- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - In his first season as Washington’s coach, Barry Trotz led the Capitals back to the playoffs and guided them within a win of their first conference finals in 17 years.

Trotz displayed that same motivational ability in a well-received speech on Tuesday at the National Press Club.

The coach described his path from undersized, undrafted 20-year-old defenseman hopeful in Washington’s training camp in 1982 to full-time coach back home in Manitoba just two years later to having won more games than all but three active NHL coaches.

Washington, which lost 2-1 in overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the New York Rangers, has since added likely top-six forwards Justin Williams and T. J. Oshie while losing two-time All-Star defenseman Mike Green and veteran wingers Troy Brouwer and Joel Ward.

“The reality of the salary cap era, you’re going to have to move some pieces,” Trotz said. “We might be a little bit lighter, but T.J. Oshie will put his nose in there, same with Justin Williams. Can you replace Mike Green? Probably not fully, but collectively we can shorten that gap.”

Trotz said that turning Alex Ovechkin into more of a two-way player wasn’t that difficult.

“I told Alex … when you have the puck, I want you to do what you do,” Trotz said. “When you don’t have the puck, I want you to do what I want you to do so we can get you the puck more. He bought in.”

Ovechkin was far from alone in doing so.

“They were talented, but they weren’t that tough to play against,” Trotz said about the team he inherited when he arrived last summer after 15 seasons in Nashville.

“You have 23 guys on the team, but you really coach seven or eight. You treat everybody with equal respect, give them a role and make them feel that they’re part of something bigger.”

Trotz said that Nicklas Backstrom might not be ready for the start of the season after undergoing hip surgery in May, but that the Caps will be fine at center until he returns.

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