Trotz Catapults Isles’ Optimism to New Heights

What can be said about Barry Trotz that already hasn’t been said?

Plenty.

For one thing, he’ll revive the Islanders.

For another, the Stanley Cup-winning coach won’t be shadow-boxing in the dark.

He knows his onions, knows his hockey and relishes the idea of a good challenge.

It happened in Nashville, where he turned the baby Predators into T-Rexes on the ice.

Then, the District of Columbia, where the Washington Also-Rans raced to Lord Stanley’s mug faster than you can say Christian Djoos. (Okay, almost as fast.)

Mind you, Trotz could very well have pitched his tent at the Washington Monument for the next decade and no Acts of Congress would have removed it, or him.

But there is such a thing as a challenge and there is such a Hall of Fame Builder named Lou Lamoriello and — whaddya know — the twain did meet. So the desk now says BARRY TROTZ — HEAD COACH, ISLANDERS.

[Read: The Maven’s Chat With Lou Lamoriello]

Ah, but why leave the Land of Ovie where Alex Ovechkin & Company conceivably could win a second Stanley Cup; even a third?

“Because,” Trotz told me in an exclusive interview, “it starts with Lou. I know his reputation and I know what he’s done in the NHL. He’s honest and things are clear with him; black and white. What Lou brings pulled me in this direction.

“The Islanders have a core. Start with the rookie-of-the-year [Mathew Barzal] as well as good veterans and terrific Draft choices. Add to that the new arena that’s going to go up at Belmont. For me, coming here was a no-brainer.”

Check out Mat Barzal's best plays from this season, as the the Isles rookie won the Calder Trophy. Catch more of Barzal all week long during Rookie Week on MSG Networks!

The Maven should have known. After all, Trotz came to Nashville in 1997, about as unknown as the understudy for The Invisible Man. Then, Washington where visions of a Cup were shrouded in darkness.

“For me,” Barry explained, “it’s been about meeting the challenges. I’m taking on a team that has been frustrated with its situation.

“They had lost their identity. Yet, the Islanders have pluses and they start with the offense. My trick is to get them to the next level.”

Trotz will have strong coaching support, having imported his trusty Caps aides, Lane Lambert, not to mention legendary goalie guru, Mitch Korn.

“Lane is a guy who thinks hockey the way I do,” he said. “He’s a penalty-killing specialist [Mave: Boy, do the Isles need that!] and very passionate about the game. He knows his stuff and if he disagrees, he’ll tell me.

“Bottom Line: We have each other’s back when we go after the puck. I never wanted a ‘Yes’ man.”

As for Korn, if the NHL ever struck an award for “Best Goalie Coach,” Mitch would be a contender every year, if not decade.

“I’ve known this guy for 17, 18 years. Mitch will help in every area because he gets the best out of people. He did it in Buffalo with Dominik Hasek, in Nashville with Pekka Rinne and most recently Braden Holtby.

“Mitch will get goalies like Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss to play to their potential. Plus, he just happens to be a terrific person. Make that a ‘People Person ‘ — he takes care of the people around him.”

Which is all well and good, but The Maven happens to have watched every home game this past season and I recall that the defensive fence needed a new contractor. What can Barry The Builder do for the back line?

“There’s a formula [I have] and everyone has to buy into it,” he said. “The trick is to get the puck out of the defensive zone in a hurry. Last season, they changed their philosophy two or three times.

“They created layers and it left them without a great foundation. It also didn’t help that Johnny Boychuk was hurt. But when I look at some of the guys on defense, I like Thomas Hickey; he doesn’t get enough credit for what he does.

“Ditto Adam Pelech. He’s a lot better than I realized. Look when you talk about defense and offense, the hardest thing is to score and this team showed that it does that best.”

Speaking of scoring, a major X-factor is spelled Joshua Ho-Sang. Barry not only knows how to spell the whiz-kid’s name, he told me that he’s already “spent time” chatting things out with J-H-S.

“Josh has to be part of our future,” the coach asserted. “He’s a talent who needs to be understood better than he has been. In this case, Lou will be good. My belief is that the kid has been misunderstood because he looks at the game differently.

“But his skills will fit into how we play. You’ve got to be patient with him and understand that he was frustrated in the past. Josh has talent and speed. Now we’ve got to have him make plays at the right time.”

NEWARK, NJ – OCTOBER 05: Joshua Ho-Sang #66 of the New York Islanders skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 5, 2016, in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Not to make a big deal out of it — because it really isn’t a big deal — but the club lacks a captain. Trotz is aware of the Minus-C and tells me straight out that “It’s not that important.” But he will talk it over with his vets.

“Right now,” he said, “we have really good leaders and we can have a ‘Leadership Group.’ We can take care of that issue at training camp.”

The fact that his new team will be splitting home games between Barclays and Nassau Coliseum actually inspired a smile. Barry has fond memories of the Old Barn in Uniondale that’s now sporting a new face.

“Going back to that building appeals to me because I’ve always felt that that’s where they belong — on Long Island.”

The championship coach — with 21 years experience — has spoken and allowed that he’s still enjoying the aftertaste of Stanley Cup champagne.

“It’s been surreal because I had been chasing The Cup for so long,” he concluded. “Winning was a giant relief as well as a super feeling of accomplishment.

“After we won The Cup, I was reminded of being a kid playing street hockey and must have thought a thousand times about what it would be like to win The Cup. And never really thinking that it actually would happen.”

Now, we have the respected champ-coach, Barry Trotz, here and challenged to make the same ecstatic thing happen for the Islanders!

[Read More From The Maven]