Just three years and two days after he signed a five-year deal to be the head coach of the New York Islanders, Barry Trotz sat in front of a virtual media scrum on Zoom, putting the finishing touches on preparations for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup semifinals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It was the second time in as many years that Trotz has helped lead the underdog Islanders to this stage of the postseason — a first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since 1984 still tantalizingly close as his team faces elimination on Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
The veteran bench boss already with a Stanley Cup ring to his name with the Washington Capitals was lured to Long Island by Hall-of-Fame executive, Lou Lamoriello, who won his second-straight NHL GM of the Year Award on Tuesday night — the first to ever do so.
While two have shared the credit in turning around a franchise that was steeped in mediocrity for the better part of the last three decades, Trotz gave a nod to Lamoriello’s work in such a short time.
Not only has Lamoriello pieced together the right roster to take the work of Trotz as gospel, but he also was one of the driving forces behind the work that is currently going into the Islanders’ new home at UBS Arena at Belmont Park.
“His vision is what you’re probably seeing right now,” Trotz said. “We’re going into a fantastic new building, we wanted to build a competitive team year in and year out. We thought it’d probably take some time, and we’re fortunate that we have some really good people who bought into our vision and we’ve been competitive from Day 1.
The Islanders’ success was as Trotz alluded to; almost immediate. After losing their former captain and face of the franchise in John Tavares, they shocked the NHL world to make the playoffs before sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round — just their second postseason series win since 1993.
“It’s been a blessing, not a total surprise, that the turnaround with the loss of John [Tavares] and some of the other things that were going on that we were able to stabilize it and be competitive,” Trotz said.
Putting together a contender has certainly helped Trotz standing as in three short years, he’s quickly catapulted lists as the consensus second-best head coach in franchise history behind only the great Al Arbor. But the reception Trotz has received from a grateful and passionate fan base has made it all the more worthwhile.
“I didn’t know much about the Island other than the Marriot and the parking lot at the Coliseum,” Trotz admitted. “It’s really a terrific community and just the support in this area, it’s nothing like I’ve ever experienced. You’re a little bit in the suburban part but just the passion of the fans year in and year out. They’re not fickle or with you when you just win, they’re with you all the time.”