Barry Trotz likes to tell the story about how he was first introduced to coaching.
He was 20 years old and a 5-foot-9, 179-pound defenseman from Winnipeg, Manitoba when Jack Button, the Capitals’ amateur scout, invited him to the Hershey Bears’ training camp in 1982.
As he came off the ice, Trotz noticed Button in the stands talking with David Poile and he introduced himself to the two men.
“I know who the hell you are, I invited you here,” Button shot back at Trotz.
“I just wanted to come up and say thank you,” Trotz replied. “I’m gonna make it real hard for you to get rid of me and I’m going to give you my best effort and I just want to thank you.”
That’s when Button uttered the words that cut like a knife but stuck like glue.
“He goes, ‘You know what? The only reason that you’re here is you might be a good minor league leader or coach some day,’” Trotz recalled.
“When you’re 20 years old that’s probably not the first thing you want to hear. But I’m glad he said it to me.”
Thirty-two years later, Trotz is back with the Capitals organization, this time as its head coach. He brings with him 1,196 games of NHL experience and ranks 15th on the NHL’s all-time coaching list with 557 victories, amazing staying power when you consider he spent his entire career with an expansion franchise.
On Tuesday, Trotz was introduced as the 17th coach in Capitals history and shared his thoughts on a number of topics involving his coaching style and what he expects with the Capitals this season.
Here is a sampling:
On being labeled a defensive coach:
"One of the things people think is defense is backing up. That’s not it at all. Look at the L.A. Kings They don’t back up a whole lot. They understand there’s a time. It’s all about angles and stick position and reading the play and jamming up the neutral zone so you can get the puck back and head on the offense.
“The media buzzword is you’ve got to play uptempo. You can’t play uptempo if you can’t break out of your own zone effectively or if you don’t have the puck. There are times teams jam it up in the neutral zone and you have to dump it in.
“If you get to the blue line and they’re stacking it up and you want to dangle that’s a poor decision. Not every player will play a 200-foot game, but you better be pretty close to 200 feet.”
On what he’s learned about new general manager Brian MacLellan since meeting him last week:
“We seem to have hit it off. We’ve actually spent a lot of time together in a very short time. We do have a lot of the same visions in almost every aspect. We’re just throwing ideas at each other. There are some things Washington does a lot better than Nashville and vice versa. We spent a lot of time exchanging ideas and thoughts and visions and we’re really close in what we think.”
[RELATED: MacLellan wants to put his stamp on Capitals]
On how to build a team:
“A team is a group of guys that have the same vision and understand everybody has a seat on the bus. Someone asked me about coaching, do I treat everybody equal? Absolutely not.
“Coaching’s about inequality. No one gets the same ice time. Everybody should get the same respect, if you’re a 13th forward or you’re the star player you should get the same respect.
“Your roles are going be different and that’s the inequality in coaching. But you’ve got to have your role on the team and understand that if you’re not doing your role someone else gets an opportunity to do that.
“It’s about accountability and structure. Not that it wasn’t there before. Sometimes it seems like the previous coach didn’t do anything right. I was there just a few weeks ago [after being fired by the Predators]. What I bring in will be a little bit different and maybe what we do can get the right formula to get this team to the next level.”
On developing young players like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson and Dmitry Orlov:
“The last thing I want is for a young player to be put in a position where he can’t produce and he’s losing his confidence. It’s like a ladder. You start at the bottom and when you’re producing you go to the next rung. If you start a player at the top and he can’t handle it, he gets moved down to the second line and the third line and the fourth line and then he’s out of the lineup. That’s not fair to the player in the first place. To me, that’s an organizational malfunction, not the payer.
“We’re in the fast food era where you want everything right away. Sometimes the best meals are the ones that are prepared correctly and take their time. It’s like a player. They’re going to get there on their time, not our time.”
On his initial thoughts on the Capitals’ roster:
“I saw a very dangerous team, especially offensively. Their power play was No. 1 in the league, so you don’t want to change that if you can help it.
We’ll have to throw a little wrinkle in here or there, but they have some great pieces.
“I didn’t realize how good Nick Backstrom is. I knew he was good, I didn’t realize how good he is. You see Brooks Laich and the leadership he can bring and the passion he has. I had Joel Ward and I know the detail he plays with. [John] Carlson and [Karl] Alzner are terrific young defensemen. Braden Holtby probably had off and on year. I look at him and he’s bigger than I ever thought he was. Watching him, he’s very athletic and he’s got personality. He just needs to tighten up his game.”
On MacLellan’s suggestion he run a tough training camp:
“I’ve always had a hard training camp. That’s perfect. I love that. I have a little method to my madness in terms of building a culture. I believe in things that are a little different than some coaches. Everybody has their own things they believe in strongly. In Nashville we had teams that competed night in and night out. The last thing you want is for teams to say that was an easy game. You don’t want to be an easy team. This team has size and they can play with weight on the puck offensively and defensively and when you do that you’re going to have the puck more.”
On how close the Caps are to getting back into the playoffs and winning a Stanley Cup:
“To answer that accurately ask me 20 games into next year. I think there’s a lot of great pieces. I think we still need to add some and it’s up to management to find those pieces. It’s harder and harder to trade with the salary cap, but the great thing about the Caps is there are assets. One of the greatest assets are young players who don’t cost you a lot yet and the Caps have a lot of them.
“Everything is a work in progress. I can’t tell you that five games into training camp this going to be a totally different team or culture. It’s a process. There are players that have played a certain way that maybe I don’t want them to do it that way and it’ll be an adjustment for them. We’re going to have to get comfortable with them. I think I’m a good communicator with the players.”