There we were trudging into another Monday in the NHL playoffs without the Islanders participating when Lou Lamoriello dropped one of his bombs: Hall of Fame-bound coach Barry Trotz, who turned the team around and gave them identity and structure, was “relieved of his duties” as head coach.
We hadn’t heard much from Lamoriello since the end of the season, which could have been a clue, but that’s nothing new: Lamoriello never thinks we deserve to hear much. (That applies to his rationale for this change, too, but more on that later.)
Then again, maybe that’s why as a fanbase we shouldn’t have allowed ourselves to be blindsided by this: Lamoriello’s history as an NHL GM is filled with firing coaches, often at surprising times. If we were lulled into thinking he’d finally found a stable long-term relationship, one of Hall of Fame GM (albeit one who’s best years are in the past) and a coach who is third on the NHL all-time wins list, that’s on us.
The first coach to take the New Jersey Devils to the playoffs (knocking off the division-winning Islanders and taking the Devils a miracle conference final run) didn’t last two years afterward. The only coach to go past four seasons under Lou’s watch was Jacques Lemaire, who won their first Cup and seemed to mirror Lamoriello’s brain.
Other than Lemaire, who won the Cup in his second season (after falling in Game 7 of the conference final the year before), and Pete DeBoer, who lasted two playoff-less seasons after going to the Cup final, every coach who has taken a Lamorello team far has not lasted long afterward.
Barry Trotz, oddly, is just the latest.
I’m not being flippant when I say, as many but certainly not all believe, that Lamoriello just discarded the best thing he’s done as Isles GM. Maybe the culture thing will prove to be Lamoriello’s bigger lasting legacy — we’ll see. Everybody Lou has cast off seems to still revere him.
But in terms of the on-ice product, Lamoriello has doubled down on a roster that has annually lost more talent than it has gained on his watch, and pinned blame for their first playoff miss, during a COVID-butchered, injury-troubled and road-weary season, on the coach who got more than anyone expected out of those parts.
He may be right in the timing, anticipating after exit interviews that this team will need to rely more on its younger talent who’ve arguably plateaued under the Tao of Trotz. He may have aptly assessed that the Islanders already went as far as they can under the fan-beloved coach who truly understood and embraced “the Island” team identity.
The concern for Lou skeptics — and this goes back to his Toronto tenure and his final several years in Jersey — is that his roster construction and cap management has been puzzling. Is bringing a new coach to this same group going to make the critical difference?
Lou doesn’t say much of substance to the public and that’s always been his approach. This is probably the best we can get in terms of his rationale for firing Trotz:
“I think the record over these past four years speaks for itself as far as what Barry has done and we are very much appreciative to that I certainly am personally and professionally,” Lamoriello said. “These type of decisions are made for going forward, not for [looking] back, and I think that with this group we have - and they are on notice right now - that the new voice is what’s necessary for us to have success in, in my opinion.”
- Trotz fired. It was an absolute stunner. [LHH]
- The Tao of Trotz: Dan had been collecting the best and most inspiring Trotz lines over the years. Use these to get you through your toughest days. [LHH]
- Why, and where do they go from here? It’s very much unknown. The best current theory may be that Trotz’s ultra-structured approach is tough to play for 82 games per year. (Anonymous source around the league: “Is it fun to have your stick in a certain lane all the time? You don’t play with instinct. It adds up after a while.”) [Athletic]
- Lamoriello has put himself in the line of fire (maybe?) with this move. [Newsday]
- Lou has always had an itchy trigger finger. [Post]
- Examining the replacement candidates (as perceived by media, mostly established coaches who are out of contract): Few are inspiring and some are comical. [Athletic | Post | Newsday]
- Jeff Marek discusses the Trotz firing: with Elliotte Friedman, who said he heard some whispers a week ago but disregarded it ... | and with Kevin Kurtz at the 50-minute mark here, where the Athletic’s Isles beatwriter said he’s heard from at least some who were not surprised.
- And where will Trotz land next? Plenty of landing spots (including Philadelphia), but maybe the Jets will bring the Manitoba boy home. [Sportsnet]
Who knows, the change could work out or it could completely backfire. We won’t find out for a while, but what sucks is that someone Islander fans loved is now gone.— Michael Leboff (@TheBigLeebowski) May 9, 2022
In last night’s Game 4’s, the Penguins took the proverbial “commanding” lead, the Panthers evened their series with the Capitals, the Flames did the same with the Stars, and the Avalanche completed the sweep of the Predators.
- Wow did the Rangers suck in Game 4, getting torched and playing “soft all over the ice” as Pittsburgh took a 3-1 series lead. [Athletic]
- Gerard Gallant pulled Igor Shesterkin after a nightmare second period, but immediately said he’s their guy for Game 5. [NHL]
- Carter Verhaeghe, one of those guys who puzzlingly slipped through the Islanders’ fingers, scored his second goal of the game to give the Panthers the overtime win. [NHL]
- Some ominous news for those who have enjoyed the relative serenity of NHL broadcasts over the last year: Longtime broadcaster, one-time Whalers coach and one-time Scotty Bowman assistant (has he not mentioned that before?) Pierre McGuire is out after one year in Ottawa. [Silver Seven | TSN]
- The results of the NHL Draft Lottery will be televised at 6:30 tonight. As a reminder, the Isles have very slim odds and can’t move up to 1st overall even if they “win” the lottery. [NHL]
- The Devils are open to trading their first-round pick, are expected to retain Lindy Ruff as coach, and are determined not to have to use seven goalies again next season. [NHL]
- Cale Makar, Roman Jose and Victor Hedman are your Norris Trophy finalists. [NHL]