Time for Islanders owner Scott Malkin to tell us what he's thinking
So it appears Lou Lamoriello and Lane Lambert will retain their positions with the Islanders for the 2023-24 season.
Not that the Islanders themselves have said anything about the general manager and coach — or that the GM and coach have said anything themselves.
But it appears they will be back, which is not going to be popular among most fans, who have every right to wonder about the big-picture plan here.
Lamoriello is 80, many of his core players are the hockey equivalent of 80, the Islanders made the playoffs only because of a semi-miraculous stumble by the Penguins and there is no apparent path to significant improvement in 2023-24.
None of which will make for a compelling season-ticket pitch from the team’s marketing department.
At some point Lamoriello will discuss all this publicly, as will Lambert, as perhaps will co-owner Jon Ledecky. That’s fine. The more public voices, the merrier.
But it is time for a new voice to weigh in on what is going on with this franchise, and that is Ledecky’s longtime friend and business partner, Scott Malkin.
Ledecky has been an accessible spokesman for ownership among both journalists and fans for years, but he owns less than 50% of the team, and the league clearly considers Malkin the Islanders’ point man.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman regularly seems to go out of his way to refer to Malkin, never Ledecky, when discussing Islanders ownership publicly.
So let’s hear from Malkin about where he sees all this going and what he thinks of the longtime ownership mantra “In Lou We Trust.”
Lamoriello earned that trust with the three-Stanley Cup resume he brought to Long Island, then solidified it with two runs to the NHL semifinals and regular playoff appearances.
But what about now?
His gamble to move on from Barry Trotz as coach after a playoff-less 2021-22 did not solve all of the team’s problems, even if Lambert did sneak into the Stanley Cup tournament, nor did his doubling down on the aging core at trade deadlines.
The current group of veterans deserves everlasting credit for fashioning the second-greatest era in Islanders history, but it has reached its expiration date.
Adding a big-name player in Bo Horvat (for a lot of years and a lot of money) did not pan out in the playoffs, although it is too soon to give up on the possibility that he can be an effective complement to Mathew Barzal and offer needed scoring punch.
At least the Islanders seem to be set in goal with Ilya Sorokin for the next several years.
Bottom line: It is time for changes. Will Lamoriello be willing and/or able to pull that off? We shall see, but he is known to not be a big fan of rebuilds.
There is nothing wrong with stability.
The Rangers dumped coach Gerard Gallant after two stellar regular seasons and one long playoff run, which may or may not pay off for them. It’s a gamble.
But too much stability — and loyalty — is a gamble, too. Lamoriello was not given a lifetime appointment when he was brought in in 2018. (Unless there is a clause in his contract that we do not know about.)
It was prove-it time for him last season, and now it is . . . well, super-duper prove-it time, I guess. It will not be easy.
If Lamoriello does dive into a full rebuild, something he likely will not be inclined to do, the Islanders probably will not make the playoffs.
If he does not rebuild, the Islanders probably will not make the playoffs anyway.
Who knows what thinking went into keeping him aboard, presumably with a new contract, to navigate the increasingly choppy waters of the Metropolitan Division?
Malkin knows. It is time for him to explain himself.