Barry Trotz responded to the question exactly how you’d expect the head coach of a team that’s gone back to back Stanley Cup Semifinals, but hadn’t reached their ultimate goal to respond. The New York Islanders are entering the new season in a position they haven’t found themselves in since the 1980s.
They are a Stanley Cup favorite and right now they are New York’s best hope at ending its championship drought. That means the weight of the world is on their proverbial shoulders.
“I think this group feels very proud of what they’re starting to build and as they said there’s unfinished business,” Trotz said. “Our unfinished business is we’ve got to take the next step. Be it, getting to the finals or winning a Stanley Cup. Anything below that is going to be considered a failure within the group, probably myself and probably the fanbase. There’s internal pressure, there’s external pressure and we’re mature enough to handle it.
“There’s a privilege to get this extra pressure.”
📽️ Trotz Media Availability 📽️ pic.twitter.com/MgdEKsxEkk
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) October 12, 2021
It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock, considering Trotz knows the mentality it takes to win in the NHL. However, for some of the core players that are going to lead the Islanders this season, it will be a new feeling of the pressure that comes with the expectations of being a perennial contender.
The Islanders have spent the majority of the last decade as an underdog, even as the fortunes of the franchise began to turn. Even after the Islanders Swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 and reached the conference finals for the first time since 1993 the following year, it wasn’t until their latest run that the team started to be treated as a favorite and not the underdog.
“We want to focus on what we have to do,” Anthony Beauvillier said when asked about the new role of favorite the Islanders find themselves in. “Grow our game and focus on our team. I think people can say whatever they want. I mean It never really happens that way (how the season is predicted), so we’re just trying to focus on ourselves. Try to grow our game and get better every day, and we’ll see where that takes us.”
The first task for the New York Islanders will be surviving a 13 game road trip to start the year, which begins on Thursday in Carolina. The trip is the longest in NHL history.
It’s one of the many challenges the Islanders face in their first year as a cup favorite club. The start of the season is crucial for any team, but the Islanders have used strong starts to the year in the past to withstand late-season slumps.
The Islanders limped into the playoffs last season before turning the page and finding their game in the postseason.
Part of that has to do with the makeup of the team. New York is a team that’s built for the playoffs, but that hasn’t translated to consistency in the regular season at times. The Islanders dropped seven of their last 10 games to end the 2020-2021 season.
If that happens again this season, Trotz is well aware of the scrutiny that will come with it.
“People expect you to do well and if you don’t get off to a good start then everybody starts questioning everything,” Trotz said. ‘We’re built for the playoffs and it’s going to be a grind for us to get to the playoffs. Once we get to the playoffs we’re built that way. The regular season doesn’t always play out as a playoff-style game, it just isn’t.”
Trotz added: “I can’t tell you how this season is going to play out, but if stay healthy and we play close to our ceiling all year I feel comfortable with our hockey team.”
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