The myriad COVID-19 and scheduling obstacles the Islanders faced last season, leading to their first playoff miss since 2018 after back-to-back trips to the NHL final four, has been well documented.
New coach Lane Lambert, who will be directing almost the exact same roster as the fired Barry Trotz, wants to leave that in the past.
“I think there’s a sense from the players of having something to prove, there’s no question about it,” Lambert said Tuesday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. “At the same time, you can say whatever you want to say — road games, COVID or this and that — there aren’t any excuses. We can’t make any excuses and that’s why the past is in the past and we’re going to move forward.”
The Islanders’ prospect development camp opens on Wednesday with the first on-ice session on Thursday and the main training camp begins next Wednesday.
Other than acquiring feisty 22-year-old defenseman Alexander Romanov from the Canadiens for the 13th overall pick, president and general manager Lou Lamoriello had a fairly quiet offseason other than re-signing his own players.
And Lambert said he did not expect any other players to be invited to training camp on professional tryout offers.
So the Islanders’ brass has, once again, shown their complete faith in the core group that twice came so close to reaching to the organization’s first Stanley Cup Final berth since 1984.
“I am very comfortable, there’s no question about it,” Lambert said. “The reason I’m comfortable, and the comfort level is I know we have good players and good people. It’s that simple. There’s a lot of talent. There’s a lot of character. We’re extremely comfortable with what we have.”
Lambert, 57, who played in the NHL for the Red Wings, Rangers and Nordiques from 1983-89, is getting his first chance as an NHL coach after serving under Trotz with the Predators, Capitals and Islanders since 2011. The pair won a Stanley Cup in Washington in 2018 and Lambert served as Trotz’s associate coach during his four seasons with the Islanders.
Lambert said he has been in touch with Trotz since being named his successor on May 16 but not to talk hockey.
“We’ve let it be,” Lambert said. “I’ve learned a lot from him over the years and taken some of that with me. Certainly, there’s things that I have in my mind, offensively and defensively, to help our team grow and get better and we’ll implement those in training camp. I won’t get into details right now.”
Lambert recalled from his playing days there was usually “a sense of optimism” whenever a new coach took over.
“It’s a change,” Lambert said. “I think the optimism and the excitement in the change is to see, ‘OK, what’s going to happen? Where are the changes going to happen?’ I think there’s a sense of that from the guys. I think it’s only natural.”
Obviously, Lambert is a familiar face to the Islanders’ players. But he’s in a new role with the need to establish a different kind of connection with them.
“I talked to them but I certainly didn’t interfere with their summer,” Lambert said. “It was good for them to get recharged, to understand what was expected throughout the summer. I’ve seen every one of them since they’ve gotten back.”
Lambert said, at this point, he anticipates all the Islanders being healthy enough to be on the ice for training camp. Specifically, he anticipates Cal Clutterbuck (shoulder surgery) and defenseman Scott Mayfield (lower body) to be available after they both missed the end of last season.