If the Capitals absolutely want Barry Trotz to be their next head coach, they’re going to need the 51-year-old bench boss to be extremely patient.
Fired after 15 years as head coach of the Nashville Predators, Trotz told the Washington Post that he has spoken with the Capitals about their vacant head coaching position.
“But obviously, they’re in the search for their general manager right now,” Trotz said.
Trotz added that “a lot of things” excite him about the Capitals, but he may have similar feelings about the Vancouver Canucks, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes, three other NHL teams seeking new head coaches after failing to reach the playoffs this season.
Trotz, who has a home in British Columbia, is considered the front-runner in Vancouver, where newly appointed president of hockey operations Trevor Linden is reportedly trying to hire Boston Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning as the Canucks’ next general manager.
“At this point, I am in absolutely no hurry to do anything,” Trotz told a Vancouver radio station last week. “I’ve been contacted by a few teams. As I said, I’m in no rush to do anything right now.
“Everybody has their own time frame. There’s a couple of teams that have basically said, ‘Give us some time and you’re on our short list.’ So that’s where I am.”
It’s fair to assume that’s where the Caps are as well. There have been multiple reports that Wayne Gretzky is being strongly considered to fill a hockey operations role similar to the one Linden has in Vancouver, Brendan Shanahan has in Toronto and Paul Holmgren has in Philadelphia.
If Gretzky is hired as the Caps’ director of hockey operations, he likely would need to hire a general manager before appointing a coach. With that in mind, Trotz said he does not expect teams like the Capitals and Canucks to make decisions on a coach until late May or early June. Linden said he'd like to have a new GM in place by the end of this month.
In Nashville, Trotz earned the reputation of being a no-nonsense coach whose teams play with discipline and structure.
Doug MacLean, a former coach and general manager with the Columbus Blue Jackets, said he believes Trotz will land in Vancouver but sees him as a good fit with the Capitals.
“To me, with the [Alex] Ovechkin factor there, they need somebody strong to deal with this guy, whether it’s a strong GM or a strong coach, they need somebody with [guts] to handle this guy.
“Barry would be a good guy in Washington because what does Ovechkin need? He needs a tough guy, but he also needs a tough guy who can relate to him.
“I love [Dale] Hunter, but Hunts is a tough guy who wouldn’t even talk to [Ovechkin]. You need a tough guy who can talk to him and reason with him and deal with him and push him. You need that combination. You’ve got to be honest with him.”
MacLean said it will be crucial for the Capitals to hire a general manager and a coach who have the same vision for Ovechkin and the rest of his teammates.
“It’ll be an interesting, challenging job on both fronts because the GM’s job and the coach’s job will be intertwined on getting this guy to play to his maximum,” MacLean said. “If he’s not playing to his maximum, you’re not winning.
“It’s a pretty good team there and they’ve got to hire the right coach,” MacLean said. “… You can be as technical as you want, but the bottom line with coaching today is you’ve got to manage the room. That’s a big part of the GM’s job today, too, helping the coach manage the room. They’ve got to work together or it’s tough.”