The White House is besieged. Congress is gridlocked. The courts are clogged up. The only good things coming out of Washington, DC, right now are the Washington Capitals who are vying for control of the Metropolitan Division with the slumping New York Rangers. The Caps have been riding a hot streak lately and Caps head coach Barry Trotz is orchestrating the greatest performance in his 17 years of NHL coaching.
Barry Trotz’s greatest coaching performance before this one was in 2011/12 when the Nashville Predators finished with 104 team points and a winning percentage of .631%
This present season threatens to eclipse both of those marks in Trotz’s long and frustrated coaching career. Trotz has never coached a divisional champion nor has he ever taken a team to the Stanley Cup finals (indeed he hasn’t even taken a team past the second round in Stanley Cup playoff competition).
But this could be the season the Caps reverse those trends for Barry Trotz and place him on a higher coaching plain. If you read my book Bench Bosses: the NHL’s coaching elite you will find that Barry Trotz has a coaching value of a +9 with an Average Season Rating of a +0.563 (the latter being rather low on the scale). A breakout season like this one he is conducting right now could lift him up within striking distance of the top fifty. He cannot break through the top fifty ranks this season. His Average Season Rating is much too low for that but he can make sure that if the Caps continue the excellent pace they are showing this season then Barry Trotz could be the newest member of the top fifty ranks.
How is this so?
Barry Trotz has achieved tactical balance with his squad. The Caps are in the top three in overall offense and defense; in the top five in power-play offense and power-play percentage; and are in the top ten in penalty-killing. In their last five games Washington has a GAA of 2.00. Another classic Barry Trotz touch has been the fact that the Caps are the second best team in the NHL with regards to on-ice discipline. Only the Carolina Hurricanes have earned fewer penalty minutes than the Washington Capitals. On-ice discipline has always been the hallmark of Barry Trotz’s coaching career; as is also his demand that his players execute the fundamentals at all times. Barry Trotz teams have seldom beaten themselves. Instead it requires a solid, all-out effort by their opponents to make a Barry Trotz team taste defeat. Thus far that has happened only five times in 23 games (not counting the one overtime loss the team has suffered as well).
Alexander Ovechkin continues to be hammer and sickle goals with dash and elan however better still, Barry Trotz is getting solid two-way effort from Alexander the Great. Ovechkin ranks among the top five with a plus/minus score of +12. Teammate Center Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks even higher with a +14. Kuznetsov is a superb playmaker, adept at setting up his teammates and creating scoring chances. Goalie Braden Holtby leads the NHL in wins and in GAA.
Barry Trotz has reached that metaphorical crossroads in his NHL career where he either takes his teams to newer heights and glories or else is condemned to be placed into the dust heap of NHL coaching history—where coaching potential was never fulfilled; opportunities to advance and achieve were met with failure. If Barry Trotz is to make his name in the NHL coaching pantheon then his time is now for he has the team to do it.