In a stunning move on Monday the New York Islanders announced that they have fired head coach Barry Trotz after four seasons in charge.
The announcement was made by Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello after a disappointing season where the team finished fifth in the Metropolitan Division and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2017-18, the year before Trotz arrived on Long Island.
During a conference call with reporters on Monday, Lamoriello said, “It is my role to make the best decisions for the organization going forward and I believe that this group of players needs a new voice,” while also declining to go into specifics for the decision.
Trotz compiled a 152-102-34 records in four seasons with the Islanders and helped them to back-to-back trips to the third round in 2019-20 and 2020-21. He was about to enter the final year of a five-year contract he signed in 2018 when he joined the team.
“These type of decisions are made for going forward,” Lamoriello said. “With this group we have — and they are on notice right now — that the new voice is what’s necessary for us to have success, in my opinion. And unfortunately or fortunately, my opinion is what has to make these decisions.”
Rough start to 2021-22
As the franchise finished up construction on UBS Arena, the Islanders began this season on a 13-game road trip, finally playing at home on Nov. 20. They went 5-7-2 to open the year and then were hit by COVID-19 and numerous injuries that led to a playoff-less spring, their first under Trotz.
When their regular season came to an end the general feeling around the organization was that the factors that contributed to such a frustrating and down year would lead to a turnaround in 2022-23. It still might, but not with Trotz, who helped turn the Islanders from one of the league’s most porous defenses into one of its best.
Who’s next for Isles and what does Trotz do?
Lamoriello’s announcement only said that Trotz was gone, none of his assistants. One of Trotz’s longtime helpers on the bench has been Lane Lambert, who was with him for over a decade with the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, and Islanders. His name is always out there when it comes to open head coaching jobs around the NHL and he assumed the head coaching role for one game on January when Trotz’s mother passed away.
“All my assistants I’ve ever had, I want them all to be head coaches. I don’t want them not to be head coaches,” Trotz told The Athletic’s Josh Cooper in 2019. “Some of it is timing. Some of it is circumstance. Some of it is perception. In this business, to get a break you need someone to be in your corner and knowing someone. I think Lane has enough people in his corner who he’s worked with, who know him and his success as a head coach and his success as an assistant coach and now as an associate coach. There’s a reason we’ve had success together. He’s a big part of it, for sure.”
If Trotz wants to jump into another job — and he’s coached uninterrupted with three teams since starting in the NHL in 1998-99 — he’ll have a handful of options. The Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings need head coaches, while the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets had interims for the most of the season. We could see more jobs become available depending on what the Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights, New Jersey Devils, and San Jose Sharks do and if any Stanley Cup playoff teams (Toronto? Dallas?) decide to make changes should disappointing exits occur.