Alex Ovechkin is a three-time MVP, a Stanley Cup champion, and one of the greatest goalscorers of all time. But what’s impressed Barry Trotz the most about Ovi is just how much The Great Eight has grown as a person during the latter stages of his career.
While being interviewed on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central Thursday, the New York Islanders head coach was asked if he preferred coaching teams that have a superstar or not. The question gave Trotz an opportunity to elaborate about his time with Ovi in DC.
“As a coach, I love superstars,” Trotz said. “I’ve had the opportunity to have different style teams with similar identities but opposite identities in some ways. Obviously, my former place in Washington, you got stars like Alex Ovechkin. Those are great challenges because you’re looking at a player who does something very unique and trying to grow him in areas.
“In Alex’s case, he grew as a person, as a leader, defensively,” continued Trotz. “I loved the way he’s grown away from the game. He values his value systems a lot different than it was when he was 21 or 22 years old and turning the league on its ear with his talent and his passion and growing to become a really good leader in the league in the right areas and understanding the balance between all that. Those types of things are great.”
During Trotz’s time in DC, Ovechkin got married to Nastya and later became a father to his son Sergei.
Trotz, who went 205-89—34 during four seasons with the Capitals, added that Evgeny Kuznetsov “grew from a player who wasn’t playing a lot” to one who is now “a star.” Kuznetsov led all players in points (32) during the 2018 playoffs.
The former Jack Adams Award winner also spoke about Ovechkin’s maturation during an interview with NHL.com before a Capitals-Islanders game in February.
“For a lot of years, there was doubters on Alex and Alex has risen above that,” Trotz said to Tom Gulitti. “He’s matured. He’s a Stanley Cup champion. When I was here, we talked about how he’s inspired people. He’s inspired young guys that tie their laces and let it hang or wearing the yellow laces in the skates and they’re tucking the shirt in and they’re using his (stick) pattern… He’s inspired so many young players and he continues to do that.”
Trotz added he had “no doubt” that Ovechkin would break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record.
During his time on Hockey Central, Trotz also spoke about his philosophy towards coaching.
“I really value the challenges of every team and I look at each team as its own group,” Trotz said. “You can’t be the same coach that I was in Nashville vs Washington vs the Islanders. I gotta grow with the group. I gotta figure out what the strength of the group is and apply what I do and what they do so that we can have success together. That’s what I look for when I’m coaching a team and trying to grow players and we do that all the time. I think there’s a partnership between the coaches and the players to grow him within the boundaries of the team’s success. I’ve been able to do that for a long time and I’ve had varying degrees of success. I keep trying to learn. I think as a coach, if you’re going to be in this league, you can’t be the same. I’m not the same coach when I started. I won’t be the same coach next year that I was this year, but certain fundamentals will be the same.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to win a Stanley Cup and there’s nothing like it,” he added. “They don’t ask ya how you did it, they just ask ya if you did it.”
Trotz also shared some inspiring words on the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced the suspension of the NHL’s 2019-20 season.
“Nothing is really worth anything if you don’t have to go through a little hardship to get it,” he said. “It applies to our game. No team wins a Stanley Cup without sacrificing a big part of something: emotionally, physically. This is just a different venue and a more important venue than sport right now.”
Headline photo courtesy of @Capitals
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