New York Islanders fans were left scratching their heads back in May after Barry Trotz was fired from the head coaching position after four seasons. New York went to the playoffs in the first three years, the Eastern Conference Final in the middle two, but missed the playoffs last year after a big road trip and COVID knocked them down early on. All signs pointed to Trotz returning to the Island for the 2022-23 season, if for no other reason than his contract had one year remaining.
When a coach gets fired, there is not always a press conference with the former coach and the beat reporters of that team. Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins media had one after he was released this summer, but it is not the most common practice, especially when Lou Lamoriello is in charge. For the past few months, we have only heard his side of the story, that the locker room “needed a new voice.” Trotz was going through the interview processes with many of the league’s premier openings, including the Philadelphia Flyers and his hometown Winnipeg Jets. But after those interviews were over, fans were left confused as to why he had not landed on his feet yet, so he gave two interesting and informative interviews with NHL.com and The Bob McCown Podcast.
NHL.com: “Barry Trotz will not coach in the NHL next season”
The first firm news from the Trotz camp came back on June 24 when he sat down for an exclusive interview with NHL.com’s Tim Campbell. He was quoted in the article saying, “I’ve got some things personally that I’ve got to take care of, family-wise that I’ve got to take care of.” The fans will remember that he missed about a week in the middle of the season after his mother passed away back home in Winnipeg. It was a difficult season for Trotz, between the lack of success on the ice, his battle with COVID, and losing his mother, so it is certainly understandable why he would decide to take a year off.
The most curious part of his decision was the availability of the Winnipeg Jets head coaching job. The Jets are notorious for keeping coaches for a long time and giving them a longer leash than most professional sports teams. Paul Maurice survived seasons that most coaches would not and it worked for them, as they had a few successful seasons in the mid-2010s. From the outside looking in, it feels like the perfect spot for Trotz to help his family life and begin to settle down in Winnipeg for his eventual retirement. He told Campbell why that was not the case: “I’ve got relatives that work for the Jets and friends that work security there, people I went to school with. I know lots about the Jets. They’ve got a tremendous organization and a real family atmosphere. But I could not commit to any team; it wasn’t just Winnipeg, it was every team that I had talked to because I had to know I was 100 percent in.”
The Bob McCown Podcast: “I Had a Chip on My Shoulder”
Trotz went on the Bob McCown Podcast shortly after the release of the NHL.com article to answer some more questions in an audio format. He described the downfalls of last season and how COVID really played a role in the Islanders’ slow start: “They made us play through COVID a little longer than they probably should have.” Overall, Trotz was extremely kind and classy towards the Islanders organization, which should come as no surprise. He said that he and Lamoriello still have a good relationship and have spoken since the firing.
Part of the speculation around the Trotz firing was whether or not it was a true firing. He walked out on a pretty good situation in Washington, so it would not be surprising if he were to do it again. He squashed all of those rumors with hosts John Shannon and Bob McCown, saying that he was “actually hoping to start because I had a chip on my shoulder.” This quote should give the Islander fan hope, especially considering the close relationship Trotz and new head coach Lane Lambert have. The “chip on the shoulder” mentality got the Islanders to the second round in 2018-19, a year where everyone doubted their talent. This season coming up is a big one to continue the progression of the core after a major setback in 2022, and a chip on their shoulder could help propel them back to where they were the previous two seasons.
What Can Islanders Fans Take Away From These Interviews?
The main takeaway for Islanders fans is that this was entirely Lamoriello’s decision, as Trotz was prepared to fulfill the final year of his contract. Another takeaway is that he could be back in the game as early as next year. In the article, he said, “I always stay current, so trust me, I’ll be watching. I’ll be talking to people. I will be doing all those things I’ve always done as part of staying current, and what the league is all about because it always changes.”
Many Islanders fans were hoping Trotz would end up in Winnipeg, not only because he’s a hometown kid and it’s a nice story, but that also kept him in the Western Conference and away from the Islanders’ playoff chances. He was an Eastern Conference coach for eight years, making the playoffs seven times, winning three division championships and one Stanley Cup. Whoever lands him next summer will be an extremely lucky team. Some interesting candidates to hire him after next season could be New Jersey, Anaheim, Seattle, and Columbus; four teams who had poor seasons last year, and will probably not be playoff teams this upcoming season, but want to get the most out of their young players. It is pure speculation, but Trotz would be a great candidate for all four of those squads.
My name is Chris Hennessy, welcome to my page! I am a recent graduate of Fordham University and WFUV where I covered the Islanders for the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons. The experience of being in the Coliseum and UBS ignited my love for storytelling, especially about my favorite team.