For the first time in 12 years, the New York Islanders will have a new president of hockey operations. The man taking that role? Lou Lamoriello. Lamoriello brought Stanley Cups to New Jersey and gave Toronto the roster that they have now. This has given the Islanders faithful hope for the first time in awhile. While it’s an exciting time right now on Long Island, let’s take a look back at the years of misery leading into this new era of optimism, and how Lamoriello can change it on a dime.
May 24, 1993. That was the last time that the New York Islanders played in a conference finals game. Nine years prior to that was the last time they played in a Stanley Cup Finals game. The fact that the Vegas Golden Knights have won more playoff series in their first year than the Islanders have in the last 25 years makes one wonder: how could this once prosperous franchise fallen so far?
Bad talent and asset management seems to be a theme with the fall of the Islanders. Former general manager Mike Milbury traded away future all stars such as Zdeno Chara and a first-round pick that turned into all-star Jason Spezza and Roberto Luongo to make room for new franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro. While Milbury was bad, recently demoted general manager Garth Snow has been worse during his reign over the franchise. It should have been a bad omen right out of the gate when he signed an injury prone DiPietro to a 15 year, $67.5 million dollar contract. He’s also responsible for trading quality scorer Nino Niederreiter for mediocre defenseman Cal Clutterbuck. Some may argue that he drafted John Tavares, but my 4 year-old nephew could have made that choice. Recently, he has acquired blossoming stud Mathew Barzal and veteran scorer Jordan Eberle. While those are good decisions, he still makes his questionable ones, like replacing Kyle Okposo with an older, more worn down Andrew Ladd who has been largely unproductive during his time in Brooklyn. Garth Snow and Mike Milbury have dragged the franchise down to inconceivable depths, but that could all change starting this offseason.
Lou Lamoriello is highly regarded throughout the league as one of the best front office minds. While he is getting older, he certainly still has the capacity to build a cup contender. Most recently, Lamoriello assembled the Toronto roster that consists of superstars in Austin Matthews and Mitch Marner. That Maple Leafs roster will be contending for cups for probably the next decade. Prior to Toronto, Lamoriello built the Devils roster that won three Stanley Cups. A roster that consisted of greats like Patrik Elias, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Ken Daneyko, and Martin Brodeur. Keep in mind, he drafted all of those players but Stevens. Lamoriello is perfectly capable of building championship caliber rosters. He has all the pieces in place to do the same for the Isles. The offensive core is one of the best in the league with John Tavares (I’ll address him in a minute), Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle. With all those pieces in place, and the 11th and 12th picks in the upcoming NHL Draft, Lamoriello needs to build a strong defensive core, and find a serviceable goaltender. If Lamoriello can do what he does best, the New York Islanders will be Stanley Cup contenders within three to five years.
Now onto the most important task on Lamoriello’s hands this offseason, re-signing John Tavares. Many thought he may be off to Toronto or San Jose. Then, things quickly changed once Lamoriello was brought in. He and Tavares met in Toronto last week, and apparently Tavares is very pleased with the hiring of Lamoriello. If we are being honest, at this point in time, would a 75 year-old Lamoriello, who’s been in the league since 1987, really sit around for a full blown rebuild of the Islanders after Tavares left? It is highly unlikely. Many in the Islanders organization believe that Lamoriello is confident that Tavares will stay. If Lamoriello is able to repeat his processes from New Jersey and Toronto, then the New York Islanders may have a Stanley Cup parade in their future.