June 21, 2018.
A day that as of right now has changed the fortunes of what was a woebegone franchise.
At exactly 2:18 P.M. an announcement was made: The New York Islanders name Barry Trotz head coach. If you were scrolling through social media at that moment, you saw a beleaguered fan base rejoice. If you resided in Islander Country, you could sense a feeling that had been missing for quite sometime, hope.
In the days leading up to Trotz being hired, there were rumblings that general manager Lou Lamoriello was eyeing him as a possible coaching candidate. Once Trotz resigned as head coach of the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals — he led them to their first title just less than two weeks earlier — Lamoriello acted quickly. He gave Trotz the gig just three days later after he left the Caps, thus landing the biggest coaching hire in the history of the Islander franchise this side of Al Arbour.
Speaking of Lamoriello, it was the main reason Trotz came on board.
“No. 1, if you know anything about Lou Lamoriello, his background and what he does, he’ll do what it takes to win,” he said following being hired. “His vision and plan for the team and what he’s already done in a short amount of time. He’s changed a lot of cultural things. I love that.”
That plan and vision, mind you everyone expected to be a more slow and steady process, was accelerated and have the Islanders in a whole new phase just 12 months later.
One year after his monumental hiring, Trotz is now the rightful owner of the Jack Adams Award, an achievement given to the best coach in the NHL; it’s the second time he’s won the award, 2016 being the previous year. He led the Islanders to their most points in a season since 1983-84, 103. His team went from being predicted to finish at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division to a second place finish and a sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. And of course, he instilled a system and structure that helped cut the teams’ goals against by 100.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) June 20, 2019
But even after accomplishing all those feats, there are few other important things that Trotz has done for the organization that symbolize how much of an impact he’s had.
Trotz has established a team-first mentality, or “We over Me” as he likes to say. More than any year this decade — and that includes the two straight playoff seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16 — the Islanders played as a collective unit. They won as a team, lost as a team, and Trotz was able to get all 20 guys to sacrifice individual achievement for the betterment of the team. He made that apparent in his speech on Wednesday.
“This is a team award, you have to understand that,” Trotz said. “You can’t have the success without the buy-in from the players.”
It was only one season, but that team-first mantra is one of the building blocks that could lead to major success.
Accountability returned and it’s not leaving anytime soon.
From the moment he took over, Trotz made it clear he wanted his players to hold themselves to a higher standard. He did that all season long and the results came in bunches. Players, both on the present squad and ones that could be on the team in the near future, now know there are no shortcuts.
There’s pride once again in the team and the fans.
It’s be written countless times by yours truly about every time that Trotz spoke about what it meant to be an Islander, you realize he truly cares about the organization and what him and Lou are trying to build here. What he’s been able to do in terms of morale, respect, and overall image of the team can’t be underestimated. How he’s represented the franchise and will continue to make sure it evolves, is going to be a pleasure to watch for the fans.
When you look back on the year it has been, having Trotz behind the bench has changed the very foundation of the Islanders.
He was the perfect man for the job and has been everything this franchise could have asked for. He’s donned the Islander crest and given it meaning. And he’s helped bring credibility back to the organization after years of them not having any.
But this is only the beginning.
Everyone knows that one year of success doesn’t make a coach great. It takes several years instead. Trotz is well aware of this because of what he went through in Washington; his Capitals teams made the playoffs three years in a row before they won it all.
Regarding the future, the fans can only hope there are bigger things to come for this team.
After all, the overall perception of the organization is different and Trotz is the major reason why.
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