Capitals

Quick Links

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

Now the Islanders' coach, Barry Trotz explains why he left the Capitals

DALLAS — Hours after being named head coach of the New York Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz made his first public comments since stepping down in Washington earlier in the week.

And, from the sounds of it, his departure was mostly a business decision.

“Yeah, obviously, I love the D.C. area,” he told reporters on a conference call. “But when it came to the business aspect, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn’t really sincere [given] what we did together. So I decided that it was better to just move on.”

“I thank the fans,” he added. “I’m glad we could get it done. I said we could get it done in four years, and we did.”

Although the value of his contract with the Islanders has not been publicly disclosed, Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Trotz is set to earn “at least $4 million” per year—or more than twice what he was earning in Washington.

A source told NBC Sports Washington earlier this week that Trotz, who directed the Caps to their first Stanley Cup two weeks ago, sought $5 million per season for five seasons. The five-year term, that source said, was a non-starter as far as the Caps were concerned, given the relatively short shelf life of NHL coaches and the fact that Trotz had already been in Washington for four seasons.

When it became clear that the sides weren’t going to close the considerable gap between their positions, Trotz offered to step down and the resignation was accepted, making the 55-year-old a free agent.

When “I got the [counteroffer], I guess I knew it was time to go in a different direction,” he said.

In New York, Trotz replaces Doug Weight, who was fired earlier this month along with GM Garth Snow. Lou Lamoriello, a longtime NHL executive, took over for Snow and immediately started a search for a new head coach.

Once Trotz became available, it didn’t take Lamoriello to zero in on the NHL's fifth all-time winningest coach. The two met, exchanged ideas and quickly realized that they had found a good fit in one another. Trotz said he's already reached out to the Islanders' star captain, John Tavares, who could become the biggest prize on the free agent market on July 1. 

And, like that, Trotz now is the coach of a Metropolitan Division foe. The Caps and Isles will face off four times next season, beginning with a Nov. 26meeting in New York.

It’ll be weird, for sure. But professional sports is a business. And all sides involved in the Trotz saga were served a painful reminder of that this week.

Asked if he felt wanted in Washington, Trotz said: “Well, I’ll leave that up to the Caps to answer that. I think, absolutely. We just won a cup together and so I don't think that was an issue. I think it was more principle.”

In the end, Trotz wanted to be compensated like one of the top coaches in the game. And now he will, settling in behind big market coaches such as Toronto’s Mike Babcock ($6.25 million per year), Chicago’s Joel Quenneville ($6 million) and Montreal’s Claude Julien ($5 million).

“It’s good to be wanted,” he said. “It happened really quickly because you go from one emotion of winning the cup to the next emotion of leaving the team that you just won the Cup with, and you have to make some quick decisions. I know the timing of it—end of the season, the draft coming up, free agency [and] all that—there was some urgency on that. Both parties knew that, so we went to work at it and got it done.”

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Wild tame the Caps as Washington fails to add to their division lead

capswild32219.jpg
USA TODAY SPORTS images

Wild tame the Caps as Washington fails to add to their division lead

WASHINGTON – After the Caps and Tampa Bay Lightning treated fans to one of the best games of the season, the Minnesota Wild came to Washington and did just enough to walk away with a 2-1 win on Friday.

The Caps were able to fire 58 shots on goal against the Lightning, but managed only 22 against Minnesota, easy pickings for Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. With the loss, Washington was unable to add to its three-point lead atop the Metropolitan Division.

Here are four reasons the Caps lost.

An emotional letdown

Wednesday’s game between the Caps and Tampa Bay Lightning was one of the best, most intense, well-played game of the regular season in the NHL. Friday’s game was…not.

One reason the playoffs are such a grind is because of how much each game takes out of the players emotionally. Washington looked like a team that was still trying to recover from Wednesday’s playoff preview and the emotional letdown led to some pretty rough hockey. Passes were hard to connect, shots were not on target, the puck management was poor, nothing seemed to come easy for the Caps at all.

Perhaps the epitome of the type of night it was for Washington came early in the third period. With the game tied at 1, Tom Wilson came out of the penalty box and was fed an alley-oop breakaway pass by Nicklas Backstrom. The puck, however, never settled for Wilson and when he tried to move to the backhand it simply rolled off his stick. Wilson had a golden opportunity to give Washington the lead, but walked away without so much as a shot on goal.

The power play

The first three power plays of the game all were awarded to Washington, but the Caps failed to convert on any of them. Getting the puck into the zone was a struggle and even when they did get it in, it usually was taken right back after one bad pass and sent in the other direction. The threat of Alex Ovechkin is usually enough to open space on the power play, but that was not the case on Friday. The pass just was not there all night and still Washington tried to force the puck to him at times rather than take advantage of the room that opened up on the right side of the ice.

The Caps managed just as man shots on goal (one) in those three power plays as the Wild’s penalty kill.

Getting caught in the neutral zone

With the puck loose in the neutral zone, Brooks Orpik stepped up to try to get possession. Jordan Greenway swept the puck away from him and then just kept his feet moving to turn the corner around a trailing Tom Wilson. Braden Holtby went down to the butterfly, but Greenway deked around him and buried it into the net. He had plenty of room because Orpik was trailing the play after losing it in the neutral zone and Luke Kunin boxed out Nick Jensen.

Getting caught in the trap

Washington managed to battle back and tie the game at 1 in the second period, but the Wild retook the lead in the third period thanks to a neutral zone trap.

Matt Niskanen had control of the puck and was looking for the breakout. He thought he had Ovechkin open, but Zach Parise stepped up and swept his stick into the passing lane at the last second. Ryan Donato fed it back to Parise and Washington’s breakout was suddenly a 2-on-1 in the other direction.

Neutral zone turnovers are so dangerous because you instantly have gone from offense to defense with no time to get into position. Sure enough, the Wild caught the Caps completely out of position with one defenseman challenging Parise and three red jerseys trailing him meaning there were four Caps players on the right-side of the ice and none covering Kunin. Parise found him with the pass and Kunin buried the puck into the top corner for the game-winning goal.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Playoff Push: Games to watch this weekend for the Metropolitan Division

Playoff Push: Games to watch this weekend for the Metropolitan Division

With seven games and coutning remaining in the regular season for Washington, the Capitals are looking for all the points they can get to hold onto their lead over the Metro. But with the road ahead getting tougher, each result will have massive implications for playoff seeding.

After falling 5-4 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday, Washington has a three-point lead over the Metro. From there, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins each have a four-point lead over the Hurricanes, who are sitting in the first wild-card spot, and the Blue Jackets are one point out of a playoff spot.

As the postseason looms, the current race is a close one, and the games this weekend could ultimately decide who faces who in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and if the regular season ended today, the Caps would play host to the Carolina Hurricanes. Still, there's plenty of time left and things can always change; here are the games to keep an eye on heading into the weekend.

  • New York Islanders (42-25-7, 91 points) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (36-30-8, 80 points)

Though the Isles are currently tied with the Penguins for second in the Metro, they hold the tiebreaker with fewer games played. Recently, they were shutout by the Montreal Canadiens 4-0. Carey Price made 28 saves, and the Canadiens moved into the second wild-card spot with the win.

They'll take on the Philadelphia Flyers, who are still fighting for a playoff spot and are 6-4 in their last 10 games, in a Saturday afternoon matchup. The Islanders will have a chance to diminish Philadelphia's last gasp at a playoff spot, while also moving ahead of the Penguins and staying in the fight for first.

Pittsburgh Penguins (40-24-11, 91 points) vs. New York Rangers (28-32-13, 69 points)

The Penguins still have a shot at taking the Metro lead away from Washington, but they've played 75 games and have lost their first chance at a tiebreaker. Pittsburgh slugged out a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators Thursday and have gone 6-2-2 in their last 10.

After taking on the Dallas Stars, also in a heated playoff race in the West, Saturday, Pittsburgh will face a cellar-dwelling New York Rangers team that has lost four straight, but is still looking to spoil their division rivals' season finishes.

  • Carolina Hurricanes (40-26-7, 87 points)

The Hurricanes have snuck into the first wild-card position, nd it's looking more likely than not that is the team the Caps will face in the first round. Riding goalie Petr Mrazek's improved play in net, the Canes have managed a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games.

After falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday, the Hurricanes will look to redeem themselves against the Minnesota Wild Sunday, who are fighting for one of the coveted wild-card spots in the Weest and face the Capitals Friday. With a victory, they can extend their lead and maintain their hold on that  first wild-card spot.

  • Columbus Blue Jackets (40-30-4, 84 points)

The Jackets are on the cusp of the playoffs this season, just one point out. Even after making a push to sign Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Keith Kinkaid at the trade deadline, they've had trouble racking up much-needed wins. They could not crack even in their last 10 games, with a 4-5-1 record, including a loss to Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers 4-1.

With time flying fast, Columbus needs to scrounge as many points as possible, starting with a must-win against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday. However, the victory won't come easy; Vancouver has won three straight and is still very much in the running for a shot at the playoffs.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS: