Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller of Switzerland stops a shot by the Chicago Blackhawks in the third period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011. The Ducks won the 2-1. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
The NHL’s coaching carousel is officially in motion after the stunning news from Monday that Barry Trotz is stepping down as head coach of the Washington Capitals less than two weeks after lifting the Stanley Cup.
It leaves a lot of questions to be answered in the coming days and weeks. Let’s get into some of them!
Is the Capitals’ job Todd Reirden’s to lose?
At the start of the playoffs the possibility of Trotz not returning to Washington seemed to be very real, especially given his contract situation.
If the Capitals fell short of winning the Stanley Cup yet again it seemed inevitable that a coaching change was going to be coming.
Then the Capitals went and actually won the Stanley Cup and at that point it seemed inevitable that Trotz was absolutely going to return, especially when general manager Brian MacLellan said right after the Game 5 victory that if Trotz wanted to return, he would. The whole contract extension issue kept getting pushed back, and then Monday’s news broke that winning the Stanley Cup actually kicked in an automatic two-year extension for Trotz — an extension that would have been below market value for a Cup-winning coach.
With the two sides unable to work out a suitable extension, Trotz stepped down creating the new opening.
The obvious answer here is a promotion from within, and they seem to have a replacement already waiting in current assistant coach Todd Reirden.
Reirden has been with the Capitals as an assistant since the 2014-15 season and has been mentioned as a candidate for several head coaching vacancies in recent years, but the Capitals — obviously valuing him as a coach — did not allow him to interview for head coaching vacancies a year ago. In 2016, he was promoted to associate coach.
One thing is for sure, no matter who takes that job would be facing an enormous amount of pressure. You are not only replacing a coach that just finally helped end the organization’s Stanley Cup drought, but the coach that is without question the most successful coach in the history of the franchise. Expectations are going to be through the roof.
What are Trotz’s options?
Now that Trotz is a free agent his situation becomes especially intriguing because as the reigning Stanley Cup winning coach he can pretty much call his shot.
At the moment his options are extremely limited as the New York Islanders are the only team without a head coach. That could be a pretty intriguing job, especially if the Islanders are able to get superstar center John Tavares re-signed before he hits the open market. That is a dynamic offensive team that could have a superstar in Tavares (assuming he re-signs), an emerging star in Mathew Barzal, another 40-goal scorer in Anders Lee, and two other really strong top-six forwards in Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle. They need to solidify the back end and the disastrous goaltending situation (think about the possibility of a Trotz and Philip Grubauer reunion in Brooklyn!) but there is a lot to work with there.
The Islanders had a bad year, but it is not a situation that is going to require an extensive, lengthy rebuild. With a few tweaks here and there this could be a playoff team this season.
But if that doesn’t appeal to Trotz (or if the Islanders can’t make an agreement work) he is going to have to play the waiting game.
There is always the possibility that another team could see Trotz become available and decide to make a coaching change given the opportunity to add someone of that caliber.
Other than that it might be a waiting game until someone decides to pink slip their coach during the 2018-19 season. There were no coaching changes during the 2017-18 season (almost unheard of in the NHL) but given the availibility of Trotz it is not a stretch to think that a team like St. Louis, Minnesota, or Anaheim could make a change early in the season if things are not going well out of the gate.
The other option: Trotz takes the entire year off and starts fresh in 2019. He would still have the drawing card of being a Stanley Cup winning coach, still be a big name, and still be at the top of almost every “want list” for a team with a vacancy.
Either way, Trotz’s decision on Monday unexpectedly threw the NHL’s coaching carousel into overdrive and it is going to be fascinating to see where it stops.
Some massive news from the Stanley Cup champions on Monday as the Washington Capitals announced that Barry Trotz is stepping down as head coach of the team.
“After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation as Head Coach of the Washington Capitals,” said Trotz in a statement.
“When I came to Washington four years ago we had one goal in mind and that was to bring the Stanley Cup to the nation’s capital. We had an incredible run this season culminating with our players and staff achieving our goal and sharing the excitement with our fans. I would like to thank Mr. Leonsis, Dick Patrick and Brian MacLellan for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this great organization. I would also like to thank our players and staff who worked tirelessly every day to achieve our success.”
At this point you might be thinking to yourself, “wasn’t Trotz a free agent after this season with an expiring contract? What exactly is he stepping down from?”
Well, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that was going to be true had the Capitals not won the Stanley Cup. But Trotz’s contract had a clause in it that kicked in an automatic two-year extension if the Capitals won the Cup, which they obviously did earlier this month when they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in five games. According to Friedman the extension was for below the market value given the exploding market for coaching contracts in the NHL.
TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that it was a $300,000 raise that would have brought his contract value to $1.8 million per year.
The two sides attempted to negotiate a new extension but could not come to terms.
Now that Trotz has resigned, the Capitals will grant permission to any team that wishes to hire Trotz, essentially making him a free agent.
Other than the Capitals, the only other team in the NHL without a head coach at the moment is the New York Islanders and it would be absolutely shocking if they did not have some serious interest in hiring him.
The last two coaches to leave a Stanley Cup champion the year after winning were Scotty Bowman when he retired following the Detroit Red Wings’ win in 2002 and Mike Keenan following the New York Rangers’ win in 1994.
During Trotz’s four years with the team the Capitals won the Stanley Cup, two Presidents’ Trophies, and compiled a 205-89-34 record. No other team in the NHL won more than 192 games during that stretch.
The Newfoundland Growlers will be the ECHL’s newest team for the 2018-19 season. They have a pretty sweet logo and now have their first head coach.
According to The Telegram, the Growlers are set to name former NHLer Ryane Clowe as head coach this week. Clowe has spent the last two seasons as one of John Hynes’ assistants with the New Jersey Devils.
Last week, the Growlers announced an affiliation agreement with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The 35-year-old Clowe, who saw his career end due to concussions, last played in the 2014-15 season, but got his first taste of coaching during the 2012 NHL lockout. After joining up with the ECHL’s now-defunct San Francisco Bulls to skate with the team, he found himself helping out behind the bench during games. That’s when the door opened to a post-playing career.
“It kind of opened my eyes to something maybe after (I finished playing) that I was thinking about possibly doing,” Clowe told Kevin Kurz of The Athletic earlier this season. “I was like, you know what, this is something I really enjoyed when I was behind (the bench). It’s not playing, but it’s kind of second-best.
“I would have liked to go on longer (as a player), but to get in on an NHL staff right away and now be behind the bench is fortunate.”
During his two years on Hynes’ staff, Clowe was actually still under contract with the Devils as the five-year deal he signed with the team in 2013 finally expires on July 1. He did some scouting for the team in 2015-16, but coaching was the area he found he really wanted to dive into.
“Once I got into coaching, I knew that was where I wanted to be,” Clowe told The Telegram last summer. “And I know that if I get out, not only is it hard getting back in, but I’d likely have to start at the bottom.”
Now Clowe gets to be part of an organization starting from scratch and use the experience he gained from the past two years in New Jersey to get the Growlers off to a good start in their inaugural season.
At this point it simply seems to be a matter of when, and not if, the NHL officially moves forward to expand to Seattle in the coming years. In the meantime, the potential ownership group led by Tod Leiweke continues to take the steps necessary to ensure it becomes a reality.
One of their more recent moves was the addition of former Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett as a senior advisor for the group.
According to the Seattle Times “nobody is ruling out” the possibilty that Tippett could one day become the first head coach of the yet-to-be-named team, but for now he will help oversee development of the organization.
Here is Tippett talking about his new role, via the Times’ Geoff Baker.
“The challenge of trying to build a team from the foundation up is something not a lot of people get the chance to do,’’ Tippett, 56, told me last week in lower Queen Anne, near his new office at the NHL group’s headquarters. “That’s what makes it very intriguing to me.’’
Tippett, a former winger for 11 NHL seasons with Hartford, Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, will bring a hockey insider’s voice to everything, from where to locate the training facility to how to decorate the dressing rooms at a revamped KeyArena.
“There are a lot of times where you need somebody with some hockey experience, whether it be infrastructure like the dressing rooms, the training facilities, or putting together the groundwork of what a skeleton hockey staff would look like,’’ Tippett said.
A player for more than 11 years in the NHL, Tippett most recently worked in the NHL as the head coach for the Arizona Coyotes, a position he held between the 2009-10 and 2016-17 seasons. During his time in Arizona he led the Coyotes to the playoffs three times, including a stunning run to the Western Conference Final during the 2011-12 season. But after five consecutive non-playoff appearances Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways following the 2016-17 season.
He also coached the Dallas Stars for six years, making the playoffs five times.
Tippett’s addition to the Seattle group seems reminiscent of the role former NHL player Murray Craven took on with the Vegas Golden Knights during their expansion process when he joined Bill Foley’s group as an advisor. After serving in that role for two years he was officially named the senior vice president of the team in August, 2016.