It's been 121 days since the NY Islanders were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes in six games, and we've yet to hear Head Coach Lane Lambert address the media. Early off-season questions surrounded the Isles bench boss on whether he and GM Lou Lamoriello would be returning for the 2023-24 season, but it now appears both will be back for their second season together.
Lambert dealt with the ups and downs during his first season in charge, as his team struggled out of the gate but made up ground in the second half of the season to clinch the Eastern Conference's first Wild Card birth.
After the departure of Barry Trotz, Lambert was brought in to inject more offense into the Islanders, which the team lacked under Trotz. Folloing a season-ending injury to the team's top offensive playmaker Mat Barzal, Lambert reverted to a style more similar to the one in which the Isles played under Trotz, which the team seemed to be more comfortable with.
With Barzal now healthy and Bo Horvart for a full season, more offense is expected, and Lambert could become the scapegoat if the team endures early-season struggles. With an aging team and a window to contend closer to closing than opening, Lambert may be fighting for his job through the early parts of the season.
The leash always seems shorter with newer head coaches, and Lambert is only in his second year as a headman. While the terms of his contract haven't been made public, it's likely his earnings are on the lower end of head coaches around the league, making it easier to part with him. Plenty of experienced coaches are available, biting at the bit to get back into the game if Lamoriello believes the team needs a new voice.
The Isles finished 22nd in goals-per-game last season, the second lowest of any playoff team ahead of only the Minnesota Wild. With Ilya Sorokin in goal coming off a season where he was a Vezina Trophy finalist, establishing himself as one of the league's top goaltenders, Lambert may look to open the team up a bit more with the addition of Horvat, knowing he has one of the leagues best between the pipes.
The Islanders cannot afford to fall far out of playoff position early in the season, as playing catchup last year took a toll on the team come playoff time. Lambert, deserving or not, will be the one the team moves on from if a move is deemed necessary, as he needs to get his team off to a hot start.