By Jason Lockhart
The Islanders' new Executive Director of Player Development, Bryan Trottier, reflects on his return to the team he called home for 15 seasons.
How did you first meet and get to know Charles Wang?
"I first met Charles Wang when he purchased the Islanders, while I was working for the Avalanche as an assistant coach. We were coming to New Jersey and I came in a day early just to have a chat with him. We talked about the history of the Islanders, where I thought they were and where they're at now. I gave him my overall perspective of the team as an alumnus. I thought it was very unique the way he would reach out to the alumni the way he did on a real, personal basis. He wasn't just doing it on a business level. He really wanted to reach out to me and I was very impressed with his honesty, sincerity, his outlook and what the future was all about. I thought he listened very well.
"That was my first meeting with Charles and ever since then I consider him a friend. When we greet, we greet like friends and I think that's good. From there it developed into an opportunity to work with the organization. We share a lot of the same views about where the team is going, the community and the future of hockey on Long Island."
How did you feel about your first experience interacting with the players at the Development Camp over the summer?
"It was pretty exciting talking to the players at the Development Camp about my first trip to Long Island, the early years on Long Island, and what it was like to be a part of the winning years, live in the community and raise your kids on Long Island.
"Hopefully, it put the young players at ease so they knew this was an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the Islander staff, the Long Island community, the Nassau Coliseum, the camp schedule and perhaps even meet some of their future teammates. I was able to talk to the players as someone who was drafted by the Islanders and had 15 great years on Long Island, including four of the greatest years I've had in hockey. It was a little emotional at times. But it felt very comfortable to put on the Islanders logo again, so that was all very exciting."
What made you return to the Islanders organization now?
"Opportunity and where I am in my life, really. The three oldest kids, Bryan, Lindsy and Tayler, are pretty much settled for the winter. Four-year-old Christian and my wife Jen are busy with preschool and activities. So when Charles offered up this exciting opportunity to come home where my NHL hockey career started and me with some extra time, it was an easy decision. My family and friends are very excited for me too.
"Returning now not only allows me to work with the young prospects, but also a chance to get back into the Long Island community like visiting the schools, working with some of the corporations on Long Island and really re-kindling some of those great feelings and special relationships I had with people on Long Island.
"For me, some of the best people I've ever met are from Long Island. I'm fortunate that the opportunity came up now when Charles wanted to re-tool, make the changes he wanted to and invite me to be a part of the hockey operations and management team. Hopefully, this will develop into something that will be long term."
What is your strategy for developing the Islanders' youth?
"There's no one strategy to developing young players. We start with the concept, Ëœhow can we help the players reach their maximum potential?' We put them through some NHL drills so they can see the speed, tempo and pace. We let them know what it's like at the NHL level to perform at top speed and face some of the challenges so they can prepare themselves. Then we evaluate them, help point out strengths and weaknesses, and encourage and challenge them to continue to improve their conditioning and skills while they're maturing. Then we give a couple of tips that may add new dimensions to their game or maybe help them find a solution that works best for them if they're struggling. Finally, we monitor them and watch them grow.
"And if they're growing, we let them keep growing because there's no one way that it works for every player. Every player is unique. You've got to facilitate that growth. Some players hit rapid growth spurts and others take a little longer. I'm pretty eager to get down to Bridgeport and work with the players there. I'm equally excited to work at future Islander skills and conditioning developmental/training camps. My vision for their future is growth and to say to our prospects, "Hey guys, this is the best place to play hockey, in the best organization, in front of the best fans."
What's it like now working with Ted Nolan and Garth Snow?
"Ted is a great addition and Garth is a great person to have as GM. There is a lot of enthusiasm and respect among us and I feel a solid bond is developing. So I'm excited for that. They are both honest hard working guys that are organized and structured. I like the confidence they both portray and the attention to detail that makes for a winning atmosphere and attitude. They have a genuine passion for the game and a determination to succeed. I believe they have the players' respect which breeds discipline and fortitude. They're good to ask advice and quick to find solutions; so all in all I am really enjoying working with Ted and Garth.
"The whole hockey group is committed and it's been refreshing to be around them all. Although the season will have its challenges, it's all about team commitment. We've got a lot of fire here and that should turn into wins on the ice. Ted's fair, but he's demanding. I think that's good and the players need to come ready to play. Fans should feel the energy and see the hard work, hustle and grit. It's going to be a fun time and it's a good time to be involved."
What were your goals for Training Camp up in Nova Scotia?
"The training camp in Nova Scotia was the best opportunity for me to see where our prospects fit and stack up with the players on the big team. It also allowed me the opportunity to familiarize myself with all the players in the organization with simple things like a good morning, a quick chat, personal stuff and just general interaction. But also it sort of shows the players that I care, that this is important and that I am involved in the evaluation and direction of the team."
What did you see in the young players at Training Camp?
"The prospects all showed that they have a true commitment and hunger to learn. Some need to work on foot speed and urgency, others their reaction time and transition time from offense to defense; some with their physical play and others their puck skills. With some, it's just growth and maturation and maybe just a little consistency and confidence. The coaching staff enjoys this process of developing players and working with them. I enjoy it because they are eager and hungry therefore they listen and try their best to improve themselves."
How will you keep tabs on the Islanders' prospects?
"I get reports every game. I talk to (Bridgeport head coach) Dan Marshall or his assistants Jack Capuano and Joe Ferris daily. I will see Bridgeport play at least twice monthly and be on the ice with the coaches and players as much as possible when I'm there. It's been great to see the growth and potential that the Islanders possess. It's a bright future."
I will see the juniors and college prospects play 2-3 times over the winter as will assistant general manager Ryan Jankowski. We will cross reference with all the scouts who watch them too. When convenient, we'll even take them for a meal and discuss their season. Our European scouts will send us reports on the prospects overseas so we can keep a handle on them as well."
How have the first few months being back with the Islanders been?
"From May to October it's been a cluster of emotional highs from spending more time on the island, seeing and talking to all the fans and training camp. The sponsor events and the Fan Fest at Eisenhower Park were added bonuses".
"Setting my schedule and travel will take some getting used to. The upside of watching our future players and participating in the building of something that we can all be proud of and working with people like Garth and Ted that have a genuine passion for the game is extremely rewarding.
"We're all Islanders, we all care and it's great to be back where it all began for me. The first four and a half months for me have been useful and purposeful. The next two months will be more developmental and evaluation. The second half of the season should see progress and growth for our entire organization. Both teams will have the necessary time to instill their systems and philosophies on their respective teams while roles, disciplines, and fine tuning should evolve. The spirit and energy that I bring to my job will help me to continue to enjoy my role and embrace any unforeseen challenges that may arise during the season."