This has been a season of change for the Washington Capitals. Anyone who has followed the Caps knows about the 2013-14 season under Adam Oates when they failed to even make the playoffs. As good as Bruce Boudreau was during his tenure as head coach, he was never able to lead the team all the way to the finals. Now we have Barry Trotz and his amazing team of coaches instilling something special with the Caps this season.
It takes confidence and respect for players to accept a new coach and his vision. One would have to believe that the boys had lost faith in their coaches some time around 2010. Despite two coaches with great NHL reputations, the Caps leadership was unable to find the right guy to turn things around. As soon as Trotz was relieved of his duties with the Nashville Predators the buzz started in DC about the integrity and stability he might bring to the Capitals.
It is more than the head coach who turned things around. A painful change occurred at the upper levels of management when Ted Leonsis reluctantly sent George McPhee packing in April 2014. Brian MacLellan was promoted from within and Trotz got hired thus beginning the rebuilding process.
The added benefit of bringing Barry Trotz to Washington was that he brought legendary goaltending coach Mitch Korn to work with Braden Holtby as well as Philipp Grubauer. Mitch spent 16 years with Nashville. The “Goalie Guru” told the Washington Times that he didn’t plan to “change” Holtby but rather began to change the strategy at practice to help the goalies become strong defenders of the net. His plan is making Holtby one of the best goaltenders in the NHL.
The Caps have a stellar set of assistant coaches, all who play a specific role in the team’s current success. Blaine Forsythe has been with the Caps franchise for eight seasons and assistant coach for five. Todd Reirden came to the Caps via the Pittsburgh Penguins where he spent his time developing the team’s defensemen into a skilled squad. Coach Trotz leaned on them to transition from a Western Conference knowledge base to the play of the Eastern Conference, according to Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post. These are the two men most responsible for scouting out the other team’s advantages and guiding the Caps to counter the advantage.
Reirden already had a great reputation for bringing out the best in the Pens defensemen, which is part of the reason Matt Niskanen was willing to come to Washington. Forsythe knows his way around the club and his longevity with the Caps led to a smoother transition for the incoming coaches.
Lane Lambert rounds out the coaching squad as part of the Nashville Triad. His focus in Nashville was on the forward and penalty kill (PK). One of the primary goals in bringing Lambert to Washington was to improve their PK. At 84.5 percent, the Caps have the fourth highest PK average in league. They ended 2014-15 with a 81.2 percentage and 14th in the league.
There are many more people who play important roles in keeping the Caps heathy and positively motivated from Chef Robbie who feeds them a healthy diet to the team of trainers and conditioning coaches. This is a new team all around. Most importantly, Coach Trotz has brought a higher level of integrity, accountability and team building to every aspect of their lives, on and off the ice. This team believes they can win the Stanley Cup which is a much needed change from past Caps teams. Any way you look at it, this is team we can be proud of and fans should keep the faith because of the men behind the players, especially Barry Trotz.