Trotz, GM dif­fer on past fail­ures

Sharp con­trast to Stan­ley Cup teams

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY MATTHEW PARAS

Re­spect­fully, Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals gen­eral man­ager Brian MacLel­lan shares a dif­fer­ent point of view than coach Barry Trotz when it comes to the team’s past fail­ures.

“I’ve had con­ver­sa­tions with him,” MacLel­lan said re­cently. “He philo­soph­i­cally dis­agrees. We just have a dif­fer­ent way of look­ing at it.”

When asked about the Cap­i­tals’ his­tory of fail­ing to ad­vance past the sec­ond round in the Alex Ovechkin era, MacLel­lan in­di­cated the ten­sion hangs over the fran­chise and said “you could feel it” in last sea­son’s Game 7 loss to the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins. Trotz, mean­while, said play­ers are past it and it’s be­come more of a bad ques­tion by the me­dia at this point.

But the Pen­guins’ loss marked the third time the Cap­i­tals were elim­i­nated in the sec­ond round un­der Trotz and MacLel­lan.

“It’s there and it’s go­ing to be there next year,” MacLel­lan said of the his­tory. “And now we own part of it. So it is part of us.”

There’s a sharp con­trast be­tween the Cap­i­tals’ sit­u­a­tion, and that of the Pen­guins and the Nashville Preda­tors, who are in the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nals. Pitts­burgh and Nashville both rein­vented them­selves in or­der to over­come their his­tory.

For the Preda­tors, long-time gen­eral man­ager David Poile gam­bled by trad­ing stars Pa­tric Horn­qvist and Shea We­ber for James Neal and P.K. Sub­ban. The Preda­tors weren’t afraid to shake up their core and re­lied on the emer­gence of play­ers like Filip Fors­berg and Colton Sis­sons to get them to the top.

Even af­ter win­ning a Stan­ley Cup in 2009, the Pen­guins have had to adapt to get back to cham­pi­onship form. The Pen­guins em­braced a youth move­ment around star Sid­ney Crosby with Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary and goal­tender Matt Mur­ray. The ma­jor ac­qui­si­tions of Malkin and Phil Kes­sel have paid off, too. The Pen­guins won the Cup in 2016 and could be the first back-to-back win­ners since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

The Cap­i­tals have tried this ap­proach to a lesser de­gree. They also made moves that were seen as try­ing to max­i­mize their chances at a cham­pi­onship. They traded a first-round pick and prospect Zach San­ford for Kevin Shat­tenkirk at the trade dead­line and traded two draft picks for Lars Eller in the sum­mer of 2016.

“For me, we spent three years build­ing up to that Game 7 (against the Pen­guins) and you lose it and you don’t put your best foot for­ward in that game so it is frus­trat­ing,” MacLel­lan said. “... We did ev­ery­thing we can do to get our team to the point where we think we should win that game and it’s dis­ap­point­ing when you don’t.”

The Cap­i­tals’ play­off con­nec­tion to the Pen­guins is ap­par­ent. They are also con­nected to Nashville. Poile served as the Cap­i­tals’ gen­eral man­ager for 15 years from 1982-1997. Fors­berg was the Cap­i­tals’ first-round pick in 2012. There’s also Trotz, who was the coach in Nashville for 15 sea­sons be­fore be­ing fired in 2014 for miss­ing the play­offs in con­sec­u­tive sea­sons.

Trotz was hired by the Cap­i­tals that same off­sea­son and like Ovechkin, has never ad­vanced past the sec­ond round. At his fi­nal me­dia avail­abil­ity of the sea­son, Trotz said the team had to em­brace its past, but move for­ward.

“There’s noth­ing we can do,” Trotz said. “I can’t go back two days right now. I can only go for­ward. That’s how the play­ers have to look at it. We can only go for­ward. We’ve got to find a way to get to that next level again.”

Trotz and MacLel­lan are en­ter­ing their fourth sea­son as coach and gen­eral man­ager, but both are re­port­edly in the last year of their con­tracts. Trotz is only be­ing paid $1.5 mil­lion for next sea­son, ac­cord­ing to Cap Friendly.

MacLel­lan said he hasn’t had any con­tract ex­ten­sion dis­cus­sions with Trotz, but once there is ev­i­dence of im­prove­ments for a team that has won con­sec­u­tive Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phies, they may ad­dress it. MacLel­lan added he doesn’t think a coach hav­ing only one year re­main­ing on his deal is a dis­trac­tion.

The Cap­i­tals, in gen­eral, could have their coach­ing staff in flux with as­sis­tant Todd Reirden be­ing con­sid­ered for open coach­ing po­si­tions with the Florida Pan­thers and the Buf­falo Sabres. Goal­tend­ing coach Mitch Korn is pon­der­ing re­tire­ment as well.

But rather than fo­cus on con­tract un­cer­tainty, MacLel­lan said the Cap­i­tals’ sit­u­a­tion mat­ters more.

“We just had a pe­riod where every­body is dis­ap­pointed and we didn’t ac­com­plish what we wanted to ac­com­plish,” MacLel­lan said. “Whether you have one year left or two years left, it’s the same sit­u­a­tion. The con­tract is a re­sult of where we’re at as an or­ga­ni­za­tion.”


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