Skip to main content

Trotz aims to build bond with Capitals' Ovechkin

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- Barry Trotz has been coach of the Washington Capitals for less than two days. He knows his defensive-minded reputation precedes him. He also knows how important offensive-minded forward Alex Ovechkin will be to his success.

Tuesday at his introductory press conference, Trotz did not offer any particular insight into how he might employ the three-time Hart Trophy winner who led the NHL with 51 goals this season, but he's ready to figure it out.

"It starts with a relationship. I know I'm going to work at that, but it can't happen until I have a relationship with him because there's no trust," Trotz said. "To me, Alex has to trust that I'm giving him the best advice for the team, for him to grow his game.

"My job as a coach is to find a way to allow Alex and the other players to reach their potential as a group and be able to play together. One of the very fundamental things, if you have a [kindergartner], they give you your report card and they say, 'Do you play well with others?' My job is to get everybody to play well with the others."

The Capitals ushered in their new regime Tuesday, formally introducing Trotz as coach and Brian MacLellan as general manager.

"It's an important day for the organization," owner Ted Leonsis said. "It's not often that you get to introduce both a general manager and a coach at the same time. That they can team and kick off this refresh and build a culture and identity for the team that's in sync from day one is very, very meaningful for us."

During 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators, Trotz developed a reputation as a demanding yet approachable coach who utilized a structured style of play. The 51-year-old, who began his professional coaching career in the Capitals' minor-league system, has expressed a willingness to tailor his game plan to accentuate the strengths of his personnel.

In Washington, Trotz will have offensive firepower at his disposal rarely seen in Nashville. The Predators finished in the bottom half of the NHL in goals per game 10 times in Trotz's 15 seasons. They have had four 30-goal scorers in their history, the fewest in the League since their inaugural season in 1998-99.

"I don't want to take anything away from the Capitals offensively. ... [They have] great power plays and great individuals that can put the puck in the net," Trotz said. "I didn't have that in Nashville. I had some real good players, but not enough up front, so we become a little more of a defensive team."

Trotz, who is replacing Adam Oates, will try to maximize the skill sets of top-11 scorers Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, among others, but he intends to establish a more well-rounded game throughout the roster. Ovechkin had 79 points this season, but was minus-35.

"I don't want to do anything that hampers them from scoring, because scoring is hard in this League to do," Trotz said. "The other part of the game is just the decision-making. That's something we can do a lot better as a group.

"I believe this team has a lot of skill. You want to play up to skill, but at the same time, the things that they maybe don't do well, I want to be able to enhance that."

Leonsis and Capitals president Dick Patrick spoke to about 15 front-office candidates, a group that included experienced general managers, assistant general managers and members of Washington's staff. Interviews were wide-ranging, 5- to 6-hour sessions when individual philosophies were dissected and suggestions for improvements were made.

MacLellan, who spent the past seven seasons as an assistant general manager under former GM George McPhee, impressed Leonsis and Patrick with his forthrightness. Leonsis admitted MacLellan's presentation was the most negative in regards to his critical analysis of the Capitals' current direction.

"He led off with some of the things that I have to do to be a better owner," Leonsis said. "I thought that was very brave and very astute because you don't want to hear things like that. I thought that was very, very straightforward and honest and authentic to him. I was very appreciative of that because I obviously need to be a better owner because we've fallen short of our plans."

MacLellan's promotion has been met with skepticism from observers considering Leonsis' previous assertion that the Capitals were in need of a "fresh voice and a fresh set of eyes" upon dismissing McPhee last month after nearly 17 years.

MacLellan emphasized that though he benefited from working with McPhee, his decision-making process and organizational philosophy will be his own.

"I'm a different person with a different personality," he said. "I've had different experiences, different education, different playing experience. I think all of that stuff forms your attitudes and your philosophies.

"We've evolved differently. The philosophy will be a little different. The emphasis will be different going forward."

It was Trotz and MacLellan's shared set of ideas on how the Capitals can reposition themselves as a viable Stanley Cup contender that proved enticing to ownership. Now that they are officially in place, it is up to them to get the best out of a group that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007.

"I think with a couple of adjustments that [MacLellan] has mentioned and some of the things that we're capable of, I don't see why you can't be in that mix right away," Trotz said. "There's enough ability here. We just have to forge a little bit of an identity going forward.

"We talked about work ethic and consistency and all that. It's going to be a group effort."

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.