DENVER — Lou Lamoriello still believes in his core players and in coach Barry Trotz and insisted he has not made up his mind yet on whether he wants to be a buyer or a seller heading into the NHL trade deadline on March 21.
But the Islanders president and general manager is not willing to "sugarcoat" the disappointment of his team’s performance so far.
"To answer a lot of things that transpired, whether it’s giving up late goals or slow starts or [being] different teams during the same game or periods, those are questions that certainly are fair questions and questions that certainly I wish I had answers for you at this point," Lamoriello said Tuesday during a sitdown with traveling media. "But I don’t and, really, you cannot dwell on it. You have to try to not think that [the issues] are going to go away by themselves.
"I have a real strong belief in this core, there’s no question of that. But you have to have performance, without question. We’ve had some players this year have some slow starts in areas they have to be proficient in. We’ve got scorers who are supposed to score. We’ve got other people who are supposed to play different roles. We haven’t had that on a consistent basis. It’s obvious and I’m not going to sugarcoat it and for us to be successful, that’s how we’re built."
The Islanders entered Tuesday night’s game against the NHL-leading Avalanche at Ball Arena, the conclusion of a five-game road trip, 17 points out of a playoff spot and without consecutive wins in regulation since Nov. 4-6.
That has led to the presumption that Lamoriello will be a seller at the trade deadline with the Islanders likely to miss the playoffs for the first time in four seasons under him and Trotz. Cal Clutterbuck, Zach Parise and defensemen Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene are impending unrestricted free agents and there should also be a strong market for goalie Semyon Varlamov.
But Lamoriello said he’s still not sure of his strategy.
"It all depends what day I woke up," Lamoriello said of his thoughts. "There’s some 20-plus days to trade deadline. They change every day, I’ll be perfectly honest with you. We have 33 games left. I certainly know where we stand. I also know what I believe our abilities are and, I’ll use the word that I hate — potential. And I’ll just take it now a day at a time until we get to the point where decisions need to be made."
The Islanders’ season started with a 13-game road trip while construction was completed on UBS Arena. COVID-19 outbreaks have impacted the schedule leaving long stretches without games and roster difficulties.
"I don’t believe in excuses," Lamoriello said. "But, if you’re asking me the question, do I think this team had the ability coming into this season to not be in this position? Absolutely, yes.
"From Day 1, you can’t make some of this up. But, once again, that gets in the excuse category. You have to overcome adversity. That’s our job to do that."
As for Trotz, Lamoriello would not confirm that next season is the final one on the coach’s contract, as believed. He added Trotz would remain in the job, "as long as he’d like to coach this team and the organization wants him to coach this team."
But even though the Islanders’ record is not what the organization hoped, Lamoriello still praised Trotz’s performance this season.
Said Lamoriello: "He’s done an incredible job trying to navigate through all the extenuating circumstances that have transpired."