Monday night doesn’t just provide the New York Islanders with an opportunity to inch closer toward the top spot of the Metropolitan Division against the Washington Capitals, but it provides head coach Barry Trotz with a pseudo-reunion against his old team.
The first-place Capitals, the defending Stanley Cup champions, visit the Barclays Center for the first matchup between the two teams this season.
It will be the first time that Trotz will square off against Washington just five months after leading them to their first-ever title, a five-game triumph over the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in June.
Just two weeks later, he was named the 17th head coach in Islanders franchise history.
“It’ll be awkward, a little bit,” Trotz said. “I don’t know if it’s awkward, maybe just a little weird because there were so many good memories.”
For Trotz, it was the exclamation point on a career that is already destined for the Hockey Hall of Fame. It was his first Stanley Cup win in his 19th season as a head coach, one that saw him amass 762 career wins, good for fifth all-time.
“You wanted to win a Stanley Cup since you were seven years old,” Trotz said. “I got an opportunity to do that with a terrific organization and a terrific bunch of young men and athletes and I became very close with them. They’ll always be very special to me.
He spent four of those years with the Capitals (his first 15 came with the Nashville Predators) and averaged 51 wins per year. His 205 wins in Washington ranks second in the franchise’s history books.
“That’s a tremendous group of young men and a good organization… It’ll be a little different, but it will feel a little more normal because it is a game right here in my new hometown.”
In his new hometown, Trotz has the Islanders sitting just three points behind the Capitals in the Metropolitan Division while having played one less game.
It has already exceeded expectations as New York was expected to be one of the minnows of the division right from the start of this season.
So while Monday night provides Trotz a chance to see some old friends, it’s not distracting him.
“We just have to collect points. So for me, it’s going to be fantastic to see some people… but we need points,” Trotz said. “We have to keep looking up. The view doesn’t change unless you’re on top.”