Continuing a sweeping offseason of changes, the New York Islanders announced on Thursday that they have fired assistant coaches Jim Hiller and John Gruden.
Team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello had already shocked the hockey world on May 9 when he fired Barry Trotz — arguably one of the top coaches in the NHL — after four seasons of leading the team to its most successful spell since the dynasty era in which the organization won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980-1983.
His top assistant, Lane Lambert, was promoted to the head-coaching job after following Trotz from the Nashville Predators to the Washington Capitals, to New York.
Gruden was hired by Trotz upon his arrival on Long Island in 2018 before Hiller signed on in June of 2019.
During their time behind the bench, New York advanced to two consecutive Stanley Cup semifinals, losing both to the eventual-champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Following a turbulent 2021-22 campaign rife with COVID, injuries, and scheduling issues, the Isles limped to a fifth-place finish in the Metropolitan Division — their first playoff miss since 2017-18.
Lamoriello initially said that the team needed a “new voice,” which was the only reason given as to why Trotz was fired despite his ascension as the franchise’s second-greatest coach behind only Al Arbour. He walked back those comments when he promoted Lambert.
“Maybe it wasn’t the right phrase I should’ve used [a new voice] but it’s the right position that Lane is in and it’s a big new voice,” Lamoriello said. “These are two totally different personalities between Barry and Lane.”
During Lambert’s introductory press conference, Lamoriello wouldn’t offer much on the future of Hiller and Gruden, simply saying that the two were still under contract.
Both assistants worked under Lambert when he temporarily took over as Islanders head coach in January when Trotz battled COVID and was on bereavement leave.