New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz wants his team to remember one thing once they dan begin training camp in a few weeks.
“We’re getting a chance to play for the Stanley Cup,” Trotz said yesterday during a 20-minute radio spot with ESPN 98.7’s Bart and Hahn.
“We’re being given the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup,” Trotz added. “Anybody who has won at the highest level, you know that it’s not always going to be perfect. So just accept it and embrace that moment. I’m hoping I can convey that to our team because you never know. You only get so many swings at trying to win a Stanley Cup.
“I guarantee you if you hoist the Stanley Cup up at the end of whatever playoff system they have in front of us, it’s going to feel the same way. It’s something that bonds a team forever.”
Yesterday marked the first time in over a month Trotz spoke to the media since the regular season was suspended back on March 12th due to the coronavirus outbreak. It came a day after the NHL announced its Return to Play Plan — which included the Islanders as a part of their 24-team playoff. The plan also revealed the Isles were awarded the seventh seed in the East and are set to play the 12th seeded Florida Panthers in the qualifying round.
Trotz noted he and his staff have been vigorously prepping for the possible resumption of the season during the quarantine. But with things now official, they are well aware the unique situation will bring its challenges.
“This is going to be a bit of a moving target for every team,” he said.
“We’re going to have to have a really good balance and lots of communication between the players, coaches, and trainers. I think we’re going to have to be really smart. But it’s going to be on the trainers and the players to let me know where they are so I can put them in the right situation, so we don’t have setbacks. The last thing you want is setbacks because I do think some guys will be behind, and execution is going to be what it is.”
The good thing regarding not having those setbacks, is that Trotz will finally have his team at full capacity. G.M. Lou Lamoriello told reporters Wednesday the club will have “every player available” when small group sessions resume in Phase 2 of the league’s plan, which is set to take effect in early June. That list included top-pairing d-man Adam Pelech — who suffered a torn Achilles in early January — and veterans Casey Cizikas and Johnny Boychuk.
And getting those three key players back, plus taking it to that playoff level back, Trotz believes will put his team on notice that the real grind is back.
“Training camp, the guys usually have four or five exhibition games under their belt to get their timing, to get a rhythm,” Trotz acknowledged. “Game one, they’re on, but it’s a long 82-game grind. This time we’re gonna go from zero to 60. The body usually harden from that with practice and games. We’re not going to have any of that or very much of it.”
When the Islanders do start camp again, they will have been coming off a second half in which they struggled and going winless in their final seven contests before the season was suspended. Still, Trotz believes they are in a good place.
“I think our special teams, goaltending, consistency, and depth of roster — which I feel we’re pretty set up in — are all good,” he said confidently. “On defense, were eight deep or at least eight deep. We’ve got five veteran lines. We’re not known as the most skilled team or most explosive offensive team, but we’re still going to have to score and get to that three-goal level every night and then lock it down defensively.”
Not having fans will also pose a challenge. The Islanders are used to feeding off the crowd at the Coliseum. Playing in a neutral site will be different, but Trotz’s message remains the same: embrace it.
“It’s going to be strange,” he concluded. “But it’s will be the new normal for a while. So embrace whatever they’re throwing at us.”