Capitals stars Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were just as surprised as many when Washington head coach Barry Trotz resigned last week.
And while both are sad to see him go, they understand why the decision was made.
“It’s hard when it happened right away, you know?” Ovechkin told reporters at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday. “First of all, thanks to him for being with us, to give us a chance to win the (Stanley) Cup. All of what he did was only for the team, not for personal-wise. But I’m pretty sure he will be fine and he will find what he wants.
“It’s sad, but it’s a business. We can’t decide who’s going to be in and who’s going to be out.”
Trotz is said to have resigned over a contract stalemate, with the team’s Stanley Cup win reportedly triggering a two-year extension with a $300,000 bump in salary that would have upped his earnings to $1.8 million annually, still low compared to many of his peers.
“It’s tough,” said Backstrom, who was also in Las Vegas. “He’s done a great job in our organization. I would say a little surprised, but at the same time, I understand him. But I think something you can’t take away from Barry is what he’s done to this team. Him and the coaching staff has been doing a tremendous job to just get us together. He’s been schooling us good these four years, and we got a good finish out of it. ...
“Hopefully there’s no hard feelings. He’s always going to be remembered in Washington as a champion, which is great, which he deserves.”
Trotz, 55, came to Washington in the summer of 2014 after serving as Nashville’s head coach for each of the first 15 seasons of the franchise’s existence. He is 762-568-60-134 in the regular season, giving him the fifth-most regular-season wins in NHL history.
Ovechkin, winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the postseason, especially noted the impact Trotz had on him, pushing him to improve his game to the next level.
“I think he’s been very good for me,” Ovechkin said. “We’ve been back and forth all the time, you know? He was hard on me. He gave me very good advice because he has experience, and that’s the whole thing. When the coach knows who you are and knows how to use you, you just feel great.”
Associate coach Todd Reirden is presumed to be the favorite to fill the Capitals’ coaching vacancy. Ovechkin and Backstrom both would support Reirden’s appointment.
“Well, it’s not my thing, but if it’s Todd, I’m sure lots of guys, everybody, is going to be really happy,” Ovechkin said. “He’s a guy who’s a very good communicator, very good specialist, and has lots of respect from us.”
—Field Level Media