New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz on the NHL bubble and the future Isles

By Erica Commisso
Jul 13, 2020; East Meadow, New York, USA; New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz gives instructions as defenseman Thomas Hickey (34) and center Casey Cizikas (53) look on during the New York Islanders workout at Northwell Health Ice Center. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Rich “Big Daddy” Salgado caught up with NHL head coach Barry Trotz to chat about the successes of his team, the New York Islanders, as well as the construction of the new arena in Long Island, the NHL playoffs, life in the NHL bubble, and the future of the franchise. Salgado’s brand new show “Big Daddy & Friends” features his friends from the world of sports and sports media.

Trotz had a lot to say, and even offered up some advice for other coaches. Check out some #Trotzthoughts and interview highlights below.

Related: Sportsnaut debuts Big Daddy & Friends show

Barry Trotz on the New York Islanders’ success

Trotz attributes some of the New York Islanders’ success to a change of pace, even though they lost superstar John Tavares to the Maple Leafs. “A lot of coaches will say, and overuse this term too, it was changing the culture,” he said. “But it’s changing mindset.”

Many people thought the Islanders were overachieving, he said. However, Trotz doesn’t believe in overachieving, but rather in getting the team to achieve its full potential as a collective unit.

Going forward with the Islanders, according to Barry Trotz

Reconnecting with the New York Islanders’ winning legacy, Trotz said, was a big reason for the team’s success. He looked back to the franchise glory years of the ’80s to focus on the future.

“There is only going to be one winning team, one happy fan base,” he said. Trotz pointed to many teams struggling before winning the Cup.

“From our standpoint, it’s building something so we can be a threat every year. And there are going to be some disappointments,” he said. “Right now, we can only two more steps from where we were last year in the bubble. And that is winning the conference, and then winning the Cup.”

Trotz on moving to Belmont Arena

The Islanders are understandably looking forward to playing one place after splitting time between Nassau Coliseum and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in recent seasons, especially one that is equipped specifically for hockey.

“I think that place, once it’s complete, will really enhance this franchise,” he said. He believes that Belmont Arena will help the New York Islanders in free agency, too, because it will give potential players a single, closer location to commute to, in a beautiful part of Long Island.

Trotz on his experience in the NHL bubble

The New York Islanders were one of the last teams in Toronto — and the last in their hotel, the Fairmont Royal York. They moved to Hotel X, where the Philadelphia Flyers, who they played in the quarterfinals, were already staying.

“Getting into the bubble in Toronto, obviously, was unique,” Trotz said. “We ate well, we had great rooms, all that. I think it was more of a mental challenge. We were in the middle of the city, surrounded by fences. I call it a little bit of a white collar jail. We were treated very well, but you could see everybody around you was carrying on and moving around you, and we were sort of in lockdown.”

Hotel X is right on Lake Ontario, though, so Trotz said moving there gave his team more of a “mental break.” The Islanders moved to Edmonton the night before the first game of their conference final matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had been there waiting for nearly a week. Trotz admits his team had no chance in game one, and wishes they had another day to adjust.

“We sort of recuperated a little bit and were much better in Game 2. So we dug ourselves a bit of a hole right off the bat, but as the series went on, I thought we were getting ourselves back into it.” The Islanders would lose the series to the Lightning, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Trotz wanted the NHL season to start months ago

New York Islanders: Barry Trotz on NHL bubble
Aug 30, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz and forward Anders Lee (27) in game three of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Salgado, noting that hockey is starting later than usual, asked Coach Trotz when he wanted the 2020-21 NHL season to begin.

“About four months ago,” Trotz laughed. “We are creatures of habit, and we understand what the world is going through. And it’s not convenient, if you will, for anybody right now. And a lot of people are suffering. It’s no complaints but, like everybody else, you want things to go a little bit more to normal. And I think, hockey players, as the weather turns cold, we want to be playing our game.”

Trotz noted that he and everyone else has to be patient and accept what life has thrown at us — including a potential realignment of divisions — but he definitely misses standing behind the New York Islanders bench.

Coaching advice from Barry Trotz

Jay Beagle and Alexander Ovechkin established a tradition in Washington, Trotz explained, when he was the head coach of the Capitals. Before every practice, a player would take a lap around the rink to get everyone excited. They called it a hot lap. One day, Ovechkin asked Trotz to be the person to take the hot lap, and head coach Trotz was happy to oblige.

“I know some coaches that I coached with, and I know some coaches that I coach against, if a player said would you do it, they wouldn’t,” he said. “They just have a persona or ego about. I don’t.”

Trotz said it was one of the best coaching decisions he ever made, because the team needed him to rile them up. It gave him an idea about how to help his team going forward. “The best advice,” he notes, “is don’t take yourself too serious sometimes.”