Islanders ownership loudly proclaimed the need for a culture change when it hired Lou Lamoriello as president of hockey operations on May 22.
Lamoriello strongly reinforced that notion on Tuesday when he relieved general manager Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight of their current duties, naming himself GM and starting the search for the organization’s 17th coach.
“We’ve had meetings and conversations certainly throughout the past two weeks since I’ve been here,” Lamoriello said on a conference call. “It is my opinion at this point that there is a culture change that’s needed and there’s new voices needed in different areas and, because of that, the change is made.”
Lamoriello said both Snow, whom he called a “personal friend,” and Weight, who played under Lamoriello for Team USA in 1996 and 1998, would remain with the organization in to-be-determined advisory roles.
As for any other changes among the coaching and scouting staff, Lamoriello said everything was “status quo.” Still, associate coach Greg Cronin, assistants Kelly Buchberger, Luke Richardson, Scott Gomez and Matt Bertani and goaltending coach Fred Brathwaite can’t feel too comfortable with Weight out.
Snow had been the GM since July 18, 2006 — and also the president until Lamoriello was hired — but the Islanders have made the playoffs just four times in his tenure, winning one playoff series.
The Islanders concluded this past season, their first full one with Weight behind the bench, at 35-37-10 and out of the playoffs for the second straight season.
Weight took over on an interim basis for the fired Jack Capuano on Jan. 17, 2017, and the Islanders finished that season 24-12-4 to miss the playoffs by one point.
“They understand the decision that’s made,” Lamoriello said. “I feel they can be valuable in me picking their brain, asking them their opinion in certain areas. I’m not going to be afraid to reach out to them. I’ve already done that.”
Lamoriello would not pinpoint specifically what he is looking for in the Islanders’ next coach.
“The best coach that we can get for the players that we have,” Lamoriello said when asked for a potential profile. “Not every coach is for every team and not every team is for every coach. If we had that coach, he would be in place so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Lamoriello, the Maple Leafs GM the past three seasons and the Devils president/GM from 1987-2015, added that a past association with him was not a prerequisite for the job.
Among the potential candidates are current Maple Leafs assistant D.J. Smith, Toronto Marlies (AHL) coach Sheldon Keefe and former Devils captain, assistant and tri-coach Scott Stevens.
“We’re going to get the best coach available,” Lamoriello said. “I think that we’ve been in the league long enough to know different coaches. Whether I know him or not is not going to enter into the decision.”
Lamoriello said there was no timetable to name a new coach. But there are reasons to make timely decisions. The NHL Draft is June 22-23 in Dallas.
“I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with Garth and the scouting staff,” Lamoriello said. “I just got back from the [NHL Scouting] Combine [in Buffalo] and the amateur scouting meetings. I’m very comfortable with the job that they have done. The draft is in the hands of the scouts.”
Then, the NHL free-agent market opens on July 1 and Lamoriello’s hiring was seen as an aggressive push by ownership to keep from losing franchise player John Tavares.
But Lamoriello denied removing Snow and Weight from their current jobs had anything to do with trying to re-sign Tavares.
“That certainly has not and did not enter into any of the decisions that are made,” Lamoriello said.
The only reason Lamoriello would ascribe to the moves was changing the team’s culture.
And even at that, Lamoriello couldn’t be too specific.
“Culture is a very overused word and underdeveloped,” Lamoriello said. “It’s just doing the little things a certain way, a different way, a consistent way. So I really couldn’t define that. It’s only going to be time before we see exactly how it works out.”
Now that president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello has relieved general manager Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight of their duties and named himself GM, here are some potential candidates to be the next Islanders coach:
Sheldon Keefe — The 37-year-old former NHLer, in his third season with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs’ top affiliate, is considered a hot prospect among minor-league coaches and has his team in the Calder Cup Finals. Lamoriello was the Maple Leafs’ GM the past three seasons.
John Madden — Madden, 45, won two Stanley Cups with Lamoriello’s Devils and his unselfish, scrappy play fit the Lamoriello mold very well. He’s coached the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters, the Blue Jackets’ top affiliate, the past two seasons and was previously a Florida Panthers assistant coach.
Scott Stevens — Stevens, 54, captained the Devils to three Stanley Cups and served both as a Devils assistant and tri-coach along with Lamoriello and Adam Oates in 2014-15. He was a Minnesota Wild assistant coach in 2016-17 before returning to the New Jersey area for family reasons but is still believed to be interested in coaching.
Brent Sutter — The former Islanders captain, 55, hasn’t coached in the NHL since leaving the Calgary Flames in 2012 and is currently a junior hockey GM/coach. But he coached the Devils for two seasons under Lamoriello and the Sutter brothers have always been popular on Long Island.
Barry Trotz — The Capitals, up 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, wouldn’t really let a Cup-winning coach go, would they? But the speculation all season in Washington was this would be Trotz’s last season behind the Caps’ bench regardless of the results in order to make room for highly regarded assistant Todd Reirden and if the 55-year-old, an NHL head coach since 1988, is available, it might certainly intrigue Lamoriello.
D.J. Smith — The Maple Leafs’ highly regarded assistant coach under Mike Babcock, and Lamoriello, the past three seasons. Smith, 41, earned the most votes in an NHL Players Association poll last season asking which current assistant should be a head coach.