In March, Lou Lamoriello decided to keep things in place by doing nothing at the trade deadline. Last week, he decided to knock things over by firing Barry Trotz.
Then, on Monday, the inscrutable Islanders president was back to tidying up the place again, hiring a “new voice” in longtime Trotz associate Lane Lambert, a voice that players have been listening to for four years.
So yes, we have had a couple of plot twists of late here, but the central point remains:
By keeping his players and changing his head coach, and doing so by tabbing a guy down the hall, Lamoriello has put himself squarely in the center of the drama to come for the Islanders in 2022-23.
Their core is not nearly as accomplished as the Penguins’ famous trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, whose era together the Rangers finally might have put to an end on Sunday night.
But still, the coming Islanders season feels a lot like a historical pivot point for the Isles’ general manager and president and many of his players.
Enter Lambert, a guy who at 57 has been waiting his turn and is believed to have the respect of Islanders players.
If things go sideways next winter and spring, Lamoriello and his players figure to take more of the heat for it than Lambert will.
It’s complicated, though. Hiring some big-name outsider would have been one thing. But Lambert helped build the team, the system, the culture, the relationships.
The good news, in theory, is that Lambert has the benefit of already knowing everyone on the current roster.
“I think it gives us an advantage to hit the ground running,” he said. “We certainly have a good relationship. And I think a lot of the players are excited by the fact that they have someone that’s familiar with them coming in as well.”
The Islanders ought to hope that includes Mathew Barzal, the enigmatic star whom they have not quite figured out what to do with — or with whom to pair to maximize his skills.
But again: What about the “new voice” Lamoriello stressed in his comments upon dismissing Trotz?
He admitted on Monday that perhaps his choice of words was less than ideal. But he also said, correctly, that there is a big leap from associate coach to head coach, and that often that change generates a new tone organically.
“There is, without question, a new voice,” Lamoriello said. “Maybe it wasn’t the right phrase that I should have used, but it is a new voice in the position that Lane is now in. And I would say a big new voice, because we’re talking about two totally different personalities with reference to Barry and Lane.”
That certainly is true. Lambert figures to be a more reserved, buttoned-up figure in public than was Trotz, which is more in keeping with the Lamoriello Way.
Trotz was apt to blurt out candid and expansive comments about players and other matters, which reporters and (usually) fans loved. Those days likely are over.
But what really matters is how Lambert does in reaching and teaching players, an area that few doubt he will ace.
It is up to Lamoriello to get him the right players — preferably younger, faster ones — to help make that happen.
So we are back to where we started: The players are the same and the coach is from the same meeting rooms as the last one.
A year from now, we will know how it all worked out. Lamoriello is not sweating it. That is not his style.
But let’s end here the same way as last week’s column did, because one thing did not change from last Monday to this one: It’s on Lou.