Since day one of Lou Lamoriello’s tenure as the New York Islanders general manager, co-owner Jon Ledecky led the “In Lou We Trust” chants. The Islanders grew as a team over his first few seasons, with the leadership of Barry Trotz behind the bench leading to strong playoff runs that earned him back-to-back GM of the Year Awards.
Lou Lamoriello was able to add key players at deadlines, like Jean-Gabriel Pageau in 2020 and Kyle Palmieri in 2021. His most critical move came in the offseason of 2019 when he signed veteran netminder Semyon Varlamov which played a part in Ilya Sorokin coming over from the KHL.
After back-to-back semi-final appearances (2020, 2021), the New York Islanders failed to make the playoffs last season, the first miss under Lamoriello. With what had gone wrong, with the COVID-19 breakout, the injuries to key players, and the egregious schedule that had them on the road for 13 straight games to start the season.
That failed season led to the firing of Barry Trotz and the hiring of his associate head coach Lane Lambert to provide a newer voice in the locker room, but one that understood the club and what they were capable of–bringing more offense.
Despite that shocking coaching change, Lamoriello decided to run the team back, making a few adjustments to the backend with Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene retiring, bringing 22-year-old Alexander Romanov over from the Montreal Canadiens at the 2022 NHL Draft for the 12th overall selection.
Over the summer, Lamoriello’s cap issue limited the Islanders’ ability to be a key player in Jonny Gaudreau’s steaks. They had the ability to sign Nazem Kadri but couldn’t clear any cap to get the deal done. And the last big name was Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller, as a trade blew up on the draft floor, per league sources.
But again, Lamoriello had continued to believe in his team, and Ledecky trusted Lamoriello’s decision.
Following the news that the Islanders were not big players in the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes this past summer, former News 12 Reporter Jamie Stuart shared a recording of his interview with Ledecky as he asked what his message was to fans who were nervous during the free agent period.
“In Lou we trust,” Ledecky said. “People really quickly forget that Lou Lamoriello won the GM of the year twice in a row and has won Stanley Cups, said Ledecky. “If I could bet on one person to bring another Stanley Cup to Long Island, it’s Lou Lamoriello.”
Over the course of this season, the Islanders’ struggles from a season ago have not gone away. A few players had stepped up, while others continued to anchor the team.
The Islanders (22-17-3) currently find themselves a point out of a wild-card spot in the East, so there is still a chance for a successful season. But their lack of an elite goal scorer limits their ability to be better than average on a nightly basis.
Over the last five games, the Islanders are 1-3-1, showcasing mostly poor performances and abysmal starts. They have scored 11 goals in five games, but their six goals against the Canucks were 54.54 percent of them.
The Islanders have scored more than two goals just twice in their last six games, and as the offense struggles, critical points were left on the table while the other teams around them in the standings continued to collect them.
Before the Islanders’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night, Ledecky spoke with us and continued to show that trust.
“We don’t talk hockey. That’s not my job. My job is to make sure that this building works and that the fans have the greatest experience,” Ledecky said. “The owner who becomes a GM or the owner who thinks he’s a GM has a fool for a client.”
“So we will hand that over to Lou and let Lou do his job.”
When asked if his trust in Lamoriello has ever waved, Ledecky said, “We haven’t written on top of the Owners Club, ‘In Lou We Trust.’ That’s what you do. You have to support your folks, 1,000 percent. Trust cannot waver. There’s a plan in place, and has to execute the plan.”
When asked if there was a bar in place that Lamoriello needed to reach, Ledecky kept it simple.
“The bar is that Lou is in the Hall of Fame,” Ledecky said. “Lou won the GM of the Year Award twice. I’m neither, and neither is Scott [Malkin]. So when you have somebody who’s got that track record, you let them do their job.”
So why is the word ‘powerful’ in the title?
When you have an ownership group that shows the kind of trust Islanders ownership shows in Lamoriello, sometimes that could be costly. The blinders could be on too often while the franchise trends in the wrong direction.
Now, as Ledecky said, he doesn’t handle the hockey decisions. There’s a process unknown to everyone, and Ledecky truly trusts in the plan. This season is far from over despite the shakiness of the team, and last season had so much go wrong that it very well could have been just a one-off.
But 42 games into the season, the same problems are occurring, and that’s not to say that Lamoriello deserves to be fired. but if there was ever a time to make a move and address the team’s needs, now’s the time.
Key names are floating around currently as we sit a few months away from trade deadline day in San Jose Sharks Timo Meier, Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Kane, and Vancouver Canucks Bo Horvat, to name a few.
The Islanders have reached out regarding Horvat. Mathew Barzal has spoken about what it would be like to play with Kane, and Meier is a power forward in his prime.
If the New York Islanders go through the deadline and don’t address their need for an offensive force to play in the top six, preferably on Barzal’s wing, the playoffs could still happen. The Islanders could find themselves in a wild-card spot and, who knows, could make their way back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But the lack of a game-changing forward gives the New York Islanders a slim chance of getting to a Stanley Cup Final, let alone winning one.