(Ed. note: The following is a FanPost by Lighthouse Hockey community member BA_27. Thank you for the report.)
Today, Lou Lamoriello held a conference call with season ticket holders. I was privileged enough to listen in on this conference call, so I believe it is the right thing to do to share the contents of the call with all Islanders fans, since we are all dedicated to this team, regardless of the way we purchase our tickets.
The call was supposed to last 30 minutes, but it only lasted 12 minutes. Chris King served as the moderator and asked Lou a set of questions that had been hand-picked earlier. Before he started asking Lou these questions, King said that the roster has a "good mix of youth and veterans." I'm not sure how I feel about that, but that's his opinion. Below are the questions posed and the answers that Lou provided, and my own personal insight as to what the key takeaways are.
Note: Quotations are only used for questions and when I am certain that I am quoting Lou correctly. Otherwise, I paraphrased what he said, because I took notes on what he was saying the entire time.
Q: "What has been the biggest surprise to you organizationally [when you came here]?"
A: Lou didn't know if he had encountered any big surprises because he had done his research beforehand. He said, "the quality of the people on and off the ice is exceptional," and that the facilities (e.g. the practice facility) built in the past few years are among the best, if not the best, in the league. Lou closed that question off with saying, "More importantly, the passion of the fans [he] has met" is incredible.
My Insight: This answer basically repeated the party line that the Islanders management and staff have adopted.
Q: "What value does the organization place on analytics?"
A: Lou said that analytics have always been around in the game, but that technology has allowed teams to "immediately get statistics and data that is real." He said it is "very important" to the organization, but "not something you can completely rely on: it is another tool." Lou wrapped up by saying that the Isles "will continue to expand on" usage of analytics as the technology develops.
My Insight: I don't think Lou's answer needs clarification. It was interesting to hear his thoughts on "statistics," which Lou specified was his term for analytics, though.
Q: "What is the strategy for acquiring high-end talent?"
A: Lou said that he wants to do it "as quick as we can without mortgaging the future," and that while trades might seem like a good idea initially, they can sometimes backfire. Lou will make trades as long as it is "not at the expense of building a foundation" that will last for "8-10 years."
My Insight: I thought it was interesting that Lou gave a time estimate for how long he wants the core/foundation to last. The team is spread out in terms of age-range, which is not ideal, so I wonder if Nick Leddy is part of this 8-10 year core, since he is 27 years old.
Q: "What type of team are you trying to build for the new NHL?"
A: "Fast, has talent, and at the same time is very difficult to play against." Lou also said that he does not know what the Isles will be like this year. How long it will take for the Isles to get there will be "based on how the players adjust and trades made without mortgaging the future."
My Insight: I thought it was significant that Lou admitted he doesn't know what the Isles will look like this year, and I don't think that is a good omen in terms of on-ice success for the 2018-19 season. I think we'll miss the playoffs for sure, and where we finish will depend on how the goalies perform, and how much offense can be generated with Brock Nelson as the second line center and two fourth lines serving as the third and fourth lines (unless they decide to bring up Kieffer Bellows sometime during the season).
Q: "What is the on-ice identity of the Isles?"
A: "There has not been enough time with this group of players" to answer this question just yet. Lou closed by saying, "We know what we want [the Isles] to be like, and we want other teams to come in here and say, 'That's a tough team to play against.'"
My Insight: I was puzzled because I feel like they do have an identity: A hardworking team that has a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. This is pure instinct, but I think that Lou has had enough conversations with core players to have a vague idea of the team identity, if there is one, and that he copped out of answering the question. That is a bit concerning: if the Isles don't have an identity, they should figure it out within the next month or two, because identity is everything. Remember when Pittsburgh didn't have an identity for the first half of the 2015-16 season, which coincided with poor play on the ice, and that when Mike Sullivan came in mid-year and established an identity, they won a Stanley Cup a few months later, as well as the following year? The Isles do not have enough talent to pull off such a quick turnaround to make the playoffs, let alone win a Stanley Cup (obviously, I don't think we'll win the Cup this year).
Q: "What is the plan for the goalie position: rotate and play the hot hand or have an established number one goalie and backup?"
A: Lou said that was a "very good question," but that "only time will tell. We have two very capable goaltenders, and they will answer [the question] based on their play."
My Insight: I agree with Lou in that they should decide how much the goalies will play based on their performance. I don't have a lot of faith in Thomas Greiss being a "very capable" goalie, though.
Q: "What are the expectations for Josh Ho-Sang and Kieffer Bellows?"
A: Lou said, "They are two talented players who need to grow their game in different areas. They played extremely well in training camp, but they need to play a lot of minutes and in different situations, [and] gain strength and confidence in the American League [AHL]. Like I said before, they will answer the question based on their play."
My Insight: I know that Ho-Sang did not have an outstanding training camp, needs to work on his defensive play, and that the personal day he took was the final nail in the coffin (he just can't get out of his own way), but Bellows deserved to be on this roster, 100%. I saw him play in person at the Coliseum on the 16th, and I watched the other games on television, and I was so impressed by his poise and skill level. Bellows is NHL ready; I'm not sure where he needs to work on his game, because I didn't notice any particularly glaring defensive issues. I expected him to make the roster along with Devon Toews, and the fact that Bellows is starting in Bridgeport instantly makes this team less competitive. Instead, we still have Stephen Gionta (a former Devil, I might add) on the roster. No offense to Gionta, but he is not an NHL player. To sum up: I (begrudgingly) understand about Ho-Sang, but I am calling bulls**t on Lou's comments about Bellows.
Q: "What does a successful 2018-19 season look like in your eyes?"
A: Lou said he couldn't answer that question very well, but that "we will do everything we can to maximize the talent we have, put them in situations to succeed . . . and their talents will determine how [the team] do[es]."
My Insight: This was an extremely vague answer, so all that I have to say is I hope he keeps his promise and puts our players in the best possible situations.
Q: "Will there be a captain or alternate captains this season?"
A: "That is not a priority." He continued, saying that the Isles "do have some core players who are vets, and [the team] has many leaders, so that is the least of our concerns. Who wears a C or an A will be determined later on."
My Insight: I'm not surprised. Toronto went without a captain ever since Dion Phaneuf was traded in early 2016, and they did well without one; I'm confident that we don't need one, either.
Q: "What should we expect of the team on the ice?"
A: "A hardworking team [that is] committed to each other, not letting each other down," and "play a brand of hockey that's exciting, fast and entertaining as we can." Lou clarified the "entertaining" statement, saying, "I don't mean show business, I [mean] competitive and sticking up for each other."
My Insight: I hope "not letting each other down" includes the defensemen not leaving the goaltenders out to dry.
Q: "What is the role of the fans?"
A: "Fans are so important. Players feed off of the excitement in the building, and they need the support and trust, and they need you behind them." Lou noted that this was "important in both New Jersey and Toronto," and that fan attendance "drives the engine in terms of people wanting to play here and have success here."
My Insight: I wrote a fan post on this site in the wake of the Tavares departure echoing that same sentiment, but personally, I don't want to be told by Lou that I have to support my team. I will always support the team, come hell or high water.
Overall, Lou was characteristically vague in his answers, and a lot of them were repetitive, but there were a few pieces of information gained that are important.