Long after the Islanders final buzzer had expired on Friday, Barry Trotz had returned to the comfort of his own home. He was wrapping-up a few things when he heard his name and his attention was drawn to his TV. It was then that Trotz discovered that he was on the cusp of surpassing Al Arbour for third all-time on the NHL games coached list.
"It was funny. I went home and I was doing some work after our game," Trotz recalled. "The TV was on and all of the sudden my name came up. I looked up there and I was like, 'What's that?' You don't even realize it."
On Sunday night, it'll be official, as Trotz stands behind the bench for his 1,608th career game when the Islanders take on the Winnipeg Jets. The only two names ahead of him now are Scotty Bowman (2,141) and Joel Quenneville (1,638).
While Trotz, who has two Jack Adams Awards on his mantle, isn't big on individual achievements, he understands how meaningful this milestone is, given the organization's devotion towards Arbour. Doing it in the same building Arbour called home adds a poetic touch.
"It is pretty cool to be with the Islanders [when reaching this milestone]," Trotz said. "I have nothing but respect for Al."
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The accomplishment was certainly no easy feat as Trotz is coaching in his 21st season in the NHL. Throughout the years, the triumphs and the failures, the 57-year-old has maintained a humble and positive perspective through it all.
"Honestly, when I got the job, my first job in Nashville, I was just trying to survive that first season," Trotz said. "I really was. You're a rookie head coach. Back then I was pretty young, and I was just trying to survive the first year. You look back and I'm at [1,608 games coached] now. It goes by fast. It really does. Sometimes in the grind of it, it's tough but it goes by fast."
Between an AHL Calder Cup with the Portland Pirates, making his NHL debut with an expansion franchise in Nashville in 1998, winning a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018, taking home two Jack Adams Awards (2016 and 2019), and becoming the third coach in NHL history in wins (810) and games coached, there's little Trotz has yet to experience. To put it in perspective, Trotz a coaching career two years older than rookie Noah Dobson (19).
"Barry, in my books, he's probably going to be in the Hall of Fame," veteran forward Jordan Eberle said. "He's won a cup, he's won Jack Adams, he's obviously won a lot of games. If you talk to him, he'll tell you he's been through his ups and downs, but I'm sure he's enjoyed the ride. He started in 1998 in Nashville and there's guys in the league who hadn't even been born yet. It goes without saying that he's been around."
Video: Barry Trotz is presented the Jack Adams Award
On paper, Trotz's accomplished resume speaks for itself. But in a taxing league that has seen two lockouts since Trotz's arrival and the game has evolved with the changing times, there's a reason for his consistent presence amidst the waves of chaos. His calming and wise demeanor, attention to detail and genuine ability to connect with his players and coaching staff are a testament to his prosperous prestige.
Isles defenseman Nick Leddy is one of the few and fortunate players to have been coached by both the caliber of NHL coaches of Quenneville with Chicago and Trotz with the Islanders throughout the duration of his 10-year career. Leddy, who won a Stanley Cup with Chicago and Coach Q in 2013, has experienced the impressionable methods and undeniable talent of both coaching legends and can attest to the reasoning for their respective successes.
"I think you notice the poise in them," Leddy explained. 'You notice their coaching style and how they are managing the bench. It's very impressive. To get to that point you've got to be a great coach, that's number one. You've got to be a part of great teams and great organizations as well."
Records, results and numbers aside, the connections and meaningful impressions conveyed by the unique caliber of coaches in Trotz and coach Q are traits that Leddy values as a player and what makes Trotz's craft so special.
"At the end of the day, they're great people," Leddy said. "They know a lot about the game. They know a lot about the players and about the different team dynamics. I think that goes a long way."