It was the first time the NY Islanders and Barry Trotz have crossed paths since he was let go by the organization following the 2021-22 season. After being let go by the Islanders, Trotz returned to his roots, taking over for David Poile as the second General Manager in Nashville Predators history. Before last night's game at Bridgestone Arena, Shannon Hogan caught up with Trotz to reflect on his time coaching on Long Island.
With the Islanders for only four years, Trotz was a critical cog in the resurgence of a once prestigious organization. When he was let go during the summer of 2022, it was unexpected for all who follow the team in any capacity. With the abruptness of the firing, Trotz never had an opportunity to give proper goodbyes to the people on the island.
"I think it's part of the business," said Trotz. "I think everybody acknowledges that it's just hard to do that. The memories that you had, or you created, the friendships, the relationships - they never go away."
Trotz took over a team that found themselves sneaking into the playoffs in years past but was never a formidable contender to make any noise in the postseason. With Trotz at the helm, that all changed, including back-to-back semi-final appearances. Knocked off by a Lightning team in Game 7 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, Trotz believes that if the Isles had gotten past them, they'd have a ring on their finger.
"We were so close," Trotz said. "I look at that Tampa Bay team we played in the Conference Finals, and we lost in Game 7 - that was one of those teams they call a wagon - you know, that is loaded. And we almost knocked them out. If we would have got by Tampa, I believe we would at least have one championship ring, maybe two."
Trotz was the voice needed in the locker room from the moment he walked in the door. A team led by Doug Weight the season before he took over was a mess on defense and was without any sense of structure. Trotz became the pivotal piece for the Islanders turning around their fortunes.
"I think the thing that I was most proud of - it was done collectively with obviously Lou [Lamoriello] coming over at the same time, me coming over from Washington - you know, we lost John Tavares. That was a big blow for the island," said Trotz. "I think to me, is we sort of got the Islander, I want to say, the tradition, the crest, the pride back a little bit. We were probably looking like we might go into a little bit of a rebuild and we didn't do that. We went to the Conference Finals a couple of times, we sort of became that identity team that you go, when you're going to the island, you're in for one. And that was something that the identity of that franchise and the fanbase and all that... I think we recreated that, and they still got it going."
Trotz and the Preds will make their only appearance on Long Island on April 6, where Trotz will, in all likelihood, receive a proper sending-off from the Islanders faithful.