Barry Trotz was introduced as the 17th head coach in Washington Capitals history on Tuesday, and one of his first objectives was to clarify that the Caps won’t sacrifice offense for defense.
“I don’t want to take anything away offensively at all. I didn’t have enough of that [offense] in Nashville,” Trotz explained. “The team takes on the identity of the top players — in Nashville it was Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.
“The strength of this team is dynamic forwards, size, good depth, leadership and good people in the room. I don’t want to take anything away form the Capitals offensively.”
These quotes, obviously, will be of interest to Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, who has become one of the league’s most polarizing players due to his dynamic goalscoring ability — arguably the best in the NHL — and his lacklustre defensive efforts (like when ex-head coach Adam Oates called him out for quitting on a goal against Dallas, seen here):
To further illustrate the disparity between offensive and defensive abilities, Ovechkin finished with an NHL-best 51 goals this year… and the league’s third-worst plus-minus rating, at minus-35.
Trotz said that while he’s yet to speak about Ovechkin and his role on the team, he does have some ideas about how No. 8 can be successful “within the group.”
“Ovi scores a lot,” Trotz said. “But he can contribute in many ways.”
Despite remarks about keeping the offense intact, it’s pretty obvious Trotz was brought aboard to adjust how the Caps play the game — or at least approach it — from a defensive perspective. New GM Brian MacLellan spoke at length about the club needing to change certain facets of its identity, and said a big reason Trotz was brought aboard was due to the stability and consistency his teams displayed in Nashville.
“One of the things I like about Barry’s coaching style is it’s a consistent, disciplined style for 82 games a year,” MacLellan explained. “They don’t veer off it.”
There’s also the not-so-small issue of Washington getting back into playoff and Stanley Cup contention. The Caps missed for the first time in six seasons this year and while Trotz doesn’t have a wealth of postseason runs — his Preds teams never advanced past the second round — he was adept at getting Nashville into the dance, as it qualified for seven of his last 10 seasons on the job.
Trotz said that the key was to qualify for the playoffs because once the team’s in, anything can happen. And as for how long he thinks it’ll take for Washington to get back to being a Cup contender?
“With a couple of adjustments,” he said, “I don’t see why we can’t be in the mix right away.”