all the decision making, but he has done a solid job so far in his time as an interim-manager. During that span, he extended the franchise’s affiliation with the Hershey Bears and dealt impending free agent Jaroslav Halak to the Islanders.
One thing that we know with the Caps is they have drafted well the last several years. We are unsure of how much of that was credited to GMac, so we will begin to get a good glimpse of that in the upcoming draft when the Caps select with the 13th pick.
I remain more confident in the hire of Trotz than the hire of GMac, but time will tell if both were the right choices. In my eyes, all the pressure for the next few seasons early on will be on the new general manager. I feel this way for a couple of reasons.
This roster is not Stanley Cup competitive yet due to the lack of depth defensively and inconsistent offensive output. So Trotz will get a year pass because of the roster complications whereas the pressure will heat up right away for GMac. MacLellan will have to find a way to bring in a top four defensemen to compliment Mike Green. There are other moves and decisions that will need to be made this summer as well.
Mikhail Grabovski is a free agent and was an impact player when healthy. Is he a player that Trotz will want in his system? MacLellan and the head coach will have to make that decision together. Also, what do you do with often-injured Brooks Laich? Do you move a veteran on this team to acquire more prospects or picks?
Several decisions will be made going forward for this organization in the off-season, but at least a few have been made by Ted Leonsis. We know who the head coach and general manager of the Washington Capitals are for now. Can they build a team together and bring a Stanley Cup back to Washington? The future will be telling and it starts right now.