Monday, 21 May 2018

Lou York Islanders?

I was going to write this funny opening bit about Lou Lamoriello calling New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow and basically telling Garth that he was on his way to help save the Islanders by ensuring that John Tavares stayed on Long Island in Brooklyn. It occurred to me as I was writing said bit that perhaps Garth Snow might have actually asked assistant GM and Lou's son Chris Lamoriello for some help in what will surely be a defining negotiation for the Islanders franchise and Garth Snow's legacy. If Tavares leaves via free agency, the Islanders are doomed. If they re-sign him long-term, there's a chance they can really build something with some of the great prospects they have in their system. Lou Lamoriello joining the Islanders certainly is news, but this might be a story of how Garth Snow signed his own termination papers.

It's unknown exactly what role Lou Lamoriello will be assuming in the Islanders' hierarchy at this point, but you'd have to figure that he brings with his a sense of stability for a franchise who simply seems stuck in neutral outside the playoff picture. At this point, I'd expect him to move into a corner office with a title of Savior of Franchise or something grandiose that basically tells everyone - Garth Snow and son Chris included - that he's making the decisions about everything hockey happening at Barclays Center now. Otherwise, why would he make this move?

As an advisor for the Leafs, he could impart wisdom on new general manager Kyle Dubas, but Dubas doesn't have to listen. That's not something that I believe a man who pulled every string with the New Jersey Devils and the vast majority of strings with the Maple Leafs could be happy with, so this move almost became inevitable the moment that Brendan Shanahan removed the "General Manager" placard off Lou's door at the Air Canada Centre. Lou Lamoriello likes being in charge and certainly holding the power of control when it comes to the hockey teams he has worked for, and this move to the Islanders sounds like he's already making waves.

According to reports, Lamoriello has already reached out to John Tavares in an effort to keep him in the Islanders' fold, and that's probably something that Tavares never expected unless the call was coming from downtown Toronto. Where Lou excels in his manipulation of information is that nothing is ever leaked to, told to, implied by, or said explicitly to any member of the media without Lou's authorization. In other words, Lou Lamoriello could have been working for the Islanders for the last two weeks, and no one would have been the wiser. As it stands, his contact with Tavares apparently is kosher with the NHL thanks to his behind-the-scenes work on behalf of the Islanders that started, well, whenever he arrived in Brooklyn.
So what happens now? Lou Lamoriello will most certainly find a way to keep John Tavares. That is the first priority for the Islanders if they have any hope of being relevant in the next decade. After that, expect Lou to institute an impressive scouting department and draft strategy that will put the Islanders in a good position within three-to-five years. From there, it's all about signing quality college-graduated free agents that will fill gaps and provide excellent depth to an organization desperately needing some.

Like he did in Toronto, this won't be an overnight change. Lamoriello will change the culture entirely from within the organization in order to being stability and, more importantly, success to the franchise from the product on the ice at Barclays Center to the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers to the ECHL's Worcester Railers. There may be steps backwards in order to move forward, and this might be a confusing time for Islanders fans who have long wanted to see a winning team on the ice. If you trust in Lou, though, he will change things for a franchise that desperately needs some success in both the regular season and the postseason.

The one person who may not get to experience this? GM Garth Snow. Snow has been guiding this Islanders ship since July 18, 2006 when he took over after Neil Smith was dismissed after just 41 days. Snow has brought in some impressive talent during his time in the big chair - Ryan Smyth, Jordan Eberle, Shane Prince, Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk - but the Islanders have missed the playoffs seven times in his 12 years at the helm and have only advanced past the first round once. That's not the kind of resumé you want to roll out in front of your new boss, and Lou Lamoriello, known for making coaching changes at rather odd times, may dismiss his general manager in the near future in order to change the culture.

A new era in New York Islanders hockey has begun, and the winds of change may already be blowing as Lou settles in to right another ship. If he can make the Islanders as successful as the New Jersey Devils, there might be a very good reason to start calling them the Lou York Islanders.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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