Now that the Islanders have lost, let’s talk about Barry Trotz

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - JANUARY 16: Barry Trotz, head coach of the New York Islanders handles bench duties against the New York Islanders at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on January 16, 2020 in Uniondale, New York. The Rangers defeated the Islanders 2-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - JANUARY 16: Barry Trotz, head coach of the New York Islanders handles bench duties against the New York Islanders at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on January 16, 2020 in Uniondale, New York. The Rangers defeated the Islanders 2-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Barry Trotz is regarded as one of the finest coaches in the NHL.  Some regret that the New York Rangers made David Quinn their head coach in 2018, instead of waiting and snatching up Trotz when he left the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

Now, Barry Trotz and the Islanders have been eliminated for the second straight season by the Tampa Bay Lightning.  In a seventh game that meant a trip to the Final, the Islanders were outshot 31-18 and couldn’t mount any kind of offense.  Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov kept the game close, but despite the 1-0 score, the Islanders were never in the game.

It’s three straight futile trips to the playoffs for Trotz and the Islanders and it has reinforced one fact about Barry Trotz.  His teams cannot close the deal in the playoffs.

Sure, he won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals, but look at the talent on that team. And they eked out a win by taking the last two games of a seven game Conference Finals with Tampa after blowing a 2-0 series lead and falling behind 3-2.  They were lucky to meet an overachieving Vegas Golden Knights team in the Final.  The Golden Knights just ran out of gas and lost the series in five games.

That Stanley Cup reinforced the popular opinion that Trotz is a great coach.  That one Stanley Cup will keep him in that category forever and there is no doubt that he does well in the regular season, but all of the regular season wins mean nothing if you cannot finish.

Let’s take a look at Trotz’s record.

Starting in Nashville

Barry Trotz was the coach of the Nashville Predators for 15 years, an amazing run.  He took the reins during the Predators first season in the NHL and made the playoffs in the team’s sixth season.   Nashville made the playoffs seven of the next eight seasons. but got out of the first round only twice, never making it to the Conference Finals.

After missing the playoffs two years in a row, he was let go by the Predators. Replaced by Peter Laviolette, three years later the team made it to the Stanley  Cup Final in 2017.   In 15 years under Trotz, the Predators played 50 playoff games, winning 19 of them.  His regular season was pretty good with a .533 winning percentage. His teams never won their Division, but they did finish second  five times.

Excellence in Washington

He was hired to coach the Washington Capitals for the 2014-15 season.  He replaced Adam Oates who had been fired for missing the playoffs the prior campaign despite a 90 points season.

With a loaded roster including Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson, Trotz started a run of regular season excellence.  After finishing second in his first season, his Capitals finished first the next three years, winning the Presidents’ Trophy in 2016 and 2017.

Despite the regular season success, they lost to the Rangers in the second round of the playoffs in 2015, and to the Penguins in the second round in 2016 and 2017.

They finished first again in 2018 and finally went all the way, winning the Stanley Cup.

In four years under Trotz, his teams finished first three times and second once, but got out of the second round of the playoffs only once.

A miracle worker on Long Island

Trotz was working without a contract extension his final year in Washington and the Capitals let him walk as soon as he won the Stanley Cup.  He was hired immediately by Lou Lamoriello and the New York Islanders and has been acknowledged as miracle worker, transforming one of the worst defensive teams in the  NHL into the best.

He has made the playoffs all three seasons and has gotten to the Conference Finals the last two seasons, only to fall short of the Final.

His record

Barry Trotz is third all time in wins as an NHL coach, trailing only Scotty Bowman and Joel Quenneville. His lifetime record is 877 wins, 635 losses, 60 ties and 158 overtime losses.

Only seven coaches have been behind the bench for 1,500 games, with Trotz third all time with 1,730.  Of those seven coaches, Barry Trotz has made it to the Stanley Cup Final once.  That puts him in the company of Paul Maurice and Lindy Ruff who also made it to the Finals just once, the difference being that they lost.   The four other coaches have been to the the Final more than once with Scotty Bowman winning nine of 10 Finals, Joel Quenneville winning three Cups in three tries, Al Arbour won four times in five Finals and Ken Hitchcock won once in three trips to the Final.

18 coaches have been multiple Stanley Cup winners.  Of them,only Bowman and Quenneville coached more games than Trotz.

Why do we care?

To be honest, we really don’t, except for the fact that most Ranger fans are happy that the Islanders are out of the playoffs and will not have a trip to the Final or a Stanley Cup to rub in Blueshirt fans’ faces.

It’s another season of postseason failure for the Islanders with their last trip to the Final now 36 years ago and counting.  They lost despite their best efforts to physically overwhelm the Lightning.  Face it, losing Kucherov to a Scott Mayfield cross check helped them win Game Six. It reminded Ranger fans of the Matt Martin check that took Jacob Trouba out of the first crucial game when the Blueshirts still had dreams of the playoffs.

The Tampa Bay Lightning stuck a pin in the Barry Trotz balloon and it’s tee times for the Islanders. Ranger fans couldn’t ask for a better outcome.

If anyone thinks that rooting against the Islanders and being pleased that their season is over is poor sportsmanship,  think back to the early 1980s when the Islanders made it an annual event to eliminate the Rangers from the playoffs.  Any Ranger fan who live through that will never forget it.

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