Islanders first-year head coach Lane Lambert has plenty to answer for, and rightfully so.
His team is mired in a miserable stretch — a 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night proved to be their fourth consecutive defeat and their eighth in nine games.
They’ve scored just 15 goals in those nine games (1.6 per game) with a power play that is non-existent having gone 1-for-its-last-22 during that stretch and 3-for-54 dating back to Dec. 10.
“I want to see more. I think we all know that,” Lambert said after Saturday. “Certainly, we have to generate a little more… Right now there’s a little bit of puck luck at times, too… We just have to find a way to fight through it. The games are coming, we need wins, and we have to find a way to find those victories.”
Hamstrung by a lack of depth in the skills department, a team in desperate need of offense simply doesn’t have any options right now. The Islanders recalled top prospect Aatu Räty from Bridgeport on Saturday after Cal Clutterbuck was deemed out indefinitely with an upper-body injury in one last attempt to find an internal spark. They’re without two key forwards in Kyle Palmieri and Oliver Wahlstrom — the former has missed 27 of the last 28 games while the latter is likely done for the year.
It leaves Lambert stuck with the underperforming forwards that he has. He no longer can sit the likes of Anthony Beauvillier or Josh Bailey — which he did at times earlier this season — because there are no other legitimate options.
“There’s not a lot of options from that standpoint right now,” Lambert said. “We need some people to come back.”
Of course, the focus on an underperforming team is magnified on the head coach just as much as the roster of players not performing up to expectations. After all, this is the unchanged roster that had made it to two consecutive Stanley Cup semifinals under Barry Trotz, whose status as one of the greatest coaches in franchise history is further cemented by seeing how the 2022-23 version of the Islanders is faring.
“Everything that happens within the game… that all falls on coaching at some point in one way, shape, or form,” Lambert said. “There’s no question that everyone looks in the mirror, myself included.”
When asked if he believed his message wasn’t connecting with the team, Lambert simply said “no.”
“What is said and what the message is in the room stays in the room from my standpoint,” he began. “There’s a variation of different things you could look at and try and nail down… There isn’t one guy that doesn’t care. There isn’t one guy that isn’t putting in the effort. That’s all there.
“We just have to find a way to execute. There’s no question that it’s hurt us.”