Barry Trotz would have plenty of questions to answer as Caps’ new coach

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Anyone who has seen this video chronicling the family life of Barry Trotz can testify to his character as a husband and father of four children, the youngest of whom has Down’s Syndrome.

Those who have played for Trotz say that same strength and character is evident in his coaching style.


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“He’s a great coach,” Capitals veteran right wing Joel Ward said of Trotz last month after learning he had been fired after 16 years as the head coach of the Nashville Predators. “A great man.”

Trotz reportedly is close to finalizing an agreement that would make him the Capitals' next head coach.

If that’s the case he will face several pressing questions about a lineup that for the first time in seven seasons failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs. Here are just a few:

How would he handle Alex Ovechkin?

This might be the No. 1 question for every coaching candidate interested in coming to Washington. The Caps’ 28-year-old captain will be working under his fifth NHL coach in nine seasons.

Ovechkin had a good relationship with Adam Oates, who found a way for him to get enough scoring opportunities as a right wing to lead the NHL in goals two seasons in a row. But Ovechkin also was a liability defensively with a career-worst minus-35 this season.

Trotz is known as an excellent communicator whose experience with star forwards was limited in Nashville to players like Paul Kariya and Peter Forsberg. It is possible Trotz would employ a strategy similar to Dale Hunter, keeping Ovechkin off the ice late in games the Capitals own a lead.

The difference is that Trotz would be more likely to explain his reasoning to Ovechkin during training camp so that his apparent “benching” would not become an issue during the season. Trotz would not be the first coach to seek accountability from the Caps’ star captain, but he might be the first to demand it.

What kind of system would Trotz play?

Known in Nashville as a defense-first coach, Trotz has made it clear in multiple interviews that he can play a style that best fits the talent on his roster. The Predators [38-32-12] finished with the same number of points [88] as the Capitals [38-30-14] last season. But while the Caps were outscored 240-235, the Predators were outscored 242-216.

In fact, Trotz‘ teams routinely finished in the bottom half of the NHL in goal scoring, ranking 30th in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. With stud defensemen like Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, Trotz encouraged his blue liners to carry the puck up the ice and look for plays in the offensive zone, a different philosophy than the one preached by Oates, who wanted his defensemen to move the puck quickly to the Caps’ forwards.

Trotz‘ teams in Nashville were known for their structured style of play, something the Capitals failed to develop under Oates. Ward and defenseman Jack Hillen, as well as former Capitals forward Marty Erat, played under Trotz and all three spoke of how consistent and predictable the Predators were in playing his system, which at times has been described as boring.

Trotz would also bring an added measure of defensive responsibility and player accountability, another trait lacking under previous Caps coaches.

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