Today, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz spoke at a National Press Club luncheon to discuss his inaugural coaching year with the Capitals and to preview the season ahead. What initially impressed Trotz was the Caps’ urgency to win a Stanley Cup. When interviewing with Ted Leonsis and Caps’ management last summer Trotz told them, “I know your problem and I can fix it”. When Trotz accepted the Caps coaching position, it was clear that he was also accepting a mission to bring the Stanley Cup to Washington, DC.
From the onset, Trotz realized that he needed to shift the team’s culture by helping each member to adopt some core and central values. These values are integral to achieving his Stanley Cup Mission and include making sure the players were humbled by not making the 2014 playoffs and helping them to “sweep the stuff” out of the new season, creating a championship environment where everyone focuses on going above and beyond and cultivating a family environment on the team. Fans witnessed this cultural evolution through each post-game “Honest Abe” award that recognized players exceeding expectations and served as a rally point to bring the players together.
To further support his mission, Trotz implemented three basic corrections to the team: he brought in great people to assist e.g., Mitch Korn, to help with the goaltenders, Lane Lambert as assistant coach, and Blaine Forsythe to continue as the power play coach. The strength of this coaching staff lies in their varying backgrounds that will continue to strengthen the team. He also identified and cultivated team leaders such as Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Brooks Orpik. To gain their trust, he communicated his visions and plans for the team to these essential players who in turn would reinforce it among the other players. This communication was key to the success of the 2014-2015 season because, as Trotz points out “Assumption is the mother of all mess ups”. He helped all players to understand their role and to be accountable for their individual actions on the ice. Most importantly, Trotz attributes his success to building a positive team culture by treating everyone with equal respect.
During the season, Trotz communicated his vision not only to the team but also to individual players. Before the 2014-2015 season, Braden Holtby was a very busy goaltender, frequently blocking up to 40 shots per game. With the addition of a strong defense (thank you Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, and Brooks Orpik) Holtby was suddenly less busy. While Holtby had good success, Korn worked with him, not to change Holtby’s game but to help him find ways to, “clean up the holes”. Now everything moves slower and he’s [Holtby] in control and among the best goaltenders in the NHL. For Ovechkin, Trotz’ challenge was to coax our star forward to play both sides of the puck. In fact, Trotz told him, “When you have the puck, you can do what you want to do and when you don’t have the puck, you do what I want you to do so that you can get the puck more”.
As we reached mid-season with a .500 record, Trotz realized he needed the team leaders to step up and take it to the next level. He challenged players to “feed the right wolf” and develop their own “will to win”. It was crucial that every player know their why, fulfill their role, find confidence and overcome uncertainty. These basic tenets helped the team to cultivate a positive energy and catapult the Caps to the number 2 spot in the Metropolitan Division.
In reflection on the play-offs, Trotz makes it clear that this team does not have an issue with Game 7, they have a .500 record. Furthermore, Trotz said that in a survey 100 percent of general managers agreed that Joel Ward’s controversial Game 5 goal against the Rangers was in fact a score and should not have been called back by the referees.
In 2016, Trotz expects the additions of the two top tier forwards Justin Williams and TJ Oshie to bring the team some mojo adding some speed to the lines. For the bottom six, Trotz expects to see quality playtime from Connor Carrick, Taylor Chorney, Dimitri Orlov and Nate Schmidt. He expects rookies Chris Brown, Stanislav Galiev, Liam O’Brien and Jakub Vrana to see some NHL ice time this year.
Ovi has been with the Capitals for 10 years and has transformed the Caps into a top-level team. He’s won every individual NHL award for his position. Leonsis supports the team and is providing the tools and people to meet our final goal, it’s time to “raise our flag” and bring the Stanley Cup and celebratory parade to the streets of Washington, DC.
A link to Trotz’ full speech at the National Press Club is available here on the Monumental Sports Network.
By Stephanie Judge