Beloved ex-Islanders coach Barry Trotz makes UBS Arena return as Predators GM

Friday night, as the Predators were readying to go for a team dinner, Barry Trotz and Anthony Beauvillier shot each other a look.

The team wanted to take the bus into the city.

These two knew better.

“They didn’t listen to me,” Trotz said. “And Beau, I think, was trying to influence them and [former Ranger] Ryan McDonagh. There was too many guys that haven’t spent a lot of time in New York and get intimidated by this train and that train and all that.”

Barry Trotz is back on Long Island as the Predators take on the Islanders. Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

“Hit some traffic,” Beauvillier said. “A little bit. Suggested the train but [they] didn’t want to hear it, I guess.”

“I think there’s a lesson,” Trotz added. “This morning, I popped by the team room and they were like, we should’ve listened to you and Beau.”

Trotz, who coached the Islanders for four seasons from 2018-22, told the story while standing in the lower bowl of UBS Arena surrounded by a small group of reporters, watching his new team skate Saturday morning.

This match against the Islanders marked his first time returning to the building since he was fired by Lou Lamoriello after a disappointing 2021-22 campaign and later hired as general manager of the Predators.

So naturally, Trotz held court for nearly 45 minutes.

“I was hoping I didn’t get any [fan] reception,” he said. “Quite frankly, I don’t mind being sort of anonymous, and maybe I’ll watch the game underneath there and you won’t see me anyways. I’m more about getting an opportunity to say hi to some old friends.”

But of course, there was no avoiding that the night would be about Trotz, a likely future Hall of Famer who got the Islanders within one game and one shorthanded goal of their first Stanley Cup Final since 1984.

Barry Trotz led the Islanders to the conference final twice. Getty Images

Many of his players are still with the Islanders and Beauvillier, another staple of the era, is with the Predators now.

And the last real success the franchise had, at least in terms of winning a playoff series, came with Trotz behind the bench.

“When I came to the Island, I was hoping we could get the franchise back,” said Trotz, who engineered a Year 1 turnaround from 80 points to 103. “I was excited to work with Lou, because Lou was such a legend in the game. And I thought I’ve been up for challenges. Coming from Washington, going from Nashville to Washington, I felt it was a challenge to get that organization and that team, put an imprint on it. The next challenge was coming to the Islanders, hopefully putting an imprint on it where you teach some young men some life lessons.”

Those lessons are still very much a part of the Islanders’ fabric as they fight for a playoff berth two years after Trotz left the fold.

Anthony Beauvillier also is back at UBS Arena as a member of the Predators. NHLI via Getty Images

Tough anything can happen, it does seem likely that the seventh game of the 2021 NHL semifinals represented this group’s best shot at a Cup.

And now it is an ever-distant memory.

“The time that I will remember the most will be the two COVID years,” Trotz said. “The [2020] bubble was, we did a really good job and our players, I think, understanding that would be a unique time. You talk to players that are retired and they all say, I miss the locker room, I miss the guys, I miss the dinners and all that. We were blessed. I think our team took the attitude that it was a blessing. You weren’t going to jail.

“I think the attitude of the team, the tightness of the group was exceptional, and then we had the next year where we had the limited [fans] and then it sort of ramped up again. … I just thought it was the best hockey. I take some really good memories from some really strange times and really being in one of the epicenters of COVID in New York and seeing how the city had to deal with it as big as New York was.

“It was unique. I look at it as a really unique life experience. It was strange times, but you tell some kid 10 years from now this is what happened, they go, ‘What? What are you talking about?’ It was what you made it.”

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