Patrick Roy, Islanders excited to move forward, address ‘unfinished business’

Patrick Roy Islanders
New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy watches from the bench during the third period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello admitted that he put Patrick Roy in “a very difficult situation.”

More than midway through the 2023-24 season and with the Islanders having lost eight of their previous 10 games — including a 4-3 overtime loss to the league-worst Chicago Blackhawks — Lamoriello fired head coach Lane Lambert on Jan. 20 and brought in Roy, the Hall-of-Fame netminder who was on a seven-year NHL hiatus after a messy split as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche in 2016.

He spent most of that time coaching the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL — winning a Memorial Cup with them last season — and with it, learned to balance the fiery intensity that made him one of the game’s great competitors but also landed him in hot water from time to time.

“I’m proud of taking the time to go back to juniors, working with those guys, resource myself in the game, and make sure I stay on top of that different culture,” Roy said during his introductory press conference on Jan. 20. “The player today is different than what it was in my time. It changes and you have to adjust to the younger guys. I’m very happy that I did this and I’m very happy that I received this call.” 

What the NHL world saw and what the Islanders got was the brilliant hockey mind that won a Jack Adams Award in Colorado back in 2014 with a player-first mentality. His reactions were measured, and his approach was more often than not nurturing. Yet he was able to motivate the Islanders to a different unforeseen with Lambert at the helm. 

“Winning and believing and the passion, all of it. He did an excellent job coming in halfway through and really giving everybody confidence that we could do it,” star winger Mathew Barzal said. “The analogies and the stories that he told, I felt like I could really believe them coming from him because he’s been through it. It’s not just fluff. It’s all stuff he’s been through and done. The confidence that he puts in and out really translated with us on the ice.”

Islanders Horvat Barzal Noah Dobson
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

This simply was not just a head-coaching change to fire up a roster. Lamoriello brought in Roy to change the style of the Islanders, which was an insurmountable-looking task at the time.

No longer was New York going to be a defensive-first team that sat back, absorbed pressure, and tried to hit teams on the counter. Instead, defensemen were given the green light to leave their net-front and chip in on the offensive attack while forwards were given the liberty to express themselves in the attacking zone.

Results were mixed — an understandable side effect of changing a philosophy that had been ingrained into a long-time foundational group of players for more than half of a decade. The Islanders went 12-12-4 in Roy’s first 28 games and were on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. 

Then things clicked. Roy’s men reeled off eight wins in their last nine games to clinch the No. 3 seed in the Metropolitan Division and make the postseason for the second straight year. 

“The changes that are necessary to do things the right way, you don’t have a lot of time to do it and the only way to deal with it is to go right at it,” Lamoriello said of the move to bring in Roy. “As a result of that, sometimes some inconsistency comes in because you get players trying to learn right away and yet, there’s no other way of getting it done. The way we ended up the season and the type of stretch that we really had to have, say to get in the playoffs, was just incredible… I’ll tell you what I told Patrick, I don’t think he could have done any better than he did. He exceeded all expectations that I might have had, even though I had high expectations.”

The Islanders were eliminated in five games by the heavily favored Carolina Hurricanes in the first round, but they showed an abundance of promise in three of those four losses. They were tied or down one goal heading into the third period of Games 1, 3, and 5. In Game 2 — their worst game of the series — they had a 3-0 lead before regressing into a defensive shell that disintegrated in the final minutes of a 5-3 loss. 

“The playoffs feel like unfinished business,” Roy said. “I thought we played really well and when the coach on the other side says the games could’ve gone either way, I really believe in that because that’s how I felt as well. Coming short doesn’t make you feel good about it, but at the same time, seeing the improvement of our team and the way we played certainly motivated me to be more ready for next year.”

Islanders Patrick Roy
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Next year allows Roy and the Islanders to take a step back, take some time to instill his system, and attempt to find the right personnel to maximize it rather than learning on the fly and partaking in endless line shuffling.

“I look forward to the training camp and I think the players are looking forward to a fresh start as well and having a training camp because there was a lot of positive come from the season,” Roy said. “The resilience that the guys had, how we finished the year, the push that we made to make the playoffs, and the way we played in the playoffs as well. So I think the summer is going to be good to think about how we want to approach training camp, how we want to prepare ourselves, and what we want to do in order for us to have a strong year. “

Barzal certainly confirmed his head coach’s belief about that enthusiasm to get back to work next year.

“It’s exciting to have a guy that you trust,” Barzal said. “He understands the ups and downs. The biggest thing is the confidence that he has and instills in us. So when we go to battle every night with a guy like that behind the bench who has that confidence and passion and wants to win so bad, it resonates with our team.”

For more on the Islanders and Patrick Roy, visit AMNY.com