It took one season, one hectic season, for New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello to part ways with his head coach Barry Trotz, stating to the media that the team needed a “new voice”. He also made a statement about the players on the roster.
“With this group we have, and they’re on notice right now, that new voice is necessary to have success,” Lamoriello said. “My opinion is what makes these decisions.”
Whether you agree with the Trotz firing or not, it should be a wake-up call for the New York Islanders. The franchise, in large part to Barry Trotz, have become more successful, until this past season.
The Islanders could have one, if not two Stanley Cups, if not for the Tampa Bay Lightning getting in their way in back-to-back Semi-Finals.
With this move Lou Lamoriello has made it clear that he is not interested in seeing the franchise take any step back while he is at the helm. Following the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, in which Lamoriello stood pat, he was adamant about what he had seen from his forward group.
“Over the next period of time, we’ll find out about our scorers. That’s where we’ve certainly underproduced this year to this point. In fact, I would say disappointed with what has transpired there, and we’ll see where our forwards are from now until the end of the year,” Lamoriello said back on Mar. 22.
Lamoriello also stated that he believed in the core of this team, and if he saw a move that would have strengthened his hockey club, he would have made one. And the belief in the group did spark the turnaround of certain players.
But by that point, it was too late. Especially with the schedule, the hole the Islanders found themselves in was a bit too deep to dig out of.
“What we have to do is get some improvement out of our younger players and also get a more complete year out of some of our veterans, Lamoriello said.
That statement speaks volumes about one of the reasons Trotz was relieved, as his handling of 21-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom was suspect.
After a 12-goal, 24-point campaign in 48 games in 2021-22, Wahlstrom only scored 13 times in 73 games played this season and dealt with benchings and scratches due to the strict coaching of Barry Trotz and, of course, due to his inability to grasp what Trotz was preaching.
23-year-old Kieffer Bellows showed vast improvements in his two-way game as the season came to a close but finished his season with just six goals and 13 assists in 45 games.
The Islanders, especially given their cap situation, need to see these two, particularly Oliver Wahlstrom, be a focal point on the offensive side of the puck in 2022-23. The potential is there for both players. And they don’t have to be offensive leaders, but they need to be drivers, not passengers, and they were passengers, for one reason or another, a bit too much this past season.
If you look across the board, every forward besides Brock Nelson and Anders Lee need to be better in 2022-22. Even Lee got hot a bit too late, but since he was coming off a torn ACL, a slower start to the season was to be expected.
There’s no point in naming every player that struggled this season, but the biggest disappointment of the season, forward-wise, was the play of Anthony Beauvillier. He took a significant step back after signing a three-year deal last offseason.
There were too many games where Beauvillier was M.I.A. It seemed that when chances to score presented themselves, the shot would go high or wide.
And Beauvillier took ownership of his struggles.
“I can be much better than what I showed this year, and that’s where the frustration was, where I know my potential, and I just wasn’t playing to it. And yeah, I just got in my own head, got frustrated a little bit with that, but it’s in the past.”
The 2021-22 season is in the past for Beauvillier and for the others, and now it’s about using this offseason to get better.
Although a new coach will allow for a clean slate, just like we saw when Barry Trotz arrived on the scene in 2018, Lamoriello has already given his forwards the benefit of the doubt.
The expression “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” comes to mind.
That faith does not mean that anyone’s job is safe.
“We’d like to improve our defense as well as offensively,” Lou Lamoriello said Monday. “If there’s a way of making a hockey deal with our forwards, certainly we could do that.”
An offseason that was expected to be a busy one for the New York Islanders just got a bit busier. And if firing a Hall of Fame head coach does not wake up the group, then Trotz was not the problem.
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