This promotion had been a long time coming for Lane Lambert.
Working for two decades as an assistant coach after a six-year NHL playing career in the 1980s, the 57-year-old has worked at plenty of levels within the North American hockey system.
Head coaching jobs in the American and Western Hockey Leagues ultimately led to him catching on with Barry Trotz’s staff with the Nashville Predators in 2011.
For the next 11 years, the two were inseparable, the head coach taking Lambert wherever he went as a top assistant.
That included three years in Nashville, four years and one Stanley Cup title with the Washington Capitals, and four seasons — along with two Stanley Cup semifinal appearances, with the New York Islanders.
“Barry and I have worked a long time together and there are so many things that he’s done that I’ve learned from,” Lambert said on Monday. “I’ve been in that role where he’s been the head coach.
“And now it flips for me.”
Lambert was promoted to be Trotz’s successor as the next head coach of the New York Islanders on Monday after president and general manager Lou Lamoriello relieved the third-winningest coach in NHL history of his duties.
“I just focused on doing the best job I can no matter what my role is or my position is,” Lambert said. “You work hard and good things happen. It’s a privilege to be in the National Hockey League.”
While Trotz hasn’t been heard from publically, Lambert revealed that he has been in contact with his coaching mentor over the last tumultuous week.
“[Barry] told me that he was hoping that I’d get the job,” he said. “I spoke to him not too long ago and he used the words that he was ‘thrilled.'”
These are certainly large shoes to fill for Lambert. Trotz took the Islanders from bottom-dwellers in the Eastern Conference to Stanley Cup contenders before a playoff-less 2021-22 campaign resulted in his firing.
In just four seasons with the team, he went 152-102-34. ranking third in franchise history in wins and second with 28 postseason victories behind the legendary Al Arbour. He is one of only three coaches in NHL history with at least 900 wins, ranking third all-time with 914 victories.
Yet the transition to Lambert provides a ton of familiarity given his close work with the organization and a largely unchanged roster over the last four years as an associate head coach and an interim head coach for two weeks back in January when Trotz was away from the team.
“It’s a tremendous advantage, I’ve been here for four years working with every individual,” Lambert said. “I think it gives us the advantage to hit the ground running. We have a good relationship and I think a lot of the players are excited about the fact that they have someone they’re familiar with coming in.”
Lambert added that he will sit down with management this summer to formulate a game plan and proper direction to move toward in terms of tweaking this current roster that Lamoriello still appears to have faith in.
“The one thing that will never change,” he began, “is our identity of being a team that will be hard to play against.”