On Tuesday, Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz spoke to Sportsnet during their Hockey Central broadcast. In the interview Trotz gave an update on Mike Green’s future and shared his feelings on the coaching of Alex Ovechkin before last summer.
“I think there were some things that probably happened before I was here that led to certain things,” Trotz said, speaking in broad terms. “There was some bad advice given to Ovi at times in how they wanted him to play.”
“Ovi’s a guy that will do what you ask,” he continued. “He’s bluntly honest. It’s actually a strength, not a weakness.”
This year, Trotz has moved Ovechkin back to left wing and demanded more of him defensively. Ovechkin leads the league in goals, and the Capitals are challenging for the division lead.
“I made it pretty simple,” Trotz said. “When you have the puck do what you do. When you don’t have the puck, I want you to do what I want you to do. If you do that, you’ll have the puck more.”
The full transcription of his interview with Sportsnet is below.
Daren Millard: What have you done, Barry, to make [Ovechkin] coachable?
Barry Trotz: Not a lot. I think it comes from the player. I think it’s a little bit of trust between the player and the staff. I made it pretty simple: I wanted him to go back to the left side, I thought he was more dangerous there. I asked him that when you have the puck, I want you to do what you do. When you don’t have the puck I want you to do what I want you to do. If you do that, you will have the puck more. So it became pretty simple. Just having a plan to get the puck back when we didn’t [have it], and he’s been great. He’s been a pleasure to work with. He’s been a real force physically.
Obviously, he’s scoring a lot of goals and he’s bought-in to some of the things about leadership. He’s in the right place with his life. There’s a lot of good things that he’s doing.
Nick Kypreos: Barry, I know as a player you can get messages from coaches or a general manager and that’s one thing. As an individual you take it for what it’s worth. But there’s also an element of peer pressure. When you start hearing things from your teammates, that takes it to another level. You think that’s fair with Ovi? We had heard that there were some players that had talked to him and maybe that got through to him a little bit more. Is that fair to say?
Barry Trotz: Well, I think the biggest pressure that you have is from the room. I think that when the room drives itself, it’s easy to get everyone on the same page. I think there’s some things that probably happened before I was here that led to the certain things. There was some bad advice given to Ovi at times in how they wanted him to play. Ovi is a guy who will do what you ask and that’s what I found. He’s bluntly honest which is actually a strength, not a weakness.
To me, it’s just getting everybody on the same page, recognizing that everybody has a certain role on the team in terms of pulling the ropes– certain people have to do certain things. And you look at the whole picture: where do you fit in this puzzle? Obviously when we got everybody on that sort of same page, I think that made relationships and all that a lot better. There’s some terrific guys on this team. They’re actually very, very close. And perception is reality. I had perceived a lot of different things coming in here. They wanted structure. They wanted accountability. They wanted a lot of different things. Hopefully bringing some of the things that we did in Nashville in terms of structure, in terms of the way we do business on a day-to-day sort of situations, we brought the strengths of the Washington Capitals and the strengths from my time in Nashville and sort of combined them to get a little bit of a hybrid of where we think we should be. The guys have bought in, and it starts from the leaders.
Doug MacLean: Barry, eventually guys just get it that winning is more important than individual awards. But the biggest challenge Ovi and you are going to face is how he plays in the playoffs, once you get there. And he’s had his challenges, because you know better than anybody, that match-ups at playoff time, that attention to detail on the star players is really challenging. How he overcomes, how he deals with that, is gonna be another test for him.
Barry Trotz: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s gonna be a test for everybody from myself, right down to our fourth-line players. I think you hit it right on. I mean, a lot of times the top players cancel each other out and once in a while, when a star player is able to dominate another star player, you win the series.
I can go back, I wasn’t here, but I remember the Ovi against Chara series. They played the Bruins and the Caps won. Basically, Ovi won the war against Chara during that series. It didn’t happen overnight. It happened over seven games and they got it done. In other years, they hadn’t been able to get it done. So I think that will be part of it, I think it will be where our depth is as an organization.
I think we can score from different lines but obviously Ovi and Backy, they are dynamic and they run the offense for the most part. We’re getting great contributions throughout our line-up: a bounceback year from Johansson, Fehr, and Brooks Laich. We’re developing four young forwards right now in Burakovsky, Kuznetsov, Latta, and Wilson, and try to balance that with winning. So obviously what we did in the summer with Orpik and Niskanen, getting Braden Holtby back to where we thought he could be… all those factors are leading us to at least a better chance to have success in the playoffs.
Transcription by Fedor Fedin.
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