(1) Al Arbour
Four Stanley Cups, one Jack Adams and a 740-537-223 record with the New York Islanders through 1973 to 1994. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1996. He’s currently the fourth winningest coach in NHL history. Few did it as well as Al Arbour.
He wasn’t there as of day one for the Islanders, in fact, he was the Islanders third coach in two years. but when he got there his impact was immediate.
In the Islanders first year in the NHL, they gave up an incredible 347 goals against. In 1973-74, Arbour’s first year as coach, he cut that down by a hundred to 247.
By year number two, Arbour had the Islanders into the semifinals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Arbour saw the game like few others could, and he could communicate his plan to his players just as effortlessly. Al Arbour tops this list and is heads and shoulders above anyone who’s ever coached the Islanders.
(2) Peter Laviolette
Laviolette joined the Islanders from the AHL. Like most of their hires. He wasn’t a name brand and so the Isles didn’t have to pay him like one. He had success at the lower level and the Isles hoped a young coach would continue to push to prove himself at the top level.
He did exactly that.
Laviolette came to the Isles in 2001. The year prior to that the Islanders finished the season with 52 points and missed the playoffs for the seventh year in a row. In Laviolette’s first season he guided the Islanders to a 96 point season. Making up 44 points. And the Isles made the playoffs.
Laviolette put the Islanders in the playoffs in both years he was on the Island. But for some reason, GM Mike Milbury, in his infinite wisdom fired Laviolette after winning six of 22 games at end of the 2002-2003 regular season and getting bounced by the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the playoffs.
Laviolette had a 77-62-19 record with the Islanders and he was fired.
Since departing, Laviolette won a Stanley Cup two years after being fired by the Islanders and has been to the finals three times with three different teams. In 2005-06 with the Hurricanes, in 2009-10 with the Philadelphia Flyers, and in 2016-17 with the Nashville Predators.
Sometimes you just don’t know what you got till it’s gone.