Welp, Barry Trotz has decided to leave Washington as a champion. Good on him!
He leaves this town while at the highest point of his value. At 55 years old, there shouldn’t be any suitors that don’t want him coaching their team with the New York Islanders being the most rumored destination. What made Trotz unatainable in Washington anymore was simply a difference in opinion of said value.
To the eyes of Washington’s front office back in 2014, that value after guiding the team to a Stanley Cup title was a two-year contract extension that would last until the summer of 2020 worth $1.8 million per season that would have kicked in after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup. However, Trotz’s team preferred to have him be paid like one of the best coaches in the sport. Contracts like that go for roughly five years and $5 million per season. According to general manager Brian McClellan in last night’s press conference, it was the term that was the biggest difference in opinion and what led to Trotz declining the opportunity to coach for the Capitals again.
If you have ever followed this blog before, you basically have a complete understanding of where I stand with how good Barry Trotz is as a coach. If not, just go ahead and take a look at my vast array of sentences explaining my vitriol towards him. But let’s give credit where credit is due.
For the most part, he did use analytics from Tim Barnes and Co. to play particular line combinations: in particular, having Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson line-up with Alexander Ovechkin instead of T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom. He developed the likes of a Kuznetsov, Wilson and Dmitry Orlov into bonafide, top-tier talents on this team that will be key cogs in the long run. Along with that, Backstrom became the head of any shutdown line Washington implimented once the likes of Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward were no longer in town. Lastly, he made a penalty kill that found so many creative ways to be so bad for so long to become among the best over the past three seasons. John Carlson, Mike Richards, Justin Williams, Chandler Stephenson, Orlov, and Oshie all played a massive part in that.
Lastly, when a previous era witnessed an assistant coaching staff of so much inexperience, they might as well have worn diapers behind the bench in Calle Johansson, Olie Kolzig and Blaine Forsythe, Barry Trotz assembled a team in which almost every one of them were under-hired in their roles. Lane Lambert should be considered one of the best penalty killing coaches in the game today. The sun better eat the earth if Todd Rierdon is not an NHL head coach by this time next season now that he can say that he’s a two-time Stanley Cup winning assistant coach. Lastly, if there was a Hall of Fame for goaltending coaches, Mitch Korn better be in it after his years of service tutoring Dominik Hasek, Tomas Vokoun, Pekka Rinne, and most recently, Braden Holtby.
It just couldn’t be stated enough how much Adam Oates nearly poisoned the Alex Ovechkin era to Edmonton Oilers-like disease and not only did Trotz save the franchise, he galvanized it to the high standards this team deserved and they were rewarded with their first Stanley Cup.
So this totally sounds like a coach that deserves a five-year contract, right?
Welp, not exactly.
From this table above regarding NHL team and coach profiles in the Salary Cap era, you will see that the lone head coach to last more than five years after winning the Stanley Cup was Mike Babcock and that’s because Detroit created a culture of not firing anyone since 1997. As for the others that saw five years more into their coaching tenure with the same team, both Darryl Sutter and Claude Julien should have been canned sooner according to many members of the mass media.
Don’t ever forget that Los Angeles Kings players literally barricaded the locker room to prevent Sutter from proverbially storming the castle after losing a must-win regular season game in 2015; ONE SEASON after winning the Stanley Cup. Julien was constantly bombarded with why he couldn’t play his rookies when the roster was decaying and that 2009 Penguins team was never built for the long run and was managed by a GM that wasted all his draft picks on rentals that never worked out at the turn of the decade.
Simply put, the point of this table is that almost every NHL coach is not worth five years. If Trotz were to receive that type of contract, the Capitals would be two years removed from Ovechkin’s current contract and three years removed from Backstrom’s current deal. Even if those two will be resigned, Ovechkin will be 37 and Backstrom will be 35. Essentially, the Capitals will be a completely different hockey team if they were to ever win the Stanley Cup again AND see the light at the end of Trotz’s contract.
As you can see from the table above again, the average Stanley Cup champion that has been able to win another won in the near future has gone on to either have a team-wide average age younger than 27 and/or have a core-group (this is simply defined as the five best point-getters in that team’s respective postseason) average age less than 28. The Capitals don’t have those two markers achieved at all.
I still stand on my belief before putting this together that the summer of 2017 started the beginning of the end for the Ovechkin era. The extensions to Orlov, Kuznetsov and Oshie killed any hope for changing this team dramatically in order to win another Stanley Cup. Now they have no choice but to bring back John Carlson, regardless of how horrifyingly overpaid he becomes. The rest of Washington’s cap space will for filling out the roster with another two defensemen and four forwards, and that’s while excluding bringing back Philipp Grubauer in the picture. Did I mention that Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly are restricted free agents and will be asking for a massive pay raise? How on Earth is Washington going to pull that off without trading away another Marcus Johansson-level talent again?
Once 2019 is done, they’ll have to figure out how much they’ll have to pay Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Christian Djoos and Andre Burakovsky as well as figure out how much of Brooks Orpik’s cap hit can be used towards free agency or keeping the team intact. Eventually, tons of rookies are going to have to populate the roster, tons of young players are going to have to be the stars of the team and all the star veterans today are going to age. Are you going to trust Trotz to see that through for five years and not have this team miss the playoffs and/or have some of the worst growing pains imaginable?
Trotz was a perfect coach for what Washington needed then. But he had too many flaws to be counted upon to guide them to a Stanley Cup coming into in 2017/18. Fortunately, Trotz made almost all the right calls when he needed to this postseason, but who says he would have done them again if he wasn’t on the last year of his contract or (possibly) know that he was no longer going to coach in DC ever again well in advance? Either way, the Caps allowed Trotz to leave with a legacy intact for this city in the hockey world. Now they just need a coach that will keep this team sustainable as long as the greatest players in team history are still around.