Lou Lamoriello puts himself in the line of fire with removal of Barry Trotz
So about that column I wrote in March regarding Lou Lamoriello making a big bet on his aging roster by standing pat at the trade deadline . . .
The Islanders’ president made another one on Monday, an even bigger one than the last.
By parting ways with coach Barry Trotz, saying the team “needs a new voice,” Lamoriello further put himself on the line as the better-be-right decision-maker for a core group whose last hurrah could well be the 2022-23 season.
Not that Lamoriello is intimidated or even concerned by such things. The guy has won three Stanley Cups, will turn 80 shortly after next season begins and has the self-confidence of a piranha.
But Lamoriello has put himself in the spotlight as he ponders what might be his last coaching hire, in hopes said coach can lead what might be his last Cup contender to the finish line.
It’s a lot. But to Lamoriello’s credit, he took full responsibility for the move in a conference call with reporters, saying he told no one about it other than ownership. He scoffed at the notion that he consulted with players.
“I would never even consider thinking of anything like that,” he said. “This decision is on the knowledge that I have of the experiences I’ve had and also going forward as far as what I think and feel is best for this group to have success.”
Short version of that: It’s on me.
Fine! Maybe the new guy will get it done. Lamoriello has a history of abrupt coaching moves, such as firing Robbie Ftorek in late March 2000, installing Larry Robinson and winning the Cup for the Devils.
In 2007, he fired Claude Julien in early April — with the Devils in first place — took over behind the bench himself and lost in the second round of the playoffs.
The Trotz thing is less shocking than those changes.
Sure, he has been the second-best coach in franchise history, reached the NHL semifinals two years in a row and gave the often-overlooked franchise some star power and personality.
Maybe a little too much personality. His blunt candidness and expansiveness with reporters was an awkward fit with the buttoned-down Lamoriello.
But Trotz was believed to be entering the final year of his contract, even though Lamoriello denied that had anything to do with Monday’s news, so who knows how long he might have been around, anyway?
Trotz, who will turn 60 in July, could well land elsewhere, perhaps with his home-province Winnipeg Jets, who presumably would love to have him. And remember what has happened to the Capitals since Trotz left them after winning the Stanley Cup in 2018: They have not won a playoff series.
Regardless, Lamoriello wants that new voice, one who will help the youngish players improve — Mathew Barzal? Anthony Beauvillier? Oliver Wahlstrom? — squeeze what is left out of the highly paid veterans and . . . well, who knows, really? Lamoriello was typically vague about what exactly led to the bombshell.
Lamoriello did say it was not an easy decision, acknowledged the logistical challenges that 2021-22 presented — but said the decision was not based primarily on this season’s flop — and praised Trotz for being “a tremendous human being.”
“I think that with this group we have, and they are on notice right now, that the new voice is what’s necessary for us to have success,” the boss said. “Fortunately or unfortunately, my opinion is what has to make these decisions.”
In the end, Lamoriello said he was making “a business decision as far as hockey and winning.”
If the Islanders win the Stanley Cup in June 2023 or perhaps the June after that, Trotz will be a warmly remembered footnote in team history, and Lamoriello and the “new voice” will be hailed for eternity.
If not, it’s on Lou.