In a shocking mid-season move, the New York Islanders have fired head coach Lane Lambert and replaced him with NHL legend Patrick Roy.
Islanders Struggling in Lambert’s First Season
The Islanders hired Lambert last summer after former head coach Barry Trotz was unexpectedly dismissed following four seasons behind the bench. Lambert had served as Trotz’s assistant and was expected to bring some continuity after New York made back-to-back trips to the semifinals.
However, the Islanders have struggled badly under Lambert, entering Saturday with a 18-24-5 record and sitting seventh in the Metro division. The team has been inconsistent on both ends of the ice. Despite superstar center Mathew Barzal putting together an excellent individual season with 42 points in 47 games, New York ranks 25th in the league in goals per game (2.79). The power play has also been dreadful, clicking at just 16.7%. That’s fifth-worst in the NHL.
While goaltenders Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov have been solid, defensive lapses have led to too many quality chances against. The penalty kill sits 20th at 76.3%. With a -23 goal differential, the Islanders are allowing 3.38 goals per contest.
Front Office Loses Patience With Lambert
Lambert was reportedly on the hot seat for awhile, but back-to-back blowout losses to Tampa Bay and Boston this week marked the end of his brief tenure. Islanders President Lou Lamoriello held an abrupt press conference Saturday morning, announcing Lane Lambert had been relieved of his duties. Longtime NHL netminder Patrick Roy was simultaneously named interim head coach.
The future Hall of Fame goalie brings instant credibility and a championship pedigree behind the bench. Roy won four Stanley Cups during his playing days – two with Montreal and two with Colorado. He also captured Memorial Cup and Calder Cup titles as a coach in major junior and the AHL. Roy took over as head coach in Colorado back in 2013-14, guiding a young Avalanche core to division titles his first three years. He owns a 307-206-68 record over nearly a decade as an NHL bench boss.
Lamoriello expressed confidence Roy’s experience and hockey IQ can ignite the Islanders down the stretch.
What Roy Brings to the Islanders
The 57-year-old French Canadian looks rejuvenated by the challenge awaiting him on Long Island. When asked what needs fixing, Roy pointed to the Islanders’ porous defensive play. He preached accountability and said the team needs to get back to playing the structured, defense-first style that defined Trotz’s stingy units.
Roy also talked about simplifying things for his players and building up their confidence. He plans to make minor tweaks to the system but run many of the same x’s and o’s Lambert had in place. The bigger emphasis will be on the players’ effort level and attention to detail shift in and shift out.
In terms of lines, Roy indicated he wants to balance the units better. There may be a few personnel moves coming as forwards like Josh Bailey and Zach Parise have badly underperformed this year. We could also see a shuffling of defensive pairings.
Big Expectations Amidst Playoff Push
While certainly a flawed and disappointing group so far, the Islanders do have enough talent on paper to contend. Making Roy’s job easier, ironman defenseman Adam Pelech has returned after missing eight games with an upper-body issue. Young blueliner Noah Dobson made big strides as an All-Star this year and leads the team in ice time. Up front, Mathew Barzal is enjoying a breakout 40-plus goal pace while Bo Horvat has excelled since being acquired from Vancouver in January.
Ultimately, it will come down to whether Roy can get the Islanders to buy in and defend with the urgency needed on a nightly basis. The Metropolitan features several of the league’s top teams but remains tightly contested from spots 2-4. If New York can string some wins together over the next few weeks, there’s still an avenue to grab a playoff berth in April.
Lamoriello made it clear he expects Roy to accomplish exactly that, calling the coaching change a move geared toward salvaging the season and bringing playoff hockey back to UBS Arena. It’s certainly a tall task, but Patrick Roy relishes tough challenges. Don’t be surprised if the re-energized Islanders make some noise in the coming months.
What This Means Going Forward
In the short term, Roy and the Isles are in pure “win now” mode. But the future of this coaching position remains unclear. Roy has been given the interim tag for the rest of 2023-24. If he leads an impressive turnaround and/or postseason run, he’ll likely shed that label and earn a long-term extension. If the struggles continue, New York figures to conduct a wide search this summer for someone to lead the team going forward.
As for Lane Lambert, he’s almost certain to resurface as an assistant coach next season after his failed first shot as the main man. There were rumblings Chicago had interest in him, though those NHL coaching carousel rides may need to wait with Roy’s arrival.
Big picture, this shocking shakeup once again shows Lamoriello’s extreme win-now mentality and little patience when the on-ice results don’t meet expectations. The GM built a championship roster with Trotz that immediately gelled after years of futility. This year’s group has badly underachieved, and a culture change felt necessary.
Installing a proven winner in Patrick Roy makes sense in the short term. Long term, it remains to be seen whether the Isles’ struggles were more a product of coaching, roster construction or simply players underperforming. How Roy and Lamoriello choose to tackle next offseason and beyond should bring more clarity. For now, the focus returns squarely back on the ice and salvaging 2023-24.
Patrick Roy Islanders Coaching Record
|Named Interim Head Coach Jan. 20
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.