When I woke up Monday morning, I did not expect to see Barry Trotz has been relieved of his duties as coach of the New York Islanders as the top headline of the hockey world. And why would we? Sure, the Islanders had underperformed in a big way this season, especially coming off of back-to-back Conference Finals appearances. But one season marred by a bad start that had an atrocious schedule with a 13-game road trip to start the year, an 11-game losing streak amid a COVID outbreak, and then playing 50 games in 99 days seems like reason enough to have some leniency on the coaching staff.
Here we are, though, the move has been made. And now we can reflect on Trotz’s short but incredibly successful tenure with the New York Islanders and speculate on his next moves.
Barry Trotz with the New York Islanders
The offseason after winning the Stanley Cup in 2017-18, Trotz and the Washington Capitals did not agree to a new contract and he became a free agent. Lou Lamoriello quickly scooped him up for his rebuild on Long Island.
Trotz’s first season with the Islanders showed just what he is capable of as a head coach. In 2018-19, the Islanders improved by 23 points year-over-year, finishing with a 48-27-7 record (103 points). For his efforts, he won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year for the second time in his coaching career. The Islanders made it to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that season.
Comparing this to the previous season, 2017-18, before Trotz took over is where the impact is most noticeable. The Islanders were last in the league in goals against, giving up 296 goals over the regular season. In 2018-19, the Islanders improved to a league-best 196 goals against.
Trotz is typically regarded as a defence-first head coach but to see an improvement of that magnitude in one season is astonishing. Sure, the offence was (and still is to this day) an issue for the Islanders. But, he gets results.
The next two seasons for the Islanders were more of the same. A team defence that is among the best in the league with a gritty roster full of veterans who have bought into the system were perennial underdog contenders. Trotz took a team with very little star power and a leading scorer, Mathew Barzal, who didn’t even play at a point per game pace, on deep playoff runs.
In 2019-20, the Islanders regressed a bit in the regular season, finishing sixth in another edition of the Thunderdome in the Metro division. A hot streak in the bubble playoffs that summer propelled the Islanders past the Florida Panthers, the Capitals, and the Philadelphia Flyers. The eventual Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning finally knocked them out of the playoffs in the Conference Finals.
The 2020-21 season was a bounceback, in a sense, for the Islanders. The team’s 128 goals against was second-best in the league, but the offence was ranked 20th (156 goals for). Nevertheless, the playoffs were where the Islanders shined as they made it to the Conference Finals again and were looking to get some revenge, but the Lightning eliminated the Islanders for the second straight year.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, Trotz and the Islanders were picked by many to be a leading contender for a Cup Final run. It seemed like their time. But the aforementioned schedule issues and COVID outbreak derailed that. The Islanders were near the bottom of the league while stuck in an 11-game losing streak a couple of months into the season. To their credit, the team bounced back relatively well and finished as the best non-playoff team in the East.
That was not enough for Lamoriello, however, as he felt the team needed a new voice.
Needless to say, the move came as a shock to everyone, Trotz included. With the playoffs still happening, I would imagine he takes some time to think about his next move and his coaching future.
Barry Trotz Possible Coaching Destinations
It’s a bit premature for the coaching carousel to be in full effect heading into the offseason, but we do have a couple of interesting possibilities for the next destination for Trotz.
Barry Trotz to the Winnipeg Jets
After Paul Maurice resigned on his own in the middle of the season, the Winnipeg Jets had been running with Dave Lowry as the interim head coach. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has said he is opening his search for a new coach beyond just signing the interim staff. Meanwhile, Trotz is an appealing option for the underperforming Jets and was born in the area. It seems like a solid match.
In Winnipeg, Trotz would have an experienced, veteran core of players, which is something he has thrived with in the past. They have an elite goalie in Connor Hellebuyck that could use some help to not be the league leader in shots against for the fifth straight season. And after finally fixing up the defensive core in the previous offseason, it would be a good time to bring in a defensive coach to help them maximize performance.
Barry Trotz to the Vancouver Canucks
I have no doubts that the Vancouver Canucks would like to keep Bruce Boudreau as head coach. The fit with him coaching the Canucks is nearly perfect. The fanbase embraces him, the team performed extremely well after the coaching change, and his style, focusing on the offensive side of the game, suits the build of the roster.
But the Canucks are a young, rebuilding/retooling team that might benefit from a strategic, defensive mind working with the staff to help develop the skillsets of the players and prospects. It would be a different type of arrangement than one might expect for someone of his pedigree, something like a co-coach or having Trotz in as the defence coach, but an interesting thought nonetheless.
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