The resignation of Barry Trotz, Head Coach, today astounded the Washington Capitals and its burgeoning fan base. For some, this occurrence is all the more surprising because of its timing. Scarcely two weeks have elapsed since Trotz, the organization, and the players, soared to the sport’s very pinnacle of success—capture of the Stanley Cup. This momentous occasion occurred after 44 years of mostly frustration and futility.
But future ascents to the Promised Land will be attempted without the Coach—an esteemed figure to whom many informed hockey fans attribute with a large share of the credit for the team’s success. So, as the hockey world grapples with the rapid departure of the respected bench boss, what are we to make of this? How do we make sense of it?
I suggest that there are five major lessons to be learned from Trotz’ untimely departure. If you choose to interpret the event in certain ways.
1. The Decision Was Not Personal. Strive hard not to think it so. Grant that the Coach chose the course he considered to be in his and his family’s best interests. His action was not directed at the organization, his players, or the team’s fans. Spite and retribution against the fans were not at the core of his decision. End of story.
2. There Are Likely Two Sides to the Narrative. We may never know the real reasons for the abrupt departure of Barry Trotz. But this we do know, both the Capitals and their Head Coach, enjoy each other’s mutual respect. It was, as they say, “just business.” That both sides could agree to disagree without rancor and recrimination speaks to the maturity and professionalism of both the organization and the coach. In hockey, as in life, there is no need to demonize anyone.
3. Try Gratitude on for Size. Since 1974, a succession of coaches, many of them exceptional in nature, have made their best efforts to win the Cup. All but Trotz fell short of the mark for a variety of reasons, some within their control. But instead of weeping and gnashing our teeth at Barry’s departure, be grateful that he persevered and delivered. We owe him thanks, not criticism.
4. The Sun Will Still Rise Tomorrow. Over an entire generation, the fans have proved nothing if not that they are tenacious and resilient. And the team—they are professionals—and will commit themselves to working just as hard for Barry’s successor. So keep some perspective here. The Caps will seriously contend next year.
5. Maybe It Is Better This Way. Caps fans should at least acknowledge that the coach apparently chose to leave while at the top of his game—not while scratching and crawling to hold on to something that perhaps should have been released. Trotz took us where no Capitals team has gone before. It is unsettling, but nonetheless true: sometimes heroes pave the way for the next generation of leadership. Perhaps he had enough left in the tank to get us first across the finish line. Maybe he sensed that a new leader was required to build the back-to-back dynasty to which T.J. Oshie—and now all of us aspire. Besides, change happens. So a further revelation of the character of the team will dawn for us under new leadership. Make the best of it. Things happen for a reason.
Who knows what will yet transpire? Perhaps there are health reasons underlying his decision (we certainly hope not). Perhaps Barry genuinely feels he has paid his dues. Given his all to the game. Now it is time to turn the helm over to someone else. Maybe he is ready for a big pay day (no person of goodwill can really disparage him for that). Maybe we learn in the coming weeks that he leaves us to take a coaching position at another team.
But as long as he signs with a west coast team, and not our heated rivals, the Rangers, we can live with it!.
In fact, even if he signs with the Islanders, we should remember the five points above and appreciate that Barry traversed our way, if only for four seasons.
Best wishes and thanks to Barry Trotz. From him, we can and must learn.
By Jim McCarthy