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Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello's moniker for team's turnaround: Transformer

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello observes practice during

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello observes practice during training camp at the Northwell Health Ice Center on Jan. 12. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

They called Bill Torrey "the Architect," which fit the guy who built the Islanders from scratch into a dynasty in less than a decade.

So what about Lou Lamoriello?

He cannot be the "architect" of the Islanders’ current three-year run of playoff series victories because much of the core was assembled by Garth Snow. Plus, that moniker is taken.

But he deserves one for all that he has done since being hired in 2018 – three weeks after Torrey died – to run the franchise’s hockey operations.

"Renovator" is not quite right. "Alchemist" is accurate, but a little too artsy. "Inscrutable Genius Feared by Most of the League" is too wordy.

Let’s go with "Transformer," even if Lamoriello does not seem like the comic book action figure type.

The culture change he has orchestrated has been shocking – or maybe not so much to those who paid attention during his three-Stanley Cups run with the Devils.

Mathew Barzal spoke at length on Friday about the professionalism that Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz have instilled.

"Whether that’s having short hair and clean facial hair throughout the regular season or details on the ice like changing hard coming out of the bench, practicing hard, just being a pro," said Barzal, whose maturation Trotz has spoken of regularly.

"Whether you’re going out for dinner on the road or coming to the airplane, you have to be a pro 24/7."

It started for Lamoriello with bringing in a perfect complement in Trotz, as Torrey did with Al Arbour before him.

Shortly thereafter, the team’s best player of this century, John Tavares, left via free agency. Ever since, Lamoriello methodically has gone about re-signing his veteran base and adding essential pieces, to great effect.

His most recent big move was forced by the severe knee injury Anders Lee suffered on March 11. It prompted him to trade for Devils veterans Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.

The former leads the team in playoff goals with seven; the latter stepped in when Oliver Wahlstrom was injured and scored the first goal in Wednesday’s second-round clincher against the Bruins.

Last year, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Andy Greene, another Devils refugee, were late-season pickups.

Pageau might be the most useful all-around player on the team and has become a fan favorite. He also leads the Islanders with 13 points in the playoffs.

Lamoriello signed Leo Komarov on the day that Tavares left, which at the time only made Tavares’ departure seem worse. Now the longtime hockey pest is the left wing on the first line of a Stanley Cup semifinalist.

He signed Matt Martin for the Maple Leafs when he was in charge there, then left Toronto and brought Martin back with him.

He signed Semyon Varlamov in 2019 when Robin Lehner left in free agency. Varlamov was the MVP of the 2020-21 team.

Lamoriello spoke to reporters on Friday about all of the above players, noting like he often does their character on and off the ice, and their team-first approach.

With Trotz’s help, Lamoriello has succeeded in creating a team in his own image, one built for the playoffs.

The Bruins are a big, tough, physical team, but after six games they appeared worn down and no longer in the mood to engage with the Islanders’ on-ice bullies.

That often is what works this time of year. Consider the NHL final four of the Islanders, Lightning, Canadiens and Golden Knights.

What happened to all the fancy stars, from current ones such as Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon to perennials such as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin?

They are gone, along with the Bruins’ famous No. 1 line, taken out by the Islanders in the second round, just as they took care of Crosby in 2019, Ovechkin in 2020 and Crosby again in 2021.

Of the top 10 NHL players entering the season on lists compiled by NHL.com, NBC.com and TSN, the only ones still playing all represent the Lightning.

On paper, that is a daunting task for the Islanders. But Lamoriello does not build rosters on paper.

"I love listening and talking with Lou," Trotz said. "We talk daily. He understands building a roster.

"There will be a Player A and Player B and the values that a lot of people might put on a certain player because it’s the sexy thing to do. He understands the intrinsic value of a player in tough games and in the locker room and as a teammate and as a pro, all the stuff that you really don’t put a lot of numbers to.

"Everything he does is very thorough and has substance to it. It’s not lacy, fancy stuff. It’s real stuff, and he puts a lot of value into that."

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