Barry Trotz knew exactly what plagued his Islanders squad this year.
In his first public interview since the NHL suspended its season due to the COVID-19 outbreak three weeks ago, the Isles head coach spoke earlier today with Sportsnet’s Hockey Central.
“I think we had some of those wrong injuries this year at the wrong times that didn’t allow us keep our head above water enough where we would be in a better situation,” Trotz said.
Throughout this year, the Islanders were hampered by injuries starting with fourth liner Casey Cizikas, then forward defenseman Adam Pelech, and so forth.
Cizikas, and his other two linemates who make up the club’s fourth line, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin, were all been banged up at different junctures this season. Trotz feels that the team had difficulty finding consistency because they lacked that line’s presence.
“It was definitely more of a challenge because last year they were all healthy almost 95% of the year,” Trotz said. “This year, that group had been together — I would wager — maybe 15 or 20 games. You can see it in our team, we weren’t as consistent in those areas. Our identity went a little bit south.”
Trotz said that because of the situation with that line, it forced him to overcoach in a sense to try to clean up those spots where his team could have been better. On many of nights that was the case, as he did shuffle the forward lines more than he did the previous season.
“We got away from what we did well,” he said. “We had a great start, but I think our game faded a bit.”
Trotz was also asked in the interview what it was like to coach Alex Ovechkin.
He talked about how Ovechkin and Evegeny Kusnetsov, as superstars, grew their games and how it’s why their at the level they are now. And that he’s started more to see the same in his own team’s star, 22-year-old Mathew Barzal.
“Barzy is a star in this league,” he said. “And we’ve got a couple other players who can be stars down the road. But, it’s going to take time.”
You can listen to the full interview Trotz here.