Barry Trotz was always grooming Lane Lambert to be an NHL head coach; he just didn't expect that his first opportunity would be replacing him. Nevertheless, if it was going to be anyone, Trotz was pleased to see it was his longtime protege.
“Not that I wanted to get fired . . . [But] if you’re replacing me, fantastic," said Trotz to Andrew Gross in Newsday. on Thursday. "It meant as a friend and a colleague, you were advancing.”
The Isles beat writer caught up with the former Islanders head coach turned Nashville Predators GM before the team's 4-1 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday night. Asked for his opinion of Lambert and his old team, Trotz was complimentary of both.
“He’s been exactly what I thought,” Trotz said of Lambert. “Some coaches would be a little bit miffed. It’s just human nature. But I always said to all my coaching staff that I got the business part of it. I wanted my staff to be involved in the whole process. I’d say, ‘At some point, I’m going to get let go and I want you to be one of the guys who replaces me.’
As for the team, Trotz talked on the podcast circuit as he watched the team from afar last season with an interested eye and maintained a close relationship with GM Lou Lamoriello. While many around the league have been critical of the team's off-season, Trotz recognizes the impact two players acquired last season that Lamoriello extended has had on the makeup of the team.
"They’ve added a little more speed with [Pierre] Engvall and a little more depth with [Bo] Horvat,” Trotz said. “Age is only a number. They get in; they’re going to be a tough out."
“They have as good a shot as anybody."
Under Trotz, the Islanders made the post-season three times in four years, winning at least a round in each trip to the playoffs. In both 2020 and 2021, the team was not expected to make deep playoff runs after regular seasons that were solid but not at the pace of others in the Eastern Conference. Those runs provide the blueprint for an Isles team that is projected to be in the Wild Card mix this season.
Trotz, one of the winningest coaches in league history, indicated that his days behind the bench are over, meaning that his four seasons with the Islanders were his last leading a NHL team as coach. If that's the case, he walks away having coached the second-most games in league history and third all-time in wins.