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Ovechkin surprised Trotz no longer with Capitals

Coach resigned after helping Washington win Stanley Cup for first time, hired by Islanders

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- The last time Alex Ovechkin was here, he handed the Stanley Cup to coach Barry Trotz after the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 7.

Less than two weeks later, Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were back, representing the Capitals at the 2018 NHL Awards presented by Hulu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas. But after resigning Monday, Trotz is no longer the Capitals coach, and was hired to coach the New York Islanders on Thursday.

"It's hard when it happened right away, you know?" Ovechkin said Wednesday. "First of all, thanks to him for being with us, to give us a chance to win the Cup. All of what he did was only for the team, not for personal-wise.

"It's sad, but it's a business. We can't decide who's going to be in and who's going to be out."

Video: Friedman on Trotz's decision to leave Capitals

Trotz, 55, resigned after four seasons with the Capitals after the sides were unable to agree on a contract extension. Washington accepted his resignation.

"It's tough," Backstrom said. "He's done a great job in our organization. I would say a little surprised, but at the same time, I understand him. But I think something you can't take away from Barry is what he's done to this team. Him and the coaching staff has been doing a tremendous job to just get us together. He's been schooling us good these four years and we got a good finish out of it."

Under Trotz, the Capitals finished first in the Metropolitan Division three times, won the Presidents' Trophy twice, and won the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 43-season history.

For Backstrom, the timing of Trotz's decision is sinking in.

"Especially this close after we won too," he said. "But at the same time, hopefully there's no hard feelings. He's always going to be remembered in Washington as a champion, which is great, which he deserves."

Ovechkin credited Trotz with pushing him to take his game to another level. After scoring 33 goals last season, Trotz visited Ovechkin in Moscow last July and encouraged him to change his offseason training to get in better shape and regain some of the quickness in his game.

The 32-year-old responded by scoring 49 goals in the regular season and a Capitals-record 15 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the postseason.

"I think he's been very good for me," Ovechkin said. "We've been back and forth all the time, you know? He was hard on me. He gave me very good advice because he has experience, and that's the whole thing. When the coach knows who you are and knows how to use you, you just feel great."

Associate coach Todd Reirden is the leading candidate to succeed Trotz. Reirden was in charge of the defensemen and the power play. Knowing him well, Ovechkin and Backstrom said they would be comfortable if Reirden gets the job.

"Well, it's not my thing, but if it's Todd, I'm sure lots of guys, everybody, is going to be really happy," Ovechkin said. "He's a guy who's a very good communicator, very good specialist, and has lots of respect from us."

Backstrom said, "I feel like the whole coaching staff has been doing a great job over these years to teach us whatever it is: penalty kill, 5-on-5. All of [the coaches have] an input on everything, which makes it probably easier for him. And he knows us, too, as guys, which is going to help him if [he gets the Capitals job]."

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