Barry Trotz knows the feeling of lifting the Stanley Cup as well as the failed trips it sometimes takes to get there.
Now he’s trying to recapture that magic with the New York Islanders.
Trotz is entering his fourth season as Islanders coach with arguably the franchise’s best chance at winning a championship since the glory days of the early 1980s. New York has reached the semi-finals in each of the past two years and looks set to overcome the first season’s bump in a sparkling new arena in Belmont Park.
“We keep trying to build and try to take the next step,” said Trotz, who won the Stanley Cup in 2018, his fourth season in Washington. “We want to reach the top like the 31 other teams in the league. “
The eventual Tampa Bay Lightning champion, who lost valuable players to a tightening of the salary cap, narrowly stopped them in the previous two playoffs. A bit of that happened to the Islanders with the exchange of defenseman Nick Leddy in Detroit and Jordan Eberle in Seattle in the expansion draft, but general manager Lou Lamoriello kept the core tactfully and captain Anders Lee is back. after missing much of last season. with a knee injury.
“It obviously shows a lot of confidence from Lou in the staff and Barry and all the band members that we have, and we have it in the room,” Lee said. “In a way, picking up where we left off is a great opportunity and a chance to pick up right away in the same way.”
All the makings of a Stanley Cup contender are there: one of the best coaches in hockey, strong goalies with Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, a strong blue line of defensemen who have played together for a while, the star offensive Mathew Barzal leading a group deep striker and the free agent additions of veterans Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara to change the mix slightly.
Lamoriello, 78, has already won the Cup three times with New Jersey and refuses to think about the spring and summer until the puck is dropped in the regular season.
“If we do it right then we have a chance, and that’s all you ask is to have a chance,” Lamoriello said.
After decades of questions about the organization’s future, an ill-fated move to Brooklyn, and the last few years at the renovated Nassau Coliseum, Islanders finally have a permanent home. The UBS Arena is stabilizing the Islanders and, along with the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, could be something of a gold standard for NHL rinks.
“It’s going to be something special,” said Lamoriello. “It’s an exciting game for our fans and Island hockey.
An ACL tear in Lee’s right knee in March prevented him from being on the ice with his teammates during the stretch race and the playoffs. But after months of rehabilitation, he feels great and the restrictions are gone.
“It’s just relieved to see him come back over there and see him buzz and watch faster, I would say, than last year,” said Barzal.
Lamoriello used the free space left by Lee’s injury to acquire New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri and was able to sign the talented long-term forward. Getting Lee back is a further boost.
ON THE ROAD ONCE AGAIN
Before opening the new arena on November 20, the Islanders open the season with a 13-game road trip. And just one of those games – the No.11 stop at the Devils – would even allow players, coaches and staff to potentially sleep in their own beds.
The road trip presents a series of obstacles, although players are looking brightly at the opportunity to bond, something that was lacking last season due to pandemic restrictions.
“You spend more time with guys and go to dinners and stuff like that,” Lee said. “There will be challenges anyway, especially getting off to a good start and opening up to a few teams in their buildings. These are exciting things and they will be great games. The carrot at the end of this road trip is to open our building.