The New York Islanders held a telephone conference call for media with new president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello on Tuesday afternoon. Lamoriello dialed in and took questions, giving answers you’d mostly expect about what’s next for him in the role.
He’s going to evaluate things and knows it’s a short time frame with the draft a month away and free agency soon to follow, but he wasn’t tipping his hand and said he’d be speaking with everyone. He did shed a little light on the timeline of the Islanders ownership contacting Leafs ownership to get permission to invite him over.
A few highlights:
Veteran Stan Fischler of MSG got the first question: What are the primary reasons you accepted the job?
“First of all, I was impressed with the conversation I had with Scott Malkin, his vision, his commitment and his support for the Islanders ... I also look at it as a challenge to bring the Islanders back to where they were.”
When asked more about “where they were” and Islanders history, Lamoriello harkened back to his “good friend” Bill Torrey, who died this year, and many positive things associated with the dynasty of the ‘80s. Join the club, Lou.
The million-dollar question on everyone’s mind, regarding GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight: Will management and coaches will stay in place? Lamoriello was asked this a few times, in different ways. The answer is always as expected: He’ll evaluate it all and decide from there:
“Right now I have no pre-conceived notions,” he said, multiple times. In a situation like this, “You take a step back, talk to the people in place and their vision and ideas, and then make decisions as we go along.”
No but really, does he expect to make staffing changes?
“I don’t know the ins and outs of the organization yet ... Once I find out more information, then I’ll be able to better answer your question.”
As he was probed again on this topic, and about how he begins, he was philosophical and unspecific:
“Whenever there’s a change, usually a couple of people get better and a couple of people get worse. You always hope the more talented ones get better.”
He spoke of needing to evaluate in “quite frankly a short period of time” but “without rushing.” Of course Lou is known for the classic line, “There is no time frame for anything. When you have time, you use it.”
The bottom line is he knows how he’ll approach things and when he’ll make decisions, and you will find out only when he’s ready.
What about Tavares?
Asked about pending free agent and captain John Tavares, and reports Lamoriello met with him, and his chances of re-signing him, Lamoriello’s response was true to form (and Snow-esque):
“Please don’t take this as a denial or a confirmation, and just know that anything on conversations with players, coaches, [etc.], I’m never going to comment on that.”
One thing that absolutely will not change with Lamoriello in charge: You’re still not going to get anything on record about such Islanders contract, hiring, firing discussions until after the fact.
Which is frankly the professional, buttoned-up way to handle things; it just makes it less entertaining for the rest of us when you know your head of hockey ops will never go Lombardi on a topic.
How did he get here?
One interesting aside was on how this all came about.
Lamoriello said he understood that Islanders owner Scott Malkin spoke with Leafs/MLSE chairman for Larry Tanenbaum for permission during the Leafs playoff run; Lamoriello was approached again by Tanenbaum right after the Leafs were eliminated. At the time, it was “too soon” after the defeat.
But once things settled, the parts began to move, proper conversations occurred, and thus we had this month’s steady momentum of speculation that what was announced today was going to happen.
So that may shed some light to the timeline conditions the Islanders ownership has operated under.
Anyway, now the fun begins. As when he joined the Leafs, here Lamoriello clearly sees the opportunity to return the Islanders to long-lost greatness. Can he do it, and is he up with the modern game enough to pull it off? Thousands upon thousands of words shall be said — but few by him — as we begin to learn the answers.