DALLAS — In his first public comments since being named head coach of the Islanders on Thursday, Barry Trotz lobbed a verbal hand grenade at his previous employer, the Stanley Cup champion Capitals.
"When it came to the business aspects, from my standpoint, I felt that it wasn't really sincere what we did together," Trotz offered during a conference call with reporters. "I decided it was better to move on."
Trotz referred to the post-Cup contract renegotiation of an extension clause for winning the championship that quickly went nowhere between the two sides and led to his resignation earlier this week. Leaving was "a matter of principle," according to Trotz.
"I'll leave that up to the Caps to answer that," Trotz said. "We had just won a Cup together. I don't think (me wanting to be back) was an issue."
The 55-year-old entered this season in the final year of his contract with the Caps, amid speculation that assistant Todd Reirden was the heir apparent in Washington no matter what the team accomplished on the ice. That scenario seemed to play out as Trotz led the Caps to a first-place finish in the Metropolitan Division and then to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history before reaching a serious divide over his value once the parade was over in D.C.
Trotz did add, "I made sure the Capitals knew I was very thankful for the opportunity. We did something very special together."
As for his new team, Trotz was quick to praise Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello in winning him over in short order and bringing the fifth-winningest coach in NHL history to a division rival of the Capitals, making for a juicy subplot next season.
"He mapped out a plan that he's trying to execute, and I know he will execute, and that got me really excited," Trotz explained.
"If you know anything about Lou Lamoriello and what he does, you know he's going to do what it takes to win. That got me excited right away, the leadership up top."
Lamoriello was hired by the Islanders exactly one month ago to take over hockey operations. Since then, he relieved both general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight of their duties, hired longtime lieutenant Steve Pellegrini as assistant GM and now hired a successful veteran head coach who just won the first championship of his 20-year NHL career.
There are reports that Lamoriello also has worked out a new contract with superstar captain John Tavares, a pending UFA come July 1, but no one from the Islanders — including Trotz on the conference call — confirmed that rumor.
"I think the John Tavares situation is in good hands," Trotz said. "I've reached out to him, as well, and we had a great conversation."
As for the rest of the team — which includes Calder trophy winner Mathew Barzal — Trotz provided an honest assessment:
"We got some work to do, but we have a strong group here. If we get our structure right, we're going to be a real good team. The strength of the core group is skill. We have to fix the back end and get our goals-against down. We're an exciting team."