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Coaches Room

Trade Deadline fallout presents big challenges for coaches

Murphy says changes to personnel impacts how staff goes about business

by Gord Murphy / Special to NHL.com

The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2018-19 NHL season by one of four former NHL coaches and assistants who will turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher. David Marcoux, Paul MacLean, Don Nachbaur and our latest addition, Gord Murphy, will take turns providing insight.

In this edition, Murphy, a former assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers, breaks down how coaches feel before and after the NHL Trade Deadline, which passed Monday.

The NHL Trade Deadline, both the run-up to it and the post mortem of it, can have a significant impact on how a coaching staff goes about its business.

Unfortunately, most of my experiences in my time as an assistant are when our team was in that selling mode, getting rid of some assets, guys who are going into free agency or guys with a year or two left in order to build with youth and through the draft.

 

[RELATED: Where every team stands after NHL Trade Deadline2018-19 NHL Trade Tracker]

 

It's difficult to be in that situation because while you understand it and you know what's going on, it doesn't change the feeling you have about your team, your guys. You've worked with your group all year and you feel like you're close, only maybe a couple games under .500, like you're a run away from making it in. But unfortunately for the long term of the organization, the decision is to go with acquiring picks and thinking of the future.

I can remember my first year with Florida (2010-11). We were a team that we felt was somewhat close but we were still out of the race, so we made some moves. I think we were actually on the ice in practice on trade deadline day and they pulled off like four guys because they were traded.

If I remember, it was Radek Dvorak, Chris Higgins, Bryan Allen and Dennis Wideman. We barely had enough guys left to run drills. We had already traded Bryan McCabe, Cory Stillman and Michael Frolik before deadline day.

As a coach, you completely understand why it's happening, but you still hold out hope that maybe it's not going to happen until it does. When it happens, you have to change your thought process because now know you're going to be giving younger guys more of a role and more of an opportunity. Now your mindset as a coach goes into more of the development role, being more patient and doing a lot more teaching than just maybe motivating because you have young guys that need to learn. You change your process of how you're going about things.

Video: Taking a look back at this year's trade deadline

There is still the other side that you have to think about too, the veterans who are still with your team. You have to motivate them to make the final 20 or 25 games matter. It can be difficult. That's just human nature. You have guys who are disappointed. They look at it and they say, 'We put this work and this effort in and now what are these last 20 games worth?' It changes your whole strategy of how you're trying to motivate guys individually and collectively.

And when you've added a player or two, there are challenges associated with that.

You've gone all season from training camp with your team and you've got a good feel for your group and you've got guys in their roles. You just have a good relationship with your team, so even though there is always an excitement to bring in a player you know who is going to help there is also a little bit of a concern about how that player is going to fit and is it going to diminish a player that's been with your group? Is it going to diminish his role that would now affect his performance?

Once that player arrives, all of a sudden you're not doing routine-like work. It's different in some cases from what you've been doing because you need to get to know the new player or players and you must get them acclimated as quickly as possible.

Video: The crew on this years most impactful deadline trades

You go over your systems with them, but you don't want to overburden them with too much information that now is going to handicap the way they go out and perform. There is a balance there of getting him some information, so they can get themselves situated and comfortable. But you also want them to go out there and play the game, play with structure but free and feel like they're comfortable.

And then there is the part of just trying to find where the new player or players fit into the group, whether it's a forward line or a defense pair.

You need to find out what condition they're in too. For instance, if you get a player who came from a lesser role where he didn't play a lot, was scratched often, didn't play that many minutes and now you're banking on him to play more, is he conditioned to do that?

There's a lot of things you need to get up to speed with your new player or players.

But here's the thing too for coaches around the deadline: typically, we just want it to be over. You know deep down no matter what the players are saying that it is a distraction. They're watching like anybody else, paying attention and thinking about it. So you want to get through it so you can get back to the task at hand.

However, if I'm a coach with the Blue Jackets now, I'm excited. You've added Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid without subtracting anything. The players they've added are high-end player and depth players.

They went for months wondering if they're going to subtract, if they're going to lose their top forward in Artemi Panarin and their top goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky. Now that management has shown this trust and how much they believe in the group, I think that injects a lot more enthusiasm and a lot of excitement.

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