After the surprising news this morning that the New York Islanders had decided to part ways with legendary Head Coach Barry Trotz, speculation began circulating of why the Islanders and GM Lou Lamoriello arrived at such a decision, and what could be next for both the team and the coach. The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz had an opportunity to listen in on a conference call with Lamoriello to gain some clarity on the situation, providing insight on what Lamoriello had to say.
In sum, Lamoriello, who famously has held his cards close, noted that this decision was his alone, it did not have anything to do with the fact that Trotz has just one year at $4MM left on his contract with the Islanders, and that the team’s performance this year was not the only factor in his decision. It’s no secret that the Islanders disappointed this season, finishing at 37-35-10, good enough for fifth place in the Metropolitan Division after three straight playoff appearances, including two consecutive trips to the conference finals in each of the last two seasons.
When asked for a reason why he made this decision, Lamoriello did not offer much, simply sharing that the team needed a new voice. Speculation did grow as to what he could have meant with that statement. On the 32 Thoughts Podcast, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman opined that perhaps during his exit interviews, Lamoriello had heard enough of the players say that they needed a new voice, which ultimately could have convinced the veteran executive that a change needed to be made. Trotz has long been known to employ a strict system for his teams, one which could have worn on the team both mentally and physically. As Trotz himself wondered after this season, perhaps there were things he could have done better, such as utilizing a January stretch of 13 days where the team played just one game for rest, not practice, and considering that this style maybe held up better in shorter spurts, like the playoffs or the COVID-shortened 56-game season.
Naturally, speculation about who could replace Trotz behind the bench on Long Island has persisted throughout the day. One seemingly obvious candidate would be current Associate Coach Lane Lambert, who is still under contract with the Islanders. Lambert has been rumored to be a candidate for a head coaching job for some years, but has remained with Trotz on the bench as far back as their time with the Nashville Predators. As Kurz mentions in another piece, if the organization does truly want a new voice, then promoting the long-time Trotz assistant might not be the move to make.
As for Trotz, who ranks third all-time in wins among NHL coaches, Friedman believes he will have no shortage of suitors for his services, including teams currently without a head coach, and perhaps even some who do have one, at least for the time being. One team without a coach, who Friedman speculates as a fit, is the Winnipeg Jets. Friedman cites Trotz’s Manitoba roots as a reason he could be convinced to take the job with Winnipeg, though interest on either end of course is unknown.
With the news not even a day old yet, how the situation plays out for both the Islanders and Trotz is yet to be decided, and though Lamoriello did not share much, there was enough to speculate on one of the game’s great coaches and one of the league’s more intriguing head coaching positions. As Lamoriello told the media, including Kurz, he does not have a timetable for finding a new head coach, and at least for now, the rest of the Islanders coaching staff does remain intact.