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For Trotz, work is never done

Capitals coach goes from NHL Awards stage to Draft trenches

by Dave Stubbs @dave_stubbs / Columnist

BUFFALO -- Here's how Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz celebrated being awarded the Jack Adams Trophy on Wednesday in Las Vegas:

"I left Vegas after the Awards on an 11:15 p.m., red-eye," Trotz, who was named the NHL's coach of the year, said with a grin Saturday morning as the 2016 NHL Draft's third round neared its completion behind him. "I got into Detroit about 6 a.m., then left Detroit at 7:30 and landed in Buffalo an hour later.

"I got a car, got to the hotel, walked into in a conference room and five minutes later I was doing a presentation on the World Cup of Hockey."

On Friday night and again Saturday morning into early afternoon, Trotz was among hundreds of hockey people on the floor of First Niagara Center.

The 53-year-old Winnipeg native was one of 19 members of the Capitals organization sitting around one of 30 team tables, brainstorming their selections in the seven-round draft. Every now and then, leaning over to speak with a neighbor, he'd stroke a name off a list with an orange highlight pen.

Often, he'd get up and slip into conversation with one or more of his countless hockey friends and acquaintances.

The draft was just the tip of the weekend's tiring iceberg.

"Everybody crams everything into draft weekend," Trotz said. "There was a Coaches Association meeting, a Hockey Canada meeting for the World Cup and what we're doing here for the Capitals [Friday] night and today. My role's not big, but getting cross-country and with a lack of sleep, it gets to you a little bit. But it's all been good."

Video: Barry Trotz is awarded the Jack Adams Award

Trotz was a hugely popular winner of the Jack Adams Award, a third-time finalist who in 2015-16 guided the Capitals to the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's regular-season champion.

Washington established franchise records with 56 victories and 27 road wins; the 120 points and 29 home win were one short of franchise records. The Capitals advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs but bounced in six games by the eventual-champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

"A coach gets named coach of the year but to me, it's the staff of the year. It's the players buying in," Trotz said. "I have yet to block a shot, score a goal or make a save. It's what the players do on the ice and it's what your staff does.

"Anyone who's been in this business for any length of time knows how much work your staff puts into it, how much goes into their creating relationships and putting out fires that you start. This is totally an organizational award. You've got to have the players, the backing of ownership, the buy-in of your team and all the work that goes in, from your assistants and your video coaches and trainers and everybody.

"I'm humbled by the fact that my name will be on a trophy with some legendary coaches, but I've always been a team guy. This is a tribute to my players, my staff and the organization."

With that, another smile.

"But it's good to win once," he said. "You don't always want to be the bridesmaid."

A miniature of the Adams Trophy will be shipped to Trotz in Washington, not that he'd have room to be hauling it now. He began this meandering road trip by opening his summer place in British Columbia, then flying to the Las Vegas for the awards and then east to Buffalo. He's headed to Washington to prepare for the Capitals development camp, then will fly out to an event in Manitoba before returning to British Columbia, where hockey will soon consume him again as an assistant coach of Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey, which begins Sept 17.

There will be little time, then, to disconnect fully from a game that for coaches, like players, is virtually a year-round vocation. Especially this year, with the World Cup slicing another month out of the so-called offseason.

"Hockey is always there," Trotz said. "But as I've gotten older, there's been more balance. When you're younger as a coach, you try to control everybody and everything. What experience does is give you clarity. It gives you a filter. You don't need to control a hundred things, you need to control four or five and everything falls into place. That's what experience does. It filters things out and gives you clarity of what's really important.

"The petty things are not important. As a coaching staff, you want your team to take ownership. That's what we try to do culturally. We try to develop good players and good people. Then they drive it.

The Capitals' success this season reminded Trotz of the quality of the Washington organization, from top to bottom. It also whetted his appetite, and that of everyone within the Capitals, for the next step.

"We were disappointed this season. We thought we could be a team that could win it all," he said. "Organizationally, we feel we can go on the ice every night and win the game, which is not an easy thing because there are so many good teams.

"A lot of teams will say that, but saying it and really believing it? We really believe it. Some teams will say, 'We just want to make the playoffs and see what happens, play as far as we can.' But we're at the point that we want to talk about the Stanley Cup. If we don't win the Cup, it's a disappointment to us. We think we have enough ability to win it."

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