"This group of players needs a new voice:" Lou Lamoriello fires Islanders coach Barry Trotz
Lou Lamoriello stunned the NHL on Monday morning when he announced the dismissal of head coach Barry Trotz. The team failed to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time under the Stanley Cup-winning head coach since he was hired ahead of the 2018-2019 season and the 79-year-old hall-of-fame executive decided he had seen enough.
"This would be a tremendous understatement to say that it was an easy decision to make, but unfortunately it's my role to make the best decision for the organization going forward," Lamoriello said on a conference call shortly after announcing the decision. "Unfortunately, I think this group of players needs a new voice."
Lamoriello was hired right before Trotz, going to the Island after a stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs, taking over for former Isles player-turned-GM Garth Snow. Lamoriello hired Trotz shortly after the coach guided the Washington Capitals to the 2018 Stanley Cup championship. A contract dispute with Washington led to Trotz becoming a free agent and he quickly replaced former Islanders coach and former Islanders player Doug Weight behind the bench in Uniondale.
Trotz had immediate success with a team that had won only a single playoff round in the salary cap era.
Lamoriello declined to elaborate on his decision-making. Firing coaches on a whim was common for Lamoriello when he was the president and general manager of the New Jersey Devils, though he hasn't shown the same proclivity in recent years with the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Islanders.
"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," he said.
Under Trotz in 2018-19, the team went 48-26-8 and finished second in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs but were then swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round.
However, the season was still good enough to win Trotz a Jack Adams Award.
The following season, the Islanders tore through the bubble nearly toppling the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. The Isles once again made it to the brink of the Cup Final last season, falling in Game 7 to the Lightning for the second year in a row.
Trotz ends his term on Long Island with a 152-102-44 record and helped Lamoriello win back-to-back Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Awards in 2020 and 2021. It marked the first time an executive has won the award twice.
"This in no way is anything negative on Barry Trotz," Lamoriello said. "As each and every one of you knows, especially if you've ever met him, he's a tremendous human being."
The 2021-22 season was largely impacted by COVID-19. The opening of the Islanders' long-awaited new building in Elmont was delayed due to COVID-19 construction issues and the team played its first 13 games on the road. When it finally returned to open UBS Arena, a COVID outbreak spread through the locker room forcing the team to shut down activities and several games were postponed. It would be months before the team caught up to the rest of the league in games played and by then the injuries hit as well.
Trotz brought defensive structure to a team that was lacking structure in all facets, but this past season in particular the offense plummeted. The Isles' 2.79 goals per game ranked them in the bottom half and only Brock Nelson and Anders Lee scored 20 or more goals. It's worth noting this was also the fourth-oldest team in the league.
The Islanders lost 11 in a row from Nov. 7-Dec. 5 going 0-8-3 in that span. Though they finished the second half much better and opted against trading any big players at the deadline, they were out of the race in November.
Lamoriello cited offense as a reason for needing a new coach, however, he did say that the decision was not based solely on this season, which seems strange considering the success Trotz had on Long Island.
"This decision is on the knowledge that I have, of the experiences I've had, and going forward what I think and feel is best for this group to have success," he said.
Lambert has garnered some head coaching interest over the last few years. However, Lamoriello said any new coach will ultimately be able to make his own personnel decisions.