When Lou Lamoriello cleaned house this week, firing Islanders GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight, it became very clear that the legendary executive was in total control in New York and has a plan to turn the franchise around. That plan now includes hiring a new head coach, which is admittedly more difficult to do at this point in the off-season, but there will still be plenty of willing applicants for the job. However, Lamoriello will turn 76 this year and this is almost surely his last hurrah as the architect of a franchise. As such, the candidates for the Isles’ head coaching vacancy will be limited. Lamoriello seems unlikely to hire a first-time head coach or a more out-of-the-box option. He is likely looking at experienced, veteran coaches and those that the knows and trusts. Here are some of the names who could be considered as the the next head coach of the Islanders:
Barry Trotz: It has already been revealed that the Isles have interest in Trotz if he becomes a free agent after the Stanley Cup Final. The veteran coach does not have a contract in place with the Washington Capitals for next season and could decide to move on, either for more money or a new challenge after potentially winning the Cup. It seems more likely that Trotz returns to the Caps, but Lamoriello would work quickly to lock him up if he chooses otherwise.
Alain Vigneault: Could Vigneault remain in New York after all? The former New York Rangers coach has extensive NHL experience and an all-around good track record of winning with several franchises. He would be a safe pick for Lamoriello as a wise and innovative mind behind the bench. The only knock on Vigneault, like many older coaches, is that he has the reputation of struggling with younger players. There are certainly some promising young athletes on the Islanders’ roster, but one would think that Lamoriello is leaning toward taking the team in a more veteran-centric route anyway.
Brent Sutter: A hiring that would go a long way with lifelong Islanders fans, the former New York captain brings nearly 20 years of NHL playing experience and another five seasons as an NHL head coach to the table. Sutter hasn’t been a coach in the NHL since his time with the Calgary Flames from 2009 to 2012, but in the meantime has been the coach and GM of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels. An experienced hockey mind in many ways, Sutter is more than qualified for the job. Add in that Sutter’s most successful seasons as an NHL head coach were with Lamoriello’s Devils and he may in fact be a top candidate. He could even boost his value further if he can bring in brother Darryl Sutter as an assistant.
Sheldon Keefe: Keefe’s name has been a popular one on the coaching market for more than a year now. The head coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, Keefe is currently competing for a Calder Cup to add to an already impressive minor league resume. Although the 37-year-old lacks NHL coaching experience, he knows Lamoriello through the Maple Leafs and perhaps no one has a better idea of his coaching ability than the former Toronto GM.
Jay Pandolfo: A Boston Bruins assistant and a long-time Devil during Lamoriello’s reign in New Jersey, Pandolfo is well-regarded among coaches and players. Recently a finalist for one of the biggest jobs in college hockey at Boston University, Pandolfo is searching for more responsibility, as he did as a player and locker room leader with the Devils. Lamoriello may be the man to give it to him. If Pandolfo can convince Anton Khudobin, one of the top goalies in a weak market, to follow him, that only helps his case.
John Madden: The current coach of the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters and a former assistant with the Florida Panthers, Madden was also once a two-way star with Lamoriello’s Devils as well and has an innate understanding of balanced play. Madden hasn’t had noteworthy success as a coach just yet, but seems destined to be a successful NHL coach someday. It would be easy to see Lamoriello trying to get to Madden before his stock rises.
Scott Stevens: It’s unknown if Stevens is open to returning to coaching after resigning from his role as an assistant with the Minnesota Wild in 2017 to take a TV job and spend more time with his family. If he is, Lamoriello could certainly kick the tires on his former star defenseman in New Jersey. Stevens served as an assistant with the Devils for three years prior to moving on to Minnesota and brings a greater understanding of the defensive aspects of the game than perhaps anyone else on this list.
So, who will Lamoriello choose to lead the Islanders into a brighter future?