NY Islanders' Head Coach Lane Lambert had some ups and downs in his first season at the helm. It started well with players like Mat Barzal, Brock Nelson, and Anders Lee all hovering around a point-per-game pace while the team found success and ways to win games when they were down. Then, things quickly got more difficult for the team, specifically in January when they went 4-8-3 due to immense scoring troubles. When March came around, the Islanders once again found ways to win close-scoring games, rekindling its scoring touch from the start of the season through players such as Zach Parise and Hudson Fasching while benching veteran Josh Bailey, resulting in clinching a playoff spot after missing the tournament last season.
The way the regular season ended was commendable, even amid criticism for new acquisition Bo Horvat, along with fans raising questions about Lambert's coaching style. His presence in media availability also didn't sit well with fans, with some finding him smug, dry, and not showing nearly as much enthusiasm as his predecessor Barry Trotz. His start as a head coach didn't begin as successful and positive as Trotz's first season with the team, but his growth will need to continue for the Isles to be able to compete next season.
"I think one of the things that I respected is that during the tough time, during that middle of the year (struggles), he kept a very even composure and kept a calmness which I think was very important."- Lou Lamoriello
Lane Lambert's growth will be key for NY Islanders success in 2023-24
The idea that GM Lou Lamoriello was sold on with promoting Lambert is that he would provide a new voice in the room while maintaining the Islanders' identity built with Trotz. Many fans expected younger players to take a leap after showing some spark in the few games in 2021-22 that Lambert served as the interim head coach, such as Oliver Wahlstrom, Anthony Beauvillier, and Barzal. All three players got taken away from him either by injury or trade, so the jury is still out on that idea, but it needs to happen now more than ever, with heavy expectations from the fans.
Anything that makes this team look different than last year's rendition should be considered a product of Lambert's work. Some may think the Isles aren't necessarily "running it back" completely, but for the most part, the roster is molded the same way it has been for the past few seasons. Their roster is also one of the oldest in the league, so fans know exactly what they are getting with most of the established players on the team. If there's a noticeable change with the system as a whole, special teams, or line arrangements that bring the team up or down, Lambert will either be credited or blamed for the outcome
"I thought he did a phenomenal job. We had a lot of different swings throughout the season, a lot of things that we had to handle, and he got us to a place where we were playing some of our better hockey down the stretch to put ourselves in, and it gave us an opportunity."- Captain Anders Lee
Lambert's first season as the bench boss can be classified as "just enough," precisely what the team was on its road back to the playoffs as the first wild-card team and being properly dismissed by a much better Carolina Hurricanes squad in the first round. The demand for New York fans has been high the past few seasons because of the recent trips to the Eastern Conference Final, making it the most successful period that this generation of fans has experienced. We all will learn a lot about what kind of coach Lambert truly is after another season under his belt with nearly the same roster he started with.