Since the Islanders’ season came to an end a little more than three weeks ago, there has been radio silence from their front office. Lou Lamoriello is notoriously secretive, but even for the Hall-of-Fame general manager, it’s been eerily silent especially since he isn’t one to avoid talking to the press.
What it means is anyone’s guess and to be fair, Newsday reported earlier this month that Lamoriello will be asked to be GM for a sixth season and head coach Lane Lamber will be back behind the bench. Still, that won’t quiet the speculation that’s been going on or the conversations debating whether the Islanders should turn the reins over to someone else.
At this point, it seems that would be the best thing for the organization to push forward. While the Islanders have taken massive steps to regain respectability that hadn’t been there since the Stanley Cup Days in the 1980s, it feels more like things have stalled out since they went to back-to-back conference finals in 2020 and 2021.
Again there is no denying that Lamoriello has played a large part in righting the ship from top to bottom and the Islanders have made the playoffs in four of the five years that he’s been in the executive’s chair, but the future seems murkier than it has in quite some time.
The Isles don’t have a lot left in the prospect cupboard and they won’t have a first-round pick for the fourth consecutive year. The Islanders have continued to rely on an aging core that needed some tweaking before Lamoriello made the home run heave acquiring Bo Horvat around the trade deadline in a deal that included the club’s best prospect and their first-round pick this year.
Lamoriello did get Horvat to sign an extension for eight years, and it would be only fair to give some time for the dust to settle on the deal. But in its immediacy, it did little to turn the Islanders into a title contender. In fact, the conversation could have been entirely different had the Penguins not choked as hard as they did at the end of the year allowing the Islanders to slip into the playoffs.
Now the Islanders are at a crossroads.
They’re not a team that needs a full-blown rebuild because they have the bones to turn the team back into a title contender. Rather the Isles need a retool and a new vision for the franchise to grow around Mathew Barzal, Ilya Sorokin, and Horvat.
There needs to be careful consideration for what players best fit the Islanders going forward and a new, more critical eye would benefit the club’s long-term prospects. The Lamoriello-led team has molded Garth Snow draft picks into true playoff difference-makers, and there is something to be said about the role the former GM played in the team’s success over the last five years.
At the same time, one of the biggest knocks on the Islanders’ former executive was that he never made the moves to get the organization to the next steps after playoff success in 2013 and 2016. The Islanders have always been a team that values loyalty and that has created issues when it’s come time to make the tough decisions to move things forward.
Lamoriello has taken the Isles to a place that would have been hard to imagine when Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky first bought the team. Islanders fans would have sold their souls for consecutive trips to the conference final, but the bar has been raised and this is a team that was expected to compete for a Stanley Cup.
That progress has stalled out a bit and it’s time to turn the page. The Islanders and their fanbase can be appreciative and admire what Lamoriello has done, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of waiting too long to make a change when one is needed.