Friday, August 15, 2014

Bryan Trottier's bringing a "tried and true" championship philosophy to Buffalo

Reprinted with permission form

With the Buffalo Sabres rebuild now fully engaged in the "build" aspect of the equation, player development is at the fore, and newly named assistant head coach Bryan Trottier will be the focal point at the NHL level.

The seven-time Stanley Cup winner with 1425 points in 1279 NHL games was on WGR' Hockey Hotline yesterday introducing himself to the Buffalo listening audience.

Although I'm sure there's a smile every time he talks about his incredible playing career "at the same time," he said, "the present and future are more important to be talking about right now."

That "present" would be bringing the knowledge of over 40 years in the game of hockey--as a player, in the front office and on the bench--to a large group of young players that constitute the Buffalo Sabres future.

Said Trottier, who fondly remembers his days as a young player full of vim and vigor, "There's a lot of knowledge I want to share with young hockey players. It's a fun time in [their] life, they're playing a game that they absolutely love to death."

Only one coach has had more success in the form of NHL championships than Trottier.

San Jose' assistant coach Larry Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings to his credit, six as a player for the Montreal Canadians, plus one as head coach and two as an assistant with the New Jersey Devils.

And it was Trottier on the bench as an assistant with Colorado that kept Robinson from winning his 10th championship when the Avs beat the Devils in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals.

The Colorado team that won it in 2001 was loaded with talent including five Hall of Famers--Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque (his only Stanley Cup,) Peter Forsberg and Rob Blake (both 2014 inductees.)

But that team also had some youngins who would go on to make an impact during their long careers.

Alex Tanguay was in his second season when the Avs won the Cup. He's played in 938 NHL games recording 733 points. He is signed with Colorado through the 2015-16 season.

Milan Hedjuk retired last season after playing his entire 14-year career in Colorado. He had 803 points in 1080 games.

Former Sabre Chris Drury was also in his third season with the Avalance in 2001. He retired in 2011 with 615 points in 893 games.

Trottier would refer to those three players as having "really raw skills, but [also being]wonderful students of the game that wanted to learn." It's something that the Sabres large group of young players should embrace.

In noting that the game changes and is constantly evolving, Trottier bases his coaching on an old-school, generation-spanning foundation. "There are just things that are tried and true and they always work and I believe in those things with all my heart. Things I believe that have been consistent throughout championship teams."

These "tried and true" championship philosophies will help lay a foundation for the young players moving forward.

It's a pretty simple message that Trottier is bringing.

"My message for the young guys coming into camp," he said, "is bring your best game. Bring your best game at the practice, at game time. We're going to build your confidence, a real consistency here [in Buffalo] so that when you step on the ice you're building good habits.

"There's a game with the puck and there's a game without the puck. Bring your best game. Bring your concentration. Work on your good habits so that come game time it's all automatic."

As an assistant coach on that stacked Colorado team, Trottier mostly worked on the power play, but, as Adrian Dater of the Denver Post aptly mentioned, "he didn't have to do a lot of coaching [to do] with the likes of Sakic, Forsberg and Blake.

But "when you could look over at a guy with six Cup rings," said Dater, "it just added a little more confidence to players. He mostly added a layer of calm to everyone."

That confidence and calm came during his playing days with the Islanders under the tutelage of his Hall of Fame coach, Al Arbour.

"We all respected him so much. He had a great command of the room," said Trottier. "He had won a lot of Stanley Cups as a player (4) with several different teams. He played with a lot of great players so he brought that credibility with him. For us to sit down with him one-on-one or when he was in front of us as a team, he had a great presence.

And because of that extensive championship background, in the heat of the moment Arbour "was always calm under pressure." It was something that was passed down to Trottier who passed it down to that 2001 Avs championship team.

Primarily, though, according to Trottier, Arbour was a great motivator, a trait that's supremely evident in Sabres' bench-boss Ted Nolan.

"He's an overachiever in how he works, how he expresses himself," said Trottier of Nolan, "and that rubs off on the players."

Trottier has known Nolan professionally for years dating back to when they were both with the Islanders organization--Nolan as the head coach and Trottier in player development.

"Teddy's just an open book. He tells you what he's thinking," said Trottier. "We had a couple of differences on a few players, and it was just awesome to have a real, genuine disagreement on certain talents. And it was really wonderful in that, although we didn't always agree, we got through the conversation and said, 'OK, see you next week.'

"From that you develop another level of respect."

The tandem of Nolan and Trottier atop the coaching ranks in Buffalo will be laying a foundation for the two or three young players per season GM Tim Murray looks to be adding during the "build-phase."

As an overachiever, Nolan has proven that he can get the most out of his players through the hustle and work-ethic he demands.

With Trottier on board as an assistant, these players can now see the rewards of those traits on a daily basis.

"It's something that will build and build and build," said Trottier of working with this team. "Good things will come from habit, good work and hustle. There's no substitute for those kinds of things. You can have all the talent in the world, but without that energy and hustle, and working hard for each other, the good things don't happen."

That was Trottier's game when he played and that's the message for the youngins moving forward.

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