Are changes inbound for the NY Islanders?
The 2021-22 season was an absolute disaster for the NY Islanders. They missed the playoffs for the first time following three successful seasons, they fired their future hall-of-fame coach, and they went through yet another summer in which they didn't make any significant upgrades to the roster. Thus, their 2022-23 season felt doomed from the start. Now that the Islanders season is officially over following their 2-1 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 6 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's already time to ask the question. Are changes ahead for the Islanders who have not seen the same success they had between 2018 and 2021?
Well, start with the speculation that Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello's contract comes to an end on July 1st. Earlier this season, Lamoriello was asked about the status of his contract, but he declined to comment.
“Well, first of all, I never talk about myself," Lamoriello said looking to dismiss the question."But, common knowledge around the league? Obviously, none of you know what’s going on with (my contract). So, when you say common knowledge, I’ll just stop there and I wish that sometimes you have facts rather than ‘common knowledge’ and when you report, report what you know, not what you guess, read, or hear.”
Regardless of what Lamoriello's contract status is, the hall-of-fame general manager went about his business as if he'll be here for the long-haul, acquiring star center Bo Horvat in exchange for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Räty, and a conditional 2023 first round draft pick. Following the acquisition, Lamoriello then extended Horvat for eight years with an AAV that carries $8.5 million cap hit per year.
But now that the Islanders are out of the playoffs rather early, zooming the lens out and looking at the grand scheme of things, the Islanders are in a bit of an awkward spot.
They have no top prospect after acquiring Horvat.
They have no first-round pick for the same reason.
They hold a number of questionable contracts.
Big decisions are looming.
Clearly, Lamoriello has made his mark on this team for better and worse. He fixed the mess that was left by Garth Snow before he was dismissed. He assembled a roster that went to two Eastern Conference Finals, and more recently, he acquired Horvat, who although had a tough playoff, was still the top prize on the trade market leading up to the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline.
However, it might be time for the Islanders ownership to think about putting someone new at the helm of the Islanders in the President of Hockey Operations and General Manager positions. The Islanders have really struggled to improve in the summer in the Lamoriello era, and the Islanders don't have time to waste as one of the older teams in the NHL. One of the biggest needs the Islanders will need to address is how to improve the power play that was the 16th worst in the playoffs, and 31st worst in the regular season.
The Islanders have the personnel to continue to be a playoff contender, even if it is short term within the next two to three seasons. Ilya Sorokin will give the Islanders a chance to be competitive as long as he is around, so this summer should be about equipping the rest of the roster with the right pieces to be successful.
Horvat, Sorokin, and Mathew Barzal are a good start to icing a more competitive team next season, but the Islanders are going to have to be far more offensive in an evolving NHL that is seeing more goals year after year.
The Islanders know how to defend and keep the puck out of their net. They will need to add pieces to the roster this summer that can help on the power play and score more often at even strength. It's fair to question whether or not Lamoriello is the GM that can make fulfill those needs, and if Lamoriello doesn't return, it's fair to wonder if Lane Lambert is a casualty of a new general manager. Whatever the case, it's clear that this roster wasn't complete, and they'll need to retool this summer or start from scratch, even if that means new decision-makers in the front office and behind the bench.