By Bill Sands
With the shocking news that Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals have decided to part ways, the past 24 hours have been rife with speculation about the future of the franchise. The last coach to leave a team after winning the Stanley Cup was the legendary Scotty Bowman, and he only left because he was retiring.
Trotz had a clause inserted into his current contract that automatically triggered a $300,000 per year pay rise and an automatic two-year extension if the Capitals won the Stanley Cup. However, even his new salary of $1.8 million ranks among the lowest in the NHL head-coaching ranks. With those numbers, it was inevitable and logical that he would walk away.
Despite all the hot takes and doom-and-gloom threatening to ruin the Caps’ victory tour, there’s actually plenty of reasons to be encouraged by the GM’s move.
- Trotz is a good coach, but he’s not a great coach: Given the incredible run the Caps went on over the past two months, it’s easy to forget that there were calls to fire Trotz last year. In his time in Washington, Trotz has enjoyed plenty of success, but has also proven himself at times to be stubborn, inflexible, and unwilling to develop and trust younger players. Trotz was in the market for a massive extension this summer, and the Caps were not willing to dish it out to a coach who can be replaced. Trotz is good, but he’s not Mike Babcock or Joel Quenneville; the Caps can, and will, survive without him.
- The next head coach is ready to go: It’s not official, but it seems like a certainty that Todd Reirden will be stepping in as head coach. Last summer, several teams asked the Caps for permission to speak with Reirden about potential head coaching jobs, and the Caps declined to allow Reirden to interview. In the hockey world, this is essentially a promise that a promotion is just around the corner. Reirden has been coaching the Caps defense for several years now, knows the players and the system, and is younger than Trotz, meaning he can step in and lead the team for years to come.
- Trotz needs a payday, the Caps need to move on: Barry Trotz might not be a great coach but he’s still an excellent hockey mind and deserves to be compensated. For the reasons listed above, an expensive multi-year extension was not in the Caps’ best interest, but that doesn’t mean Trotz needs to blindly accept less money. He had every right to step down and find a team (most likely the New York Islanders) who will give him the money he’s earned. The Caps, meanwhile, get to keep their promising assistant and give him the promotion he has earned.
Only time will tell how important Barry Trotz was to the Capitals’ success, but for the time being, there’s absolutely no reason to hit the panic button.