Krupa: Barry Trotz would be good fit with Red Wings

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
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Washington's Barry Trotz earned his 737th coaching win Dec. 30, ranking fifth all-time.

Detroit — Jeff Blashill has not had enough talent on the Red Wings roster for at least two of this three seasons and, for that reason and perhaps others, he has among the most difficult tasks for the head coach of the Wings since the 1980s.

Barry Trotz could be excused for nearly thinking, at times, that he had too much talent on the roster in Washington.

Trotz’s resources compared to the Capitals playoff results have made his job as head coach tough, too.

For those starkly different reasons, both Blashill and Trotz may be on the coaches’ hot seat, an annual consideration in the NHL in March as the regular season wanes.

If the Capitals do not do well in the playoffs in the Eastern Conference in the last year of his four-year contract, Trotz may be available to the Wings, if they decide Blashill’s ministrations have not been enough to improve the club through the first three years of his four-year contract.

Throughout their 92-year history, the seven men who have coached the Red Wings for four or more years had a .500 winning percentage or better, in the regular season.

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Chronologically: Jack Adams, .512 (1927-1947); Tommy Ivan, .653 (1947-1954); Jimmy Skinner, .591 (1954-1958); Sid Abel, .501 (1958-1968 and 1969-70); Jacques Demers, .502 (1986-1990); Scotty Bowman .655 (1993-2002); and Mike Babcock, .649 (2005-2015).

The Red Wings entered play last night with Blashill, in his third season, right at .500, 101-101-35.

Trotz, a familiar sight behind the visitors’ bench in Detroit during his 15 seasons as head coach of the Predators, established a reputation for getting a lot out of players, in part, through a disciplined approach to defensive play.

When he moved to Washington, the thought was Trotz is just the offensively accomplished Capitals needed.

They finished in first place in the Metropolitan Division in each of the past two seasons.

They were there, again, Thursday, as they started play against the Red Wings.

Postseason blahs

But Trotz has never been past the second round of the playoffs, and the Caps have not been in 20 years, since losing to the Red Wings in the 1998 Stanley Cup final.

Trotz is in the last year of his contract, with little apparent public consideration of an extension.


“Honestly, my first year, I just wanted to get through the full season, not get let go,” he said, when he won career game No. 737 on Dec.30, to put him fifth all-time in career wins list for NHL coaches.

“I’ve been blessed to be standing here a lot older and a lot more games weathered if you will than a young man from Dauphin, Manitoba my first year.”

In his 19th season as coach, Trotz has coped with a team mostly still in a state of shock at the start of the season after another caustic second-round elimination, and the integration of new players in the lineup, replacing six regulars who were dispatched.

Different trajectory

When he brought his first-place club to Little Caesars Arena, he faced a Red Wings team that is performing nothing like the teams he faced in the same division behind the bench for the Predators.

“I don’t know if I can go there, but I can tell you this: For a number of years they have been the gold standard,” Trotz said. “You look at the teams I had coached against, and there’s eight or nine Hall of Famers there.

“You’re going to go through that.

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“And they’ve got some good young talent. They’ve got a lot of speed, and that stands out about their organization: There’s lots of speed, and they’ve got lots of skill.”

Around the Capitals room, there seems to be respect, even fondness for Trotz.

“He shows he cares and he treats everyone with respect, and I think that filters down through the organization,” goalie Braden Hotby said.

“In our locker room, he brings an extreme amount of preparation.

Trotz also demonstrated flexibility, changing his approach to match his new team.

“Our team’s about getting good possession, going the other way. That’s usually the best defense: Playing in the other zone.

“He’s not a sit-back-and-trap-and-play-defense type coach. But he definitely holds you accountable, defensively, and that’s probably his greatest strength that way.”

To Trotz, there are some simple reasons that add up to the fifth-best winning percentage as a coach in the history of the game.

“To be in this game a long time, you have to have someone who trusts you to lead the charge if you will, build a culture,” he said.

“You have to have good players, and you’ve got to have a good staff.

“I’ve been very blessed to have all of the above in having some longevity.”

Blashill will have to wait for a more talented lineup.

It remains to be seen, if he will continue to be trusted to lead the charge, for the Red Wings next season.

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