ELMONT, N.Y. — Eyebrows were raised when the New York Islanders decided on a coaching change after last season.
Out went the largely successful Barry Trotz, who was replaced by assistant Lane Lambert.
The move came after the Islanders failed to qualify for the playoffs last season, despite advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020 and 2021 - where they lost both times to the eventual champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Islanders are on the outside looking in on the NHL playoff picture after losing 10 of their past 12. They’re also averaging only 2 goals per game over that stretch.
Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators, general manager Lou Lamoriello put himself on the hot seat, removing the focus from the coaching staff.
“There’s no excuses because that’s on me, totally on me,” Lamoriello told reporters. “That’s my responsibility to make us the best we possibly can, to make whatever changes we can. It’s not on the coaching staff. That’s not on players, and I take that responsibility. And it’s making it happen.”
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Boosting the offense would certainly appear to be a priority for Lamoriello prior to the trade deadline, specifically finding help for star center Mat Barzal, who’s mired in a scoring rut with 1 assist since missing a game on game Jan. 6 with a lower-body injury.
Locked on Islanders host Gil Martin says the return of puck moving defenseman Adam Pelech should help, but “fingers crossed, hopefully the Islanders do something to make this team better.”
Lamoriello did say ““I think if we can make ourselves better, whether it been yesterday or the day before or today or tomorrow, we will definitely do that. What the price you have to add – you have to make sure that whatever you add is not subtracting.”
He also reiterated the team’s struggles are not about coaching, saying “Our coaching staff has done as good a job as you could possibly ask. I have no reservations there whatsoever.”
Lamoriello, though, knows he can only do so much, and there may not be a quick fix on Long Island.
“Unless you’re in that seat and have the knowledge of what can or can’t be done and why and why not, you can be a Monday morning quarterback at any time, and I think that’s what fans love. Social media has helped that a lot so that you can express what your thoughts are. And I’m sure there’s a lot of general managers out there, and a lot of writers out there, and I respect that, and I welcome that.”
Martin points out Lamoriello didn’t do much heavy lifting when it came to improving the team over the summer, and time is running out to salvage this season with the trade deadline less than 6 weeks away.