There was no mention of Barry Trotz during the Capitals’ Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony before their season opener against the Bruins in October. Washington’s former coach, who resigned over financial differences less than two weeks after leading the franchise to its first championship before accepting a job with the Islanders, didn’t appear in the lengthy video montage that preceded the banner being raised to the rafters. While some criticized that decision as petty at the time, Trotz will receive a warm welcome when the Capitals host the Islanders on Friday.
“There will be a video tribute to Coach Trotz during the game, and very well deserved, obviously,” first-year Capitals Coach Todd Reirden said Wednesday during an interview with the Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. “You can’t say enough about Barry and the impact that he had as the head coach. I wouldn’t be here in this organization if it wasn’t for Barry, so I have a ton of respect for him. But that being said, we would really like to use that as a time to respond to our little rough patch here and make sure that we’re ready to finish the final four games the right way here before the all-star break, so it’s an important game for us.”
The Capitals dropped their third straight game, 7-2, to the Predators in Nashville on Tuesday, to fall into a tie for the Metropolitan Division lead with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Islanders, who were expected to struggle this season after losing John Tavares in free agency from a team that finished second-to-last in the division, are only three points back and with a game in hand. New York’s success makes Trotz the midseason favorite for the Jack Adams Award, presented annually to the league’s best head coach.
Washington won its first meeting against the Islanders this season, 4-1, on Nov. 26 in New York. Before that game, the Capitals invited Trotz, former Capitals assistant coach Lane Lambert and former Capitals director of goaltending Mitch Korn to the Washington dressing room to present them with their Stanley Cup rings. Trotz exchanged hugs with several of his former players and delivered a brief speech in which he expressed confidence that Washington could repeat as champs.
“I think [Capitals forward T.J. Oshie] and you guys said it, ‘We can do it again, too,’” Trotz said. “You’ll have to go through the f------ Island, okay? But you guys can do it again.”
Trotz’s words could prove prescient. If the playoffs started today, the Capitals would play the Islanders in a juicy first-round matchup.
“I don’t get too caught up into who exactly the specific opponent’s going to be yet,” Reirden said Wednesday of Washington’s potential postseason path. “Usually after Game 55, Game 60, you start to look and you start to figure out some more probable opponents. I’m well aware of who the possibilities are, and you spend a little bit more time watching them and getting prepared for them, so that lines us up with the Islanders here in the next few days.”
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