Trying to predict or anticipate Lou Lamoriello’s hiring decisions can be a bit of a fool’s game since the wily executive is both notoriously tight-lipped about his thought process and known, at times, for outside-the-box thinking.
So while there was immediate speculation on Tuesday regarding potential candidates to be the next Islanders coach after Lamoriello, the president of hockey operations and now general manager, relieved GM Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight of their duties, there’s no guarantee any of the mentioned names will be considered.
Not even Lamoriello’s past — he was the Maple Leafs GM the past three seasons and the Devils president/GM from 1987-2015 — provides a definitive template for what type of coach he might be seeking.
Fourteen coaches were hired during Lamoriello’s tenure with the Devils — some went behind the bench more than once — a diversified group that included defensive tacticians such as Jacques Lemaire, disciplinarians such as Pat Burns, a legend and visionary in Herb Brooks, the combative and distinctly old school Jim Schoenfeld and NHL rookies elevated from the AHL such as John MacLean and John Hynes.
Mike Babcock was already in place with the Maple Leafs when Lamoriello joined that organization.
Among the potential Islanders’ candidates, there are those with prior connections to Lamoriello such as current Maple Leafs assistant D.J. Smith or Sheldon Keefe, who coaches the Maple Leafs’ top minor-league affiliate. There’s former Devils captain Scott Stevens, who formed a head coaching triumvirate with Lamoriello and Adam Oates in 2014-15. Or former Devils center John Madden, now coaching the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate in Cleveland. Or MacLean, the former Devils right wing and current Coyotes assistant.
There’s been speculation about out-of-work NHL coaches such as Alain Vigneault, Dave Tippett, Dan Bylsma or Darryl or Brent Sutter, or even Capitals coach Barry Trotz if Washington GM Brian MacLellan wants to elevate associate coach Todd Reirden.
The only profile clue Lamoriello would give on Tuesday as to what he was looking for in the next Islanders’ coach was, “The best coach that we can get for the players we have.”
“Start off with a fresh face, start off with a fresh mind, a fresh coach and just go forward,” Lamoriello said.
The Devils were known for their strong defensive system and that’s a foundation the Islanders sorely need.
Yet while coaches such as Lemaire or Larry Robinson or Kevin Constantine or Robbie Ftorek or Claude Julien represented that defense-first mentality, Brooks was known for his passing and skating system that emphasized offensive strengths and MacLean was, at one time, the Devils’ all-time leading scorer. Meanwhile, Jaromir Jagr, who had the second most points in NHL history, wanted out of New Jersey once Pete DeBoer was fired.
One thing well known when it comes to Lamoriello is he is not afraid to fire a coach at any point in the season.
Brooks lasted just one season with the Devils, reportedly because he and Lamoriello did not see eye to eye. Ftorek was fired with eight games remaining in his second season and the Devils in first place. Granted, it turned out to be the right move as the Devils, who had lost 12 of 17, went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2000 with Robinson taking over. Julien was fired with three games remaining in his first season and the Devils in first place.
DeBoer was fired during the NHL’s Christmas break.