It had been exactly a week since New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello relieved head coach Barry Trotz of his duties after missing the postseason by 16 points. And while coaching options were thrown around like a baseball around a diamond, Lamoriello’s eyes were on someone already under contract.
And that was associate coach Lane Lambert.
When the firing of Barry Trotz occurred, my mindset was that you do not fire a future Hall of Fame head coach without having a plan in place. Given the move Monday, the plan was definitely in place or at least a vision, and now Lane Lambert gets his first head coaching gig in the National Hockey League.
“Once the decision was made to make a coaching change, then the total focus was on who would be the best individual to lead this team to where I thought we can get and should get, and certainly no one had any knowledge of a change being made,” Lamoriello said. “And Lane, without question, was on top of that list from my experiences with him over the past four years, and in particular, not only working with him as an assistant coach but working with him for over two weeks when he was the head coach.”
Lambert has been on the bench with Barry Trotz since 2011, as he was promoted to assistant coach with the Nashville Predators after five seasons as the head coach for their AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals.
Lambert followed Trotz to Washington D.C. in 2014 and then to Long Island in the summer of 2018 after winning the Stanley Cup.
“You know, it’s a good day,” Lambert said as he addressed the media on Monday. “Something that you know, I have been preparing for, for a long time throughout many years in the game and many years as a coach, and so there’s there’s a level of excitement for sure, from a family standpoint and everything like that.”
Lambert has always wanted to be a head coach in the NHL, but it was not something he had been thinking about.
“I mean, I just focus on doing the best job I can no matter what my role is or my position is, and you work hard, and good things happen, and it’s a privilege to be in the National Hockey League,” Lambert said. “And, you know, I just worked hard and prepared for potentially one day having this opportunity.”
The Islanders system is built for Barry Trotz, and even with his exit, this team still needs to play that defensive style, given the roster. Lane Lambert knows the system to a tee and now has the opportunity to make it his own.
But those changes will be evaluated in the near future, not right now.
“I think as you go along here through the summer… we sit down, we reevaluate where we are, what our, you know, what our personnel looks like going forward, and you know, we make whatever necessary adjustments we need to make from there,” Lambert said.
“But the one thing that will never change is that, you know, our identity is that we want to be hard to play against, and that’s just who we are and that that will never change from our standpoint.”
When Barry Trotz was fired, Lou Lamoriello said that the New York Islanders needed a new voice.
“I’d like to thank Barry for everything he’s done for the organization over the last four years, Lou Lamoriello said. “It would be a tremendous understatement to say that this was not a difficult decision to make. It is my role to make the best decisions for the organization going forward, and I believe that this group of players needs a new voice.”
Lambert’s voice will be a familiar one in the Islanders locker room and behind the bench but now becomes the focal voice.
It was asked a few times during Monday’s media availability and what he meant by the “new voice” phrase he used a week ago after relieving Trotz of his duties.
“Well, first of all, when you say a new voice, there’s a tremendous difference between an assistant coach and a head coach. It’s bigger than I think anyone can sometimes understand. And that new voice is here with Lane, and certainly, Lane has different thoughts on different things everybody does,” Lamoriello said. “And you learn when you’re an assistant coach, sometimes more of what you wouldn’t do, and sometimes what you would do and vice versa. So there is without question, a new voice.”
“Maybe it wasn’t the right phrase that I should have used, but it is a new voice in the position that Lane is now in, and I would say a big new voice in that because we’re talking about two totally different personalities with reference to Barry and Lane.”
With that new voice comes great responsibility.
During this past season, Lane Lambert took over as the interim head coach when Barry Trotz had to deal with a personal matter and also when Trotz landed in COVID-19 protocol.
The way Lambert handled himself as the head coach during that time was something general manager Lou Lamoriello kept in the back of his mind.
“Working with him for over two weeks when he was the head coach and as I would work with the head coach as the position I have was something that kept behind my mind,” Lamoriello said. “And the way Lane operated, the different things that he did during that period of time, and I prefaced when he became that interim coach because of some extenuating circumstances and family issues with Barry to coach as if he was coaching from day one of the season and not just try and do the same things that were done prior to him.
“And I was extremely impressed with the way he handled each and every situation.”