Calgary, Alberta — Lou Lamoriello wasn’t exactly defiant, but on the afternoon of Aug. 22 it was at least clear that he felt the narrative surrounding his team’s squad had missed the mark.
During a press conference to announce the contracts of Noah Dobson and Kiefer Bellows, as well as the introduction of Alexander Romanov, Lamoriello spent most of his time arguing that there were no moves to move up the roster over the summer.
“I feel good about this hockey team,” he said.
“Sometimes some of the best transactions you can make are the ones you don’t,” he added a few minutes later.
And in his final remarks of the day: “We would have made drastic changes last year if we didn’t feel good about the group we have and what we can do. I say that with comfort. I say that with confidence. I’m looking forward to getting back at it and maybe proving everyone wrong.”
After the Islanders finished the first half of the season with a disastrous 1-3-0 road trip through the Pacific Division, it became very difficult to see them prove Lamoriello right. They’re still in the game venue through Saturday morning and may make it into the postseason. But a wild card berth and a first round loss from the positive role will only serve to show how far this group has fallen in just two seasons.
Lamoriello’s striker group failed to promote in a meaningful way over the summer and is still plagued by the same problems as last season, even with Mathieu Barzal taking a big step forward and Brock Nelson continues to produce at a high level. Insufficient skill. Not scoring enough.
This became particularly evident in Friday’s 4-1 loss to the Flameswhen the islanders spent a full 60 minutes searching for answers afterwards Barzal became a late scratch. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s hard to see how they’ll survive if Barzal’s lower-body injury keeps him out for any serious amount of time – which is how important he is to the Islanders offense.
When the Islanders can get their pucks deep, check the stakes and play within coach Len Lambert’s system, it works. But producing the offense through hacks and controlled entries has been an issue all year, and lies at the heart of their power play struggles. Want to know why they’ve scored twice in their last 36 power plays? Because the islanders are at their best when they’re trying to get the disc back — not when they actually have it.
Asked about this split yet Disaster Thursday 4-2 in EdmontonIn short, Lambert said, his team didn’t fare enough against the Oilers, which in itself is an admission of one-dimensionality.
He said, “Turn the disc, then they will come back to you.” “You also have to manage the game well and be smart about who you play with. I thought we didn’t get it [the puck] In areas [Friday]. The goalkeeper plays the ball well. Early on, they broke the disc very easily.”
One night later, it was the same problem in Calgary, and the Islanders walked away and lost sight of it. It’s true that injuries—particularly that of Adam Bellick—contributed to the problems, but every team has injuries, and the Islanders were one of the luckiest groups in the league in that category.
More than anything else, the injuries revealed a lack of organizational depth. Signing Hudson Fasching over the summer seems smart on the part of Lamoriello, but that’s about it.
Neither Josh Bailey nor Anthony Beauvilliers have advanced the way the Islanders need them to, and the two combined for $9.15 million on the salary cap. Identity line members won’t make up for a lack of scoring, and Cal Clutterbuck has struggled to stay healthy.
Ross Johnston, meanwhile, only played as a last resort a year after he signed a four-year, $4.4 million extension. Bellows hit the waiver after playing one game. Aato Rati may eventually be a player in this league, but he still commands the staff’s trust, and if Barzal misses a few more games, the Islanders could end up using a year of his entry-level deal to put on a squad. – Help on the wound.
If they can’t get some wins together at home over the next two weeks, when six of their next seven matches are at UBS Arena, it will be a complete disaster. Who knows what Lamoriello will do next.
Remember, though, this season is not a referendum on a first-year head coach. Reflects directly on the general manager.