Lane Lambert doesn't deserve blame, but maybe he should show some fire
Lane Lambert deserves not one iota of blame for the construction of the Islanders’ roster. President/general manager Lou Lamoriello rightfully took responsibility for that when he gave his first-year coach a vote of confidence this past week.
But every coach is judged on wins and losses, often regardless of the rosters they are handed. It’s not always fair, but it is the job.
Having said that, let’s say this: Lambert has the makings of a good NHL head coach. The team’s 1-7-3 skid that preceded Friday night’s 2-0 win over the Red Wings and the ongoing power-play struggles certainly are problematic. But Lambert communicates well with his players and knows his X’s-and- O’s. He has been trying hard to figure out how to put some square pegs into round holes.
Yet even as Lamoriello said his coaching staff was doing everything possible to reverse the Islanders’ swoon, Lambert’s long-term future behind the team’s bench can’t be guaranteed. Especially if Lamoriello, believed to be in the last season of his contract, does not return, either by his choice or ownership’s. Any new GM not named Chris Lamoriello almost certainly would want to install his own hire.
Lambert does not have to impress anybody other than ownership and management with his coaching skills. But it might help if the fan base actually got to know Lambert, who served as associate coach to the avuncular Barry Trotz for four seasons before being promoted as a result of last season’s playoff miss.
We are told about how personable Lambert is with his players. We are told how his energy and emotion are contagious. We are told how well he motivates. We are told how he has a great presence and how detailed he is. We are told how he seems to know the right things to say when things are going wrong.
The players began vouching for Lambert before the season started and steadfastly have vouched for him through a hellish January.
But Lambert keeps any fire or personality he does show behind closed doors. His public persona is decidedly — and almost certainly purposefully — vanilla.
Part of that is simply who Lambert is. He was like that as a player in the mid-1980s. But his aversion to releasing any pertinent information or providing exciting sound bites is right out of Lamoriello’s guidebook.
Trotz’s talkative ways — he often wouldn’t provide lineup or injury information but always was engaging — was anathema to Lamoriello.
Lambert waited a long time for his first chance to coach an NHL team. He served as Trotz’s assistant with the Predators from 2011-14 and with the Capitals from 2014-18 — winning a Stanley Cup in their final season in Washington — before following his boss to the Islanders.
Other teams have expressed interest in him, and there was a real chance the Islanders would have lost Lambert to another franchise after last season had they not promoted him.
With a roster that former NHL defenseman and current ESPN analyst P.K. Subban called “too slow” and not young enough, it is extremely tough to adequately gauge what kind of job Lambert is truly doing.
The offense — Lambert’s focus for improvement — has not been dangerous. The defense has been too leaky at times. Injuries have played a part.
But not much worked in January and sometimes, given the way Lambert presents himself, it seemed as if he was at a loss for answers.
That’s not necessarily a fair assessment. But judging coaches rarely is fair.
Don't go changing
Lamoriello has run an NHL franchise every season since 1987, when he took over the Devils. He made nine in-season coaching changes while running that franchise, but none since in tenures with the Maple Leafs and the Islanders.
After giving Lambert a vote of confidence this past week, he was asked if he believes he’s become more patient.
“I couldn’t say that,” Lamoriello said. “I look in the mirror every day and see less hair. I think I’m an impatient patient person, if that’s the way to describe it. But I don’t like to think I’ve changed.”
Fitting night for Lee
Anders Lee notched his 400th career point with a goal in Friday night’s 2-0 win over the Red Wings. Fittingly, it came on John Tonelli Night. Lee wears the same No. 27 that was retired for the four-time Stanley Cup champion.
“We’ve shared a nice little friendship since being introduced,” Lee said. “Just really a class act.
“He’s the real No. 27.”
As for notching his 400th point in his 647th NHL game, Lee said, “I guess it’s pretty cool. Probably not the fastest.”
Bolduc an all-star
As the Islanders head into their eight-day All-Star break/bye week, rookie defenseman Samuel Bolduc may or may not get a chance to participate in an all-star game. He was selected to the Atlantic Division squad for the AHL All-Star Classic Feb. 5-6 in his hometown of Laval, Quebec, and would need to be reassigned to Bridgeport to participate.
The Islanders will report back on Feb. 5 and will resume their season in Philadelphia on Feb. 6.
“We haven’t talked about it, so I don’t know,” Bolduc said. “Especially it’s in my hometown, I think it’s going to be really fun with all of my friends. But if I stay here, I won’t complain at all either.”