Islanders: 3 Misconceptions about GM Lou Lamoriello

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It seems like New York Islanders fans are always conflicted on some of the trends and moves General Manager Lou Lamoriello has made in the past few years, and what better day to try and calm fans down than on NHL draft day?

Lou became both GM and President of Hockey Operations for the Islanders right before the 2018 NHL draft. He came to Long Island after the Toronto Maple Leafs decided to go in a different direction with Kyle Dubas as GM and the job he handed was not easy by any means.

His first two orders of business were finding a new head coach to succeed Doug Weight, and re-signing franchise center John Tavares. He may have only accomplished one of those as we know, but I think most Islanders fans were happy with the addition of Barry Trotz and their success over the coming seasons.

Now with Trotz out after a very disappointing 2021-22 season, the moves he makes from this moment on will be looked at under a microscope with little room for error in the eyes of many.

Some have already lost their patience with Lamoriello even though he has made some good moves that have been overshadowed by others - the Devon Toews deal comes to mind. Granted, the Islanders were in a brutal spot with the salary cap, and sacrifices had to be made, but Toews is now a 2022 Stanley Cup champion and the Islanders obviously are not.

This obviously is not Lou's first rodeo around the league. He was previously the longtime GM of the New Jersey Devils and had a shorter stint with Toronto, and he will be turning 80 years old (!) in October.

With that said, many people seem to forget about his time with those teams and the moves he made and only focus on what he has done now with the Islanders. Of course, what he does now is the most important thing for right this moment, but some fans assume that he only knows one way to make his team play. With that said, let's look at three misconceptions about the 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee.

Lou Lamoriello and Slava Fetisov - "Red Army" Photo Call - 52nd New York Film Festival
Lou Lamoriello and Slava Fetisov - "Red Army" Photo Call - 52nd New York Film Festival / Ilya S. Savenok/GettyImages

Misconception #1: Lamoriello won't go out and acquire the 'big name' player.

I really don't understand why people think Lou wouldn't want a star player on his team, he has acquired many in his past.

A common theme with all of these thoughts will be "people don't remember when," the first one that I will bring up is when he traded for Ilya Kovalchuk from the Thrashers at the time. This was a star goal-scoring Russian machine drafted 1st overall in 2001 who was on an expiring contract, and he basically stole Kovalchuk from Atlanta.

He acquired Kovalchuk for a few players that were not very impactful in the NHL and a first and second-round pick. Yeah, steal is the right word.

Kovalchuk was one of, if not the, most significant acquisitions Lou has ever pulled off, but of course not the only one. In fact, he's one of the biggest reasons that Russian players were allowed to come to North America to play in the NHL. In his early days with the Devils, he sought out superstars playing overseas even when they weren't allowed to play in the league by government authority. He was successful and showed his commitment by bringing over star Soviet Union defenseman Slava Fetisov in a potentially dangerous situation for all parties involved.

RegardingWhen it comes to the Islanders, fans always wanted an exciting, high-upside goal scorer to alleviate all of the team's scoring issues. Considering Lou has stated that he expects to make some "hockey trades" this offseason, we could see a name like Vladimir Tarasenko in rumors as we did last offseason. There are also rational UFAs that he can acquire, an example being someone like Filip Forsberg.

Other big-name players Lou has acquired in the past include Alexander Mogilny, Joe Nieuwendyk, Scott Stevens, Doug Gilmour, Peter Stastny, Dave Andreychuk, among others. But what is it that they all have in common? They are all established Hall of Fame players. Those are all very talented offensive players during their careers, which goes to show why people have the wrong idea over my next point as well.

2019 NHL Draft - Round One
2019 NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Misconception #2: That Lamoriello forces his teams to play a strict defensive scheme.

This idea usually starts and ends with the phrase "The Trap," New Jersey's infamous playing style in the early 90's that absolutely stressed team defense and shutting opponents down in the neutral zone.

There should be more credit given to Jacques Lemaire when it comes to this style, who coached the Devils to their 1995 Stanley Cup victory. He even carried this strict style to the newly expanded Minnesota Wild in the early 2000s, which was lacking in star power but was a very tough team to play against.

Sure, this was synonymous with Lamoriello and the entire Devils' identity even after Lemaire, but it did bring them continued success with championships. This playing style did not last nearly as long as people thought it did, however. In fact, their lower-scoring seasons have come much more recently since Lou left the Devils' front office in 2015, and look how they have been doing since.

After he left the Devils he became the new GM of the Maple Leafs, where he was tasked to rebuild and catch up with the new-age style of hockey focusing on speed and skill. He did exactly that, and during most of this era, the Maple Leafs were not a very good defensive team, but rather focused on offense and scoring. That has continued into the type of team the Leafs have today, all with fingerprints of Lamoriello's time with the franchise.

It almost feels like people forgot all about his Maple Leafs stint, and only think about what he's doing now with the Islanders. The defensive style we have seen by the Islanders over the past four years is definitely influenced by Lou. That is not being denied, but that is not a one-man job either.

Barry Trotz also had a lot to do with that. He is great with getting the best out of veteran players, and playing a tight-checking game that produces wins with fewer goals and skill provided on a nightly basis. That's why he won a Jack Adams award.

Now Trotz is without a job in the NHL, mainly due to personal choice, but Lou in that same press conference, while talking about the team's direction, mentioned that he himself wants more offense, and not to feel forced to play a game that relies so heavily on the bottom of the lineup to play in such important roles.

So, with Lane Lambert at the helm, we could see a change in play style come next season, and possibly a different approach in bringing new players to the team.

2016 NHL Draft - Round One
2016 NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Misconception #3: Lamoriello hates the young guys.

This idea was immediately cleared up in the same press conference on May 9th, or it at least for fans should have been.

It was clear to Lou that he had to make a move at the coaching position after he saw the disconnect between Trotz, who favored veterans playing big minutes, and the younger players who deserved more time and responsibility on the ice.

Players like Mathew Barzal, Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows, and Anthony Beauvillier all were sheltered from playing the game they are best at while Trotz was at the helm, and there's reason to expect they get much more time next season with a different voice to respond to. Lou cares about his young players especially when he drafts them, those are "his guys," and they love him back too.

In another instance of "people don't remember when," Lamoriello as mentioned before was tasked with completely rebuilding the Maple Leafs team when he got there. He saw that in order to succeed he needed a key piece to build around, So what did he do? He saw he needed to get a lottery pick and select a future superstar, which came to fruition when they selected Auston Matthews 1st overall in 2016.

For him, "Tanking" wasn't as easy as just saying the Maple Leafs were just simply bad that year. He made sure that they got rid of players that did not fit their timeline, such as their captain Dion Phaneuf during the 2016-17 season. If everyone used their idea of Lou and his teams' play styles, then doesn't Phaneuf sound like a prototypical player in a Lou-run organization?

Players such as Phaneuf, and before that Phil Kessel, had to go because he knew that the first step in their rebuild was having his young players take a big step by moving up the lineup and getting a chance to shine. And it worked out that year, with Toronto making the playoffs during Matthews' rookie season, a very unexpected result to say the least.

That's just what Lou Lamoriello does, though. He knows what he needs to do for his franchise to make them better and win. Sure, there are always seasons where his team does not make the playoffs, albeit rare, but he will always do what is best for the franchise moving forward.

How many times can lifelong Devils fans say they had a bad team put out there on the ice that didn't compete in the playoffs? Not many. Toronto also found almost immediate success once he got there as well, for a franchise that had almost none for about 10 years before Lou's arrival. So to all of the Islander fans that are panicking because of the first missed playoffs under the Lamoriello regime, don't worry, they could be back as early as next season, but you shouldn't give up on arguably the smartest GM in hockey history.