Lou Lamoriello, Islanders turn back on Barry Trotz, fire coach after 4 seasons
The man who turned the New York Islanders into overachievers is out.
In a shocking decision Monday morning, Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello fired head coach Barry Trotz after four seasons, saying he felt the team needed a "new voice."
"I’d rather not get into any of the reasons because that’s my job upon the information that I have and I experienced to make these type of decisions,” Lamoriello said on a conference call. “Those are not questions that I will answer as far as what I thought. It’s obviously that I thought quite a bit to make this type of a decision."
Trotz led the Islanders to three postseason appearances, which included two trips to the conference final and five total playoff series victories.
Lamoriello tabbed Trotz with his first move after exiting the Toronto Maple Leafs front office. The Islanders had missed the playoffs in the two seasons preceding the arrivals of Lamoriello and Trotz.
There were expectations of the team this season, of course, which the Islanders failed to meet, missing the playoffs for the first time under Trotz's watch.
Where Trotz lands in terms of culpability for this season, however, is up for debate. The Islanders endured some extenuating circumstances this season, beginning on a 13-game road trip while the team was waiting for its new arena to be finished. There were also complications related to COVID-19, though this wasn't an issue unique to the Islanders.
There is an argument that the most significant challenges facing the franchise, however, and those most threatening the prospects of the team's success, are the ones brought on by hockey operations.
Despite being lauded for his work, at least by his peers, Lamoriello has in many ways backed himself into a corner from a salary cap and team-building standpoint. The Islanders have virtually no financial flexibility with the team's core, and nearly half the roster, locked into long-term contracts at full value price tags.
“These type of decisions are made for going forward,” Lamoriello said. “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 my opinion. And unfortunately or fortunately, my opinion is what has to make these decisions.”
In his four seasons, Lamoriello has doubled down on questionable acquisitions, traded legitimate star talent out of town when the money dried up, and awarded long-time employees money they wouldn't dream of receiving elsewhere. The Islanders still have the most expensive fourth line in hockey.
In other words, much of the Islanders' issues stem from management, not the coaching staff which has managed to derive success in spite of the record of questionable roster decisions.
Even despite the poor record this season, Trotz deserves some credit for his work.
New York had the fourth-worst record when the NHL had its extended holiday break after the team endured five-and-a-half weeks on the road to start the season and COVID-19 tore through the room. The Islanders accumulated points in the top half of the league despite being out of the race from that point on, ending the season on a 29-17-6 run.
This is the second time that a Trotz coaching tenure has ended puzzlingly.
Trotz did not have his contract renewed by the Washington Capitals after the franchise won its first-ever Stanley Cup under his watch in 2018. It was reported that Trotz would be fired at the end of that postseason run, and while the championship seemed to repair the relationship to a certain degree, the Capitals weren't willing to pay him like a Stanley Cup champion head coach.
A free agent of sorts after failing to secure a raise from the Capitals, Trotz accepted a big-money contract from Lamoriello that summer, and managed to deliver value on it in four seasons.
Trotz will coach in the NHL next season if he wishes to.
The Seattle Kraken would be wise to have Trotz settle their program after a difficult inaugural season, while the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings could do far worse with their ongoing coaching searches.
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