New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz talked to the media on a Zoom conference call on Friday afternoon. The call included Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippet and Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville. During the call, Trotz discussed his time coaching forward Alex Ovechkin when he was the head coach of the Washington Capitals from 2014-2018.
“There were a lot of questions about whether you could win with [Ovechkin],” he said, according to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski. “[The key was] getting him to grow a little bit. Having a little value for things that don’t take talent. In doing that, he became a really good captain.”
Trotz said that Ovechkin turned a corner when he valued his accomplishments other than missing the big one. “He really bought into the fact that his legacy wouldn’t be defined by everyone else. That his legacy was the inspiration that he brought,” he told the media. It paid off as he finally won with Trotz in 2018.
Trotz added, “he’s a tremendous young man, and he’s turned out to be a fabulous father, I follow him on Instagram, and you see all the things he’s doing with his son. You knew he was a very caring person and that’s where a lot of people misunderstood Ovi, is that they didn’t think he cared. He cares greatly. If there ‘s any misunderstanding by the public, or people, is was that he did care, and he cared deeply.”
On the 34-year-old’s rivalry with Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, Trotz said “In some ways, [they] saved the NHL.”
Ovechkin was a pleasure to coach, Trotz said.
Earlier this month Trotz reflected on his time coaching Alex Ovechkin during an appearance on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central. Trotz was asked whether or not he enjoyed coaching superstars because his Islanders are a team without one.
“I love superstars,” Trotz said. “I’ve had the opportunity to have different style teams with similar identities but opposite identities in some ways. Obviously my former place in Washington you got stars like Alex Ovechkin. Those are great challenges because you’re looking at a player who does something very unique and trying to grow him in areas.”
Trotz would also add, “In Alex’s case, he grew as a person, as a leader, defensively. I loved the way he’s grown away from the game,” Trotz added. “He values his value systems a lot different than it was when he was 21 or 22 years old and turning the league on its ear with his talent and his passion and growing to become a really good leader in the league in the right areas and understanding the balance between all that.”
Back on January 10, following an Islanders morning skate at Capital One Arena, Trotz was asked about whether he thought Ovechkin would break Wayne Gretzky’s goals record. “If I was a betting man, I would bet on [Ovechkin] breaking [Wayne Gretzky’s] goal-scoring record. In my mind, there’s no doubt he’s going to do it.”
“He’s going to get them,” Trotz told Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. “Obviously, I’ve seen him get 500 and 600 [goals].
Ovechkin entered the pause 188 goals away from that record and with eight goals in his last 10 games. He also notched a hat trick against Trotz and the Islanders in the Capitals’ 6-4 victory at Nassau Coliseum on January 18.
By Harrison Brown