With the Capitals’ 3-2 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night, Barry Trotz did something he never thought imaginable. He now has more NHL wins than Bryan Murray, a coach who taught him much of what he knows today.
Trotz was a 17-year-old center for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League when he was first introduced to Murray, who went 620-465-131 with 23 overtime losses with the Capitals, Red Wings, Panthers, Ducks and Senators, and is now general manager of the Ottawa Senators.
“It seems quite difficult for me to even fathom that,” Trotz said of moving into 10th place on the NHL’s all-time coaching victories list with 621, one ahead of Murray. “When I started coaching I took a lot of stuff that Bryan did with us in Regina.
“I had a lot of respect for how he coached. I was scared to death of him as a player. I was the youngest guy on the team and he had a strong personality, but I liked the way he coached and I loved playing for him. With what he’s done in league as a coach and GM, he’s one of the great builders in this league. Obviously, he’s a Hall of Fame type of person and to be mentioned with a name like his is a little surreal.”
Trotz, 53, has a coaching record of 621-510-60 with 113 overtime losses with the Predators and Capitals.
Trotz has passed a few other legendary coaches en route to becoming the 10th winningest coach in NHL history. In the past month he has passed Jacques Martin (613) and Jacques Lemaire (617), leaving him in pretty good company:
1, Scotty Bowman 1,244
2, Al Arbour 782
3, Joel Quenneville* 769
4, Ken Hitchcock* 724
5, Dick Irvin 692
6, Pat Quinn 684
7, Lindy Ruff* 673
8, Mike Keenan 672
9, Ron Wilson 648
10, Barry Trotz* 621
Hitchcock said he started with a strong base of teachers that included three-time Canadian Olympian and Hockey Hall of Famer Terry O’Malley, junior coach Bill LaForge, former Canadian Olympic coaches and longtime NHL assistants Wayne Fleming and Dave King, and longtime university coaches Clare Drake (University of Alberta) and George Kingston (University of Calgary).
When he was hired to coach the expansion Nashville Predators in 1997, Trotz said he was forced to become a better coach by facing coaches like Scotty Bowman, Joel Quenneville, Ken Hitchcock and Mike Babcock.
“I was really happy we had a team like the Red Wings in our division and we played them a lot,” Trotz said. “They made the Nashville Predators a better organization and a better team because of the high standards Scotty Bowman set. That’s why I credit the culture we created in Nashville to a team like Detroit. They were a big influence.”
One reason for Trotz’s longevity, Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said, is his honesty with players.
“He’s willing to tell the truth,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter who you are. When you put a new coach in place you have to trust him and we all trust him. It’s a good thing.”
Nicklas Backstrom, who played in his 600th NHL game Tuesday night, agreed.
“He’s a great personality,” Backstromn said. “He’s brought a lot to this hockey club. The respect he has around the league, he earned it for sure. For us as players we’re happy to have him here.”