Accountability. It’s something the Islanders haven’t had in a long time, but oh, does it feel good. Gone are the days of Capuano’s and Weight’s excuses and dismissals.
No more “They simply played a tighter game than us”, “They were the better team tonight”, or “We looked good, but it just wasn’t our night” press conferences. Barry Trotz is a coach who calls a game what it truly is.
After the miraculous win in St. Louis, Trotz was widely quoted that the Islanders should have worn ski masks on the plane home since they stole that game. The Islanders didn’t play well, but they would take the two points. After Tuesday night’s loss to the Hurricanes at the Coliseum, Trotz said the team didn’t manage the second and third period well, playing the puck along the boards too much and not making any plays at the net. Earlier in the year, he fumed that the team couldn’t hide behind the “bad goaltending” excuse anymore. He was clear: Griess and Lehner have no chance when the team doesn’t play in front of them; not every game is the goaltender’s fault.
All season, Trotz hasn’t backed down from honestly telling the media what he thinks of the team, be it good or bad, and it’s starting to rub off on the players, too. Gone are the days of giving up in the third period and of skating at half-speed when they’re already losing. During his second intermission interview with Shannon Hogan on Tuesday, Eberle was clearly frustrated, but instead of making excuses, he said that the team as a whole played flat after his goal was recalled, and that they simply were not doing anything with the puck even though they had possession often. He even mentioned the power play in his critique, which, despite its brief success in late December, has begun to disappoint once again.
Trotz is exactly what the Islanders needed to become a successful team. He’s not the fellow player and friend that Weight was, and he’s not the bag of wimpy excuses that Capuano was. Besides being accountable with the media for the fans, he holds his players accountable, too. Early in the season, he sat Barzal for the end of the third period after the rookie took stupid, game-jeopardizing penalties. He sent Ho-Sang down instead of Dal Colle to make room for Filppula because Ho-Sang’s performance was beginning to level off whereas Dal Colle’s continues to improve. Though fans may not like it, that is how Trotz sees it, and he was honest about it. Trotz didn’t lie or sugar-coat his reasoning for the fanbase like his predecessors would. Another factor in that decision was probably the opportunity to gauge Ho-Sang’s response: Would he mouth off to the media again, or would he be accountable for his play and look to quietly improve?
Trotz doesn’t just bring a Stanley Cup to the Islanders’ locker room, he is the Stanley Cup in the locker room. If the players keep “buying into” his philosophy and style of play, the Isles could very easily finish the season in third place in the Metropolitan Division. Now that they’ve remembered what a real winning streak is, they can do it again, and Trotz will make sure that they do.
Featured Image: Newsday/Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke