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Stanley Cup Final

Trotz enjoying life with Capitals in Stanley Cup Final

Looser, more relaxed coach making case for new contract with Washington

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Barry Trotz estimated Friday he had received "pretty close to 300" congratulatory texts since the Washington Capitals advanced to play the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final.

"So I've got a lot more friends than I thought I did, which is good," the Capitals coach said. "I've been pretty blessed that way. A lot of people reached out and they're all friends."

Life is good right now for the 55-year-old who is headed to his first Stanley Cup Final after 19 seasons coaching in the NHL. Game 1 is at Vegas on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Being without a contract beyond this season, which could have been a burden, is suddenly a positive.

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage | Stanley Cup Final schedule]

 

Washington general manager Brian MacLellan repeated Friday what he said before the Stanley Cup Playoffs: He'll wait until after they're complete to decide about re-signing Trotz.

"We're going to address everything after the playoffs are over," MacLellan said.

The difference now is Trotz could be the coach of a Stanley Cup champion by the time MacLellan addresses his future. At worst, he'll be the coach who guided Washington to its first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1998 and the second in its 43-year history.

"He's probably going to benefit from this too," MacLellan said. "It's not all not good for him."

Trotz ranks fifth in NHL history with 1,524 regular-season games and 762 wins (762-568-134 with 60 ties). The four coaches ahead of him -- Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville, Al Arbour and Ken Hitchcock - each won the Stanley Cup at least once. He's four wins from joining them.

Video: What do you think will happen after the season?

MacLellan compared Trotz's situation to that of defenseman John Carlson, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Carlson is in line for a big payday after leading NHL defensemen with a personal NHL-high 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists) and setting a Capitals record for points by a defenseman in a postseason with 16 (three goals, 13 assists).

Trotz had a similar career year, handling the potentially difficult situation of being viewed as a lame duck on the way to helping Washington get past its disappointment from twice losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs despite being the Presidents' Trophy winner.

That wasn't easy.

The Capitals went 10-9-1 in their first 20 games, and MacLellan admitted Friday he was worried at that time.

"Our training camp was flat. Our first 20 games were flat," he said. "There were major concerns of, 'How are we going to change the energy here?'"

With an airing-of-grievances meeting following a 6-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 16, Trotz got the Capitals through that. They went 17-4-2 in their next 23 games and finished first in the Metropolitan Division for the third consecutive season.

"I think he's done a good job managing it," MacLellan said. "To come in this year with so many questions …  just the emotional state of our team coming in to start the year and how to handle that, I think he's done an outstanding job."

Trotz credited that meeting in Colorado with changing the players' "mindset of what a good team has to do to win." He also changed his approach; he has been more relaxed in the playoffs than in past seasons, and that has carried over to the players.

That was evident at Tampa Bay on Wednesday, when forward Alex Ovechkin suggested Trotz take the "hot lap" -- a full-speed lap around the rink -- before the morning skate. There was no sign of the tension that has weighed them down in big moments in past postseasons, and they won Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final 4-0.

"I think his demeanor has changed a little bit," MacLellan said. "He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure, maybe a little more freedom in terms of how he goes about things."

Trotz said his change in approach stemmed from a moment of realization last summer that has freed him from worrying about how he's perceived. He prefers to keep the specifics of that moment private, but after that, his past playoff disappointments -- he'd never advanced beyond the second round -- and not being signed beyond this season didn't seem to matter as much.

"It gave me just some clarity on what defines me, what defines us, what defines you," Trotz said. "I have a clarity. I'm not going to look at you if you don't win any awards or anything, I'm not going to look at you any different. If you're a good person and you treat people right and you live your life right, then I'm going to think really highly of you. If you don't, I'm not going to think so much of you.

"And I started getting that clarity that everybody looks for the wrong in people rather than the right, and it gave me a lot of clarity. And some things happened in my life that allowed me to see that, and it's been good."

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