Welp. I didn't expect to be writing this article. We are now 4 coaches into my series on potential coaches for the Chicago Blackhawks, and so far we have discussed three individuals speculated by many to be in the running: Rick Tocchet, Claude Julien, and Jim Montgomery. Then I covered one fan favorite (but nothing more than that) in Brent Seabrook. They all have their pros and cons and at the end of the first four articles, Jim Montgomery sat pretty well with me as the far and away leader of this group. Never did I expect that a day later Barry Trotz, now former head coach of the New York Islanders would become available, but here we are.
Barry Trotz immediately jumps to the very tippy top of the Blackhawks' list. This is not even a question or an option. This is the case. Number one candidate PERIOD. So let's look at why he is immediately the best option to fill the vacant Blackhawks' role.
1. He Has Worked With a Rebuild Before
Two and a half decades ago, Barry Trotz was hired by David Poile and the Nashville Predators to be the expansion team's head coach. This was for the 1998-99 season. Calling the Predators a "rebuild" is a little unfair as they were an expansion instead, but some aspects are similar. Both have a group of players that haven't played much together and they both have little to no expectations going into a new season. In those regards, the Blackhawks' current situation is similar to the Predators. With the Predators, Barry Trotz got them to 28 wins in his first season (3rd most for an expansion team's first season) and after the first five seasons of the franchise, helped the team make the playoffs.
Then, he didn't turn back. From 2003-04 through 2013-14 seasons, Trotz's Predators made the playoffs 7 out of 10 seasons. For 5 of those seasons, Nashville finished 2nd in the Central division. For 4 of those 7 seasons, the Predators earned over 100 points on the season. Bottom line: Trotz was a phenomenal coach.
In the postseason, Trotz didn't have quite as much success, never making it past the semifinal round. They ran into the other Western powerhouses at the time: Detroit, San Jose, Vancouver, and of course, the Blackhawks.
Nevertheless, Trotz got a bad expansion team from a base level to making the playoffs with regularity. If he worked that magic with the Predators, surely he could do so with the Blackhawks too.
2. He Has Coached Super Stars Before
The Blackhawks don't have many superstars remaining, but Patrick Kane is still there. Toews isn't playing up to what he once was and DeBrincat could be on his way, but I'm not prepared to call either superstars. Nevertheless, Trotz knows how to handle teams with those superstars. This was seen plainly during his tenure with the Washington Capitals. Having a stellar group including Ovechkin, Backstrom, Oshie, and Holtby obviously helps, but it can be a challenge to a coach that doesn't know how to showcase all the talent properly. That was not a concern with Trotz at the helm.
Under Trotz, the Washington Capitals didn't have a single season ending with under 100 points or under 45 victories. Three of the four seasons, the team finished in 1st place in the Metropolitan division. And though his teams continued to choke in the postseason (losing in the second round), he finally got over the hump and led the Capitals to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2018.
Somehow, the Capitals let him go in the midst of a contract dispute, but he continued to prove his worth with the New York Islanders.
3. He Can Succeed with Diverse Lineups
Despite an overhaul in team management and Captain John Tavares leaving for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Trotz was able to take a struggling Islanders team, and steer their talent to success. He has also played a major hand in the development of Mathew Barzal, a promising player. The Islanders have a roster of interesting talent, some of which was acquired this year like Zdeno Chara and Zach Parise. But even before then, the Islanders' roster was an interesting makeup of aging players and young stars and he was able to get them going. Right now, I'd say the Blackhawks have the opposite problem. They have young players with old stars. Hopefully, during a rebuild, this will be flipped.
With Trotz, the Islanders finished 48-27-7, good for 103 points and 2nd in the Metropolitan Division. After that impressive season and a second round postseason exit, the Islanders returned the playoffs with a Stanley Cup Conference Finals run against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The next year, they ran into the buzzsaw that is the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A lot of their struggles during the 2019-21 seasons was a struggling defense. The Islanders were bottom feeders on the defensive side of the puck and suddenly this 2021-22 season, Trotz elevated the Islanders to having a top 5 defense based on all metrics.
Even though they missed the postseason, developing your players and team to that level is desirable to say the least.
Look, Barry Trotz is THE guy. Get him. Coach salaries don't count against your cap. Don't let him go. Barry Trotz would be everything to the organization. With Trotz in charge, the Blackhawks might seriously be able to turn this rebuild around in record time. Some people even think Trotz with the 2021-22 Blackhawks roster finishes more impressively than they did.
Trotz is 1,000% the answer. But I wouldn't hold your breath. Sure he's a great fit for the Blackhawks, but he's also a great fit for every other team too. That's what success does for you. I would bank on Trotz ending up with a team ready to make a jump, not a team that is about to begin a lengthy and ugly rebuild. But you never know. In the meantime, at least we have hope.