ANAHEIM, Calif. — Adam Henrique spotted Lou Lamoriello walking purposefully through the Honda Center concourse and strode off to catch up to the “big guy” who drafted him into the NHL with the Devils.
The Ducks center watched Lamoriello build contenders in New Jersey — he played in the Stanley Cup Final as a rookie in 2012 against the eventual champion Kings — and Toronto. And Henrique said the belief around the NHL is that Lamoriello as president/general manager will do the same with the Islanders, who continued their four-game road trip against the Ducks on Wednesday night.
“With every team, there’s areas to improve and he knows that,” Henrique said. “You can’t do it overnight. You’ve got to bring in guys here and there and you just build on that. I don’t think they’re a team that everybody is looking to be at the bottom of the league. He’ll have them in the right direction, that’s for sure.”
Even if the changes Lamoriello and new coach Barry Trotz are trying to implement don’t have an immediate impact in the standings — the Islanders have missed the playoffs the past two seasons and won just one playoff series since 1993 — the perception of the organization is different around the league.
And that might be a win right there.
“They’ve got depth throughout their lineup,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “With new people coming in, fresh ideas, obviously a changing of the guard with the loss of John Tavares, I think that’s probably the catalyst for their different look that they’re bringing. Barry Trotz coming in and implementing the style he’s comfortable with and has had tremendous success doing it that way, those are all signs that they’re a force to be reckoned with.”
OK, so perhaps “force to be reckoned with” is a bit of hyperbole for a team that split its first four games this season and did lose Tavares via free agency.
But Henrique said Lamoriello is the perfect pick to reset the franchise.
“There’s so much attention on the team with losing John and kind of how everything has gone and all the question marks there,” said Henrique, selected 82nd overall by Lamoriello in 2008 and traded to the Ducks last season. “It’s still early. I think there’s just a lot of outside noise with everything going on, with John leaving, and I think that takes away from their team and how much talent they still have.
“I think you saw the same thing in Toronto over his three years, the turnaround they had,” Henrique added. “He was the perfect guy to go in there, especially for that organization with the media and everything.”
The Maple Leafs made the playoffs in each of Lamoriello’s last two seasons as their general manager.
The Devils won three Stanley Cups under Lamoriello but did not reach the postseason again under him after losing in six games to the Kings in the Cup Final. Lamoriello resigned as Devils president on July 23, 2015, after stepping down as their general manager two months earlier.
“It’s going to take a while, but I think they have a good, young team,” said Ducks right wing Joseph Blandisi, signed as a free agent by the Devils and Lamoriello on Jan. 14, 2015. “They’re trending in the right direction for sure.”