Well, that’s a shocker.
The New York Islanders announced on Monday morning that they have relieved Barry Trotz of his duties as head coach, firing the man that dragged the team back to relevance after four seasons and placing Trotz at the tippy-top of the coaching free-agent leaderboard.
Trotz will almost certainly be the most sought-after candidate this summer among teams looking to fill vacancies. And with so many empty seats behind benches around the league, his list of suitors will likely be quite long.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the three best landing spots for Trotz ahead of next season.
1. Philadelphia Flyers
Trotz took over an Islanders roster in 2018 that was among the worst defensive units in the entire league and, within one season, turned them into what many consider to be the staple of modern shutdown hockey.
The Flyers, who let this happen a few weeks ago, could probably use someone like that.
You don’t need me to tell you that the Flyers were a defensive nightmare this season. The video above speaks louder than any words possibly could.
But I’m going to anyway, just for fun.
The Flyers finished with the seventh-worst expected goals share of any team in 2021-22 at 46.48 percent. Their 44.85 percent share of scoring chance generation was the second-worst in the NHL, while their 45.52 percent share of the high-danger chances landed them fifth-worst.
Basically, the Flyers were out-scored and out-chanced in every possible facet of play at near-league-worst rates this season. And to make matters worse, most of the teams below them in those metrics — the Coyotes, Red Wings, Sabres, Blue Jackets, Canadiens, etc. — were not expected to contend heading into the year and clearly shifted their focus towards the future when that reality became shockingly apparent early on.
The Flyers, on the other hand, strode into the season with visions of contention, fresh off of swapping multiple first-round picks and prospects for established players in a number of offseason trades in order to stock up for their hilariously futile Cup run.
And then they went out and did that.
The 2021-22 Flyers lacked any hint of structure. They were listless, uninterested, and mostly lost, lacking a galvanizing figure behind the bench to lead them after tuning out Alain Vigneault and then clearly not taking the perennial hired-to-be-fired interim patsy Mike Yeo seriously.
Philadelphia deserves good hockey. Trotz, who has proven capable of squeezing every drop of value out of his rosters, seems like a perfect fit.
And then there’s the hidden bonus that Trotz’s notoriously goalie-friendly system could have on Carter Hart, whose career the Flyers have seemingly tried their best to squash like a bug by surrounding him with defenders that play like department store mannequins come to life.
2. Seattle Kraken
Dave Hakstol ain’t it. I’m sorry. He just isn’t.
Seattle’s management might have botched the expansion draft from the get-go, regardless of how many times they claim to have intended to tank for their first few years, but the coach they hired didn’t exactly get the most out of his lackluster roster, either.
Under Hakstol, the Kraken are aimless. They lack any kind of clear identity and aren’t particularly good at any one thing — which is basically the worst possible descriptor you can have in today’s game. After promises of flipping the hockey world on its head with some cutting-edge tactics, the Kraken garnered nothing but apathy in their debut season, fading into the background as their losses piled up.
Under Trotz, they’d at least have an identity.
I’m not a huge fan of installing a coach whose system functions to produce the most boring, low-event hockey possible onto a team that needs to build a fanbase. That’s like trying to make your significant other like Star Wars by only showing them the trade federation scenes from “The Phantom Menace”.
But Trotz would instill a structure in a Kraken roster that certainly needs one, hopefully creating an environment in which Philip Grubauer can bounce back from becoming the worst goalie in the league.
It might seem odd to boot the first coach in franchise history out the door after one season. But the Kraken did the same thing with their captain just a few months ago. And with time of the essence to win over their local market, Trotz would at least make them a better on-ice product.
3. Winnipeg Jets
If anyone can talk Mark Schiefele into playing a hint of defense, it’s probably Trotz.
Schiefele is a tremendous offensive player. That’s without question. But his defensive lapses are the stuff of legend at this point. And they’re mostly self-inflicted, too, with entire YouTube compilations of Schiefele essentially giving up on the back-check floating out there for the world to see.
As they’re currently constructed, the Jets are not poised to win. Their two top forwards, Schiefele and Blake Wheeler, are among the worst defensive forwards in the entire NHL, and the reports of locker room friction that were more or less confirmed by Paul Stastny during his year-end press conference don’t help, either.
The Jets need a new voice — someone capable of getting the most out of the quality players they still have throughout their roster.
The guy has experience in knitting a frayed locker room back together, turning the Islanders into a formidable force immediately after their superstar captain left in free agency. Perhaps Trotz’s system can lighten the load on Connor Hellbuyck’s shoulders, too, returning him to the Vezina candidate he’s been for most of his career.
With Schiefele throwing a temper tantrum to get himself shipped out of town, an era of Jets hockey could soon come to a close. And who better than to flip the page than Trotz?