Up to this season, everything has gone pretty well for Lou Lamoriello and his New York Islanders. We can all squabble if he got a good return on a trade or two, or picked the right player at the draft, or if he overpaid a player or not (he probably did). But overall things went well with three straight playoff appearances, two conference final appearances, and the same number of GM of the Year awards.
He came in with the Isles approaching a death spiral. Back-to-back years missing the playoffs, a defiant coach and GM, and a star player ready to walk. Lou fired the coach, fired the GM, and as we know that star player did indeed walk. Things looked really bleak as Lou stepped into the job.
New York Islanders: Fixing Isles is a big test for Lou Lamoriello
Lou put together a team that, on paper, wasn't supposed to do much. And I think he realized that as well at the time. Losing Tavares but bringing in Komarov, Filppula, and Martin does not say "we are going to be better".
But better they were. That was a surprise to everyone, including Lou Lamoriello. The two years after that surprise 2018-19 season, saw Lamoriello try to build on his team's success with the acquisitions of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Andy Greene, and Kyle Palmieri.
And it worked. In the last two years, the Islanders made back-to-back runs for the Cup that were unfortunately ended a few games before the Stanley Cup Finals.
But now, this year, Lou hit a bump (or massive pothole if you want to be really negative). His team, and it is his team, has not performed up to the standard he believed they could. It's time for a retool. Not a rebuild. Just a retool. This is going to be a big test for Lou. Can he adequately navigate this retool?
Some fans are already calling for Lou to be either kicked upstairs shed the GM title or to be moved out altogether. It's too early for that. This is the first big test for him. You might say 2018-19 was his first test. But that year was a toss-up. There was no frame of reference on what an Islanders team under Lou could or should do.
We have that now. We have three years to use as a frame of reference. We know what to expect now.
Lou has money to use, $13.755 million of cap space, he's got that valuable first-round pick in 2022, he's got a few - not a ton but one or two - valuable prospects he could move as well. He's a well-respected GM, which matters quite a bit when trying to get the right deal. Lou Lamoriello is seemingly well-positioned to make this retool work.
The goal is to bounce back immediately next season. That's how we'll know the retool as a success. If Lou can't deliver on that, then, and only then, should we discuss giving the GM title to someone else.