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Caps Spotlight: Hendrix Said He Nearly Trotz

It’s strange that Barry Trotz has avoided being called East Coast Bruce Boudreau. They both don’t have a neck, so it works, doesn’t it? Maybe it’s just because Trotz has only been on the East Coast for three years. Still, his record is what it is and looks a lot like Boudreau’s, except Gabby has actually made the conference final once.

This was a Fifth Feather thing many years ago, but when Joel Quenneville was hired and then eventually a Cup champion, he was the first coach to coach more than 10 years without reaching a Stanley Cup Final to then actually do so. And he remains that. Trotz is getting close to the ten year mark, and he’s never been to a conference final.

It took Trotz six attempts with the Predators to even get to the second round. What happened, exactly? Well, in 2006 it was a bit unfair because they ran into a souped-up Sharks team that had acquired Joe Thornton midseason. The following year… well, it was the same thing. You couldn’t even pin it on Trotz’s trick of exhausting his goalies, as Tomas Vokoun only played 44 games in the regular season before being perforated by the Sharks in the first round that year.

Trotz’s next trip to the playoffs had to wait two years, and he had the misfortune of running into a certain unholy force from Madison St. And he had that team in a corner, until Martin Erat decided it would be a good idea to hand the puck to Jonathan Toews. Is that on him?

The following year, the Preds finally won a round over the Ducks, and ran into the best version of the Canucks in the 2nd round. After 64 games in the regular season, Rinne had a time of it, giving up nine goals in the last three games.

It’s 2012 that might haunt Preds fans. They destroyed the Wings in the first round, and then got what looked like something of a sweetheart matchup against the Coyotes (then again, that’s what Hawks fans thought, too). But Rinne got outplayed by Mike Smith, and the nine goals he gave up in Arizona in Games 1 and 2 probably didn’t help. Neither did the 73 games he played in the regular season, though he recovered to only surrender three goals in the last three games, still losing two as the Preds couldn’t solve Smith.

Two more playoff-less seasons in Music City saw Trotz exiled to the nation’s capital. His first year saw a seven-game win over the Islander and then a seven-game loss in overtime to the Rangers. While it would be easy to point to Holtby’s workload, he was magnificent that spring. Last year saw the Caps run into the buzzsaw of the Penguins, and again Holtby played a lot but was great against the Pens. While he does play his goalies too much, it hasn’t really bitten him majorly yet.

So what’s happened with Trotz? Is it just bad luck? Twice he’s run up against a team that would go on to win the Cup. Twice more he’s run up against a team that would go on to the Final. But then he’s never beat a team he’s not supposed to, which is kind of the mark of a really good coach in some ways. That loss to the Coyotes will particularly sting.

It might be now or never. The Caps have a raft of free agents after this season, both unrestricted and restricted, in Oshie, Williams, Kuznetsov, Burakovsky, Alzner and Orlov. The Caps are going to look pretty different next year, most likely. The Caps road, no matter where they finish, is going to go through some combination of the Jackets, Rangers, and Penguins. That’s Bobrovsky, Hank, and the what is probably the best team in the league. If it doesn’t get done this time, it might never.