It’s easy to see some of the differences in Lou’s World.
The Islanders, to a man, are now clean shaven and some have been re-assigned to more traditional jersey numbers. The charter flights will no longer include the Islanders’ broadcasting crews or other media-related team employees.
New president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, along with new coach Barry Trotz, are working to change the team’s culture and turn a team that has missed the playoffs the past two seasons and has won just one playoff series since 1993 back into an annual contender.
“I just think everyone is so professional, starting from everyone being groomed to the nines and clean shaven and looking really sharp every day,” defenseman David Quenneville said on Saturday, the second day of the Islanders’ rookie camp at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. “Everyone is so focused and it’s just great to be a part of.
“Obviously, I’ve only been here a pretty short time,” added Quenneville, a seventh-round pick in 2016. “But the vibes are a lot different. Guys are focused. Even the veterans. A lot of the vets were here early skating with the team in those informal skates. It’s just great to see that many guys dialed in so early.”
The veterans’ training camp opens on Thursday – the first on-ice session is on Friday – and the first preseason game is against the Flyers at Nassau Coliseum on Sept. 16.
“You’ll see that for yourself at camp,” said right wing Josh Ho-Sang, the 28th overall pick in 2014. “You’ll definitely see the changes that have been made and the structure. The biggest thing visually is my face.”
Ho-Sang’s beard is gone and he’s now wearing No. 26 – his number at Bridgeport (AHL) – after wearing No. 66 during his previous tenures with the Islanders.
Left wing Anthony Beauvillier, who wore No. 72 for the Islanders last season, is now No. 18. Defenseman Adam Pelech has been re-assigned No. 3 after wearing No. 50 last season.
Lamoriello has always run his teams with an old-school approach that places an emphasis on the privacy and structure of the team. But he won three Stanley Cups with the Devils and led them to five Cup finals between 1987-2015, then was part of the Maple Leafs’ rebuilding efforts the past three seasons.
Trotz coached the Capitals to that franchise’s first Cup championship in June.
“You’ve got Barry Trotz there and Lou, both have won Stanley Cups and know what it takes to win,” said returning Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson, who is running the on-ice drills at rookie camp. “That’s your first and foremost thing that the organization did and that’s what makes it exciting. Now, it’s work ethic, habits and details. Those little things don’t change but it’s their presence and then what we can learn from them and how we translate that to the team.”
Thompson’s goatee is, of course, missing. Quenneville, the nephew of defenseman Johnny Boychuk via marriage, said defenseman Nick Leddy looks the most different among the veterans.
“He had a mountain man beard last year and now he’s clean shaven,” Quenneville said.
But some of the changes Lamoriello and Trotz are implementing are more subtle.
The defense must improve after the Islanders allowed an NHL-worst 293 goals last season and Thompson said the new coaching staff is “strict with their systems and what they teach.”
“I can’t speak to what last year was like but you come in and you see all the changes and you can kind of tell things are running differently,” said defenseman Noah Dobson, selected 12th overall in June. “Lou Lamoriello is running the whole thing and he’s a great hockey mind. He definitely knows what he’s doing so they’ve got a great system in place.”
Notes & quotes: Goalie Jakub Skarek, a third-round pick this June, will participate in Sunday’s practice before departing later in the day to rejoin his team in the Finnish Elite League. Thompson said the Czech prospect had valuable time to see how the Islanders operated, understand what the organization expects of him and begin his acclimation to North American hockey despite his abbreviated stay at rookie camp. “Three days are better than no days,” Thompson said.