It didn’t take long for the speculation to begin about where Stanley Cup-winning coach Barry Trotz might land after it was announced Monday that he and the Washington Capitals had been unable to come to terms on a new contract and were parting ways.
The first team mentioned was the New York Islanders. That made perfect sense since new Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello recently fired coach Doug Weight. The Wild isn’t looking for a new coach but Minnesota also was mentioned in various tweets and by at least one publication as a potential landing spot for Trotz.
In fact, The Sporting News put the Wild second to the Islanders on a list of the potential best fits for Trotz. This did not come as a major surprise considering new Wild general manager Paul Fenton worked with Trotz in Nashville for more than a decade, with Fenton serving in the role of assistant general manager to David Poile, while Trotz was the Predators’ head coach. Throw in the fact that Wild owner Craig Leipold was in charge of the Predators when the then-expansion franchise hired Trotz to be its first coach and it’s easy to start connecting the dots.
That might be the easy thing to do, it isn’t fair to current Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. Entering his third season with the Wild, Boudreau deserves every opportunity to see how he does behind the Wild’s bench with Fenton running the show.
Chuck Fletcher was shown the door by Leipold after the Wild’s first-round playoff loss to Winnipeg this spring because it had become obvious that Fletcher’s roster construction was the issue and not Boudreau’s coaching of the players he was provided. Fenton was brought on board to make some changes with that roster and see if he can build a team that can make a playoff run.
The Wild have qualified for the postseason for six consecutive years but have never gotten past the second round and have been bounced in the opening round the past three seasons. Boudreau has been behind the bench for two of those early exits.
But Boudreau also has gotten the most out of this underachieving bunch in the regular season during his time in Minnesota. In his first season, the Wild had a franchise best 106 points to finished second in the Central Division and this past season the Wild had 101 points (third third-most in franchise history) to finish third in the division.
The knock on Boudreau long has been his team’s lack of success in Game 7s in the playoffs — he is 1-7 in those situations — and their inability to make deep runs in the postseason. He guided Washington and Anaheim to eight first-place finishes in nine years in the regular season before arriving in Minnesota, but has gotten as far as the conference finals only once (in 2014-15 with Anaheim).
Trotz now owns a Stanley Cup ring but previous to this season his teams also had plenty of rocky times in the playoffs. After missing the playoffs in each of his first five years in Nashville, Trotz got the Predators to the postseason in seven of the next 10 seasons but never past the conference semifinals.
Fired after missing the postseason for a second consecutive year in Nashville in 2013-14, Trotz was hired by Washington and saw his Capitals ousted in the second round for three consecutive years. Included were back-to-back seasons in which Washington had the most points of any team in the NHL (120 in 2015-16 and 118 in 2016-17).
The only scenario in which Trotz might end up behind the Wild’s bench is if he sits out for a period and Fenton makes the decision that either a change is necessary or he and Boudreau aren’t clicking as hoped. But it’s going to take some time to figure that out.
Boudreau, as mentioned earlier, also has those two years left on his contract and reportedly is making a shade under $3 million annually. He commanded that type of salary on the four-year contract he signed in May 2016 because Fletcher thought he would be the guy to get this team to where previous coach Mike Yeo failed to take them.
It’s highly unlikely Leipold would decide to pull the plug anytime soon on Boudreau’s deal given that he would still have to pay him. Trotz, meanwhile, is looking for a big payday and reportedly wanted $5 million annually on a five-year deal from Washington.
Trotz might be worth that to some team, but for now the Wild are wise to stick with the guy they’ve got.