I confess: I did not catch most of last night’s mess. I went out for my girlfriend’s birthday. That was the right decision for me.
That said, I don’t think I needed to watch last night to know this because I’ve seen it at least a dozen times this year: The right decision for the New York Islanders, very clearly now, is to relieve Lane Lambert of his duties. The season is slipping away. If nothing else, they need to send a shockwave through that dressing room.
Look, I don’t think he’s a bad guy. The players say they love him. They’ve reiterated it every time the fans have called for his job and every time the media hints a change is needed. But if they love him that much, they show it in a funny way because they don’t always play like it.
On the other hand, I think a big part of it is they don’t know what to do in many situations because Lambert has given them no real structure to fall back on. Good teams win games they’re not supposed to; this team loses almost all those games and some of the games they are supposed to win. Frankly, they were fortunate to get a point last night against what was basically an AHL lineup wearing Chicago Blackhawks jerseys. Final game of a road trip and all that, but that needed to be two points, and it really should’ve been a convincing two points. That they came out as flat as they did before Brock Nelson scored—which is what I did see of the game—made me feel like they stopped playing for their coach. That’s usually the kiss of death.
It’s almost 2:00 p.m. on the only day off between last night’s debacle and tomorrow’s impending debacle. It probably would’ve happened by now if it was going to happen today. This is the day to do it.
Maybe Lou is giving Lane the four games before the All-Star break, although I’d think the last season and a half taught us more than these next four games will. Maybe ownership told Lou to figure it out with Lane because they don’t want to pay two coaches again, or because they have reservations about keeping Lou beyond this season with the way things are going. It just confounds me that Lou Lamoriello, the architect of the Dead Puck Era, would watch this team play sometimes with no drive and usually with no defensive structure and think it’s okay. To wit (and this went out before last night’s game):
- The players are shouldering the blame for this extended skid, and they’re right to do so. They need to be better. They don’t want to blame the coach at all. [NY Post]
- Mathew Barzal was disappointed he didn’t get to line up against Connor Bedard, who is still dealing with a fractured jaw. [NHL]
- Kyle MacLean made his NHL debut in the Casey Cizikas spot. It was a special night for him with his dad behind the bench. [Newsday] He spoke with THN about his development and playing in Bridgeport. [THN]
- One of the more consistent Islanders, Nelson’s goal in the first period was his 20th of the season, marking the eighth season of his career he’s hit the mark. [THN]
- Good news because Ilya Sorokin needs the break: Semyon Varlamov has resumed skating every day, so he’s getting closer. [THN]
Last night’s other NHL scores include the Hurricanes handing the Red Wings their first regulation loss of 2024 but the Devils getting a regulation win over the Blue Jackets.
- Shane Pinto signed a league-minimum deal for the rest of this season and can return Sunday after his 41-game suspension. League minimum? Quite the gamble, Shane. [NHL]
- The Vancouver Canucks gave President Jim Rutherford a three-year extension. And why not—look at the success they’ve had in this, only his second season at the helm. [NHL]
- Logan Couture will make his season debut for the San Jose Sharks tonight. [NHL]
- Neanderthal and Arizona Coyotes player Liam O’Brien got fined the maximum amount for roughing the Canucks’ Sam Lafferty. [NHL]
- Auston Matthews is pacing 70 goals, which is pretty wild. [TSN]
- Justin Bourne went around the league and analyzed the five hottest coaching seats. Good article especially on the Isles’ part: Scoring declines with age, but defense generally does not fall off nearly as quickly, according to his research. That suggests to him a structural problem—which is what we all clearly see when we watch, but it’s interesting to see it somewhat backed up. [Sportsnet]