After the 2017-18 season, a year that ended without the playoffs for the second consecutive Spring, New York Islanders co-owner Jon Ledecky sat at a table flanked by GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight and read a generic, uninspiring statement didn't provide answers as to the direction the organization was going after a year that fell far short of expectations.
The circumstances aren't as dire as they were five years ago, but the Islanders now enter the off-season where it is again unclear who will be making the personnel decisions moving forward - at least to the fanbase. The status of President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Lou Lamoriello's contract, signed in 2018, is uncertain with unconfirmed reports saying 2022-23 was the final year.
When asked about his contract status in early April, Lamoriello dismissed the question.
“Well, first of all, I never talk about myself," said Lamoriello. "But, common knowledge around the league? Obviously, none of you know what’s going on with (my contract). So, when you say common knowledge, I’ll just stop there, and I wish that sometimes you have facts rather than ‘common knowledge,’ and when you report, report what you know, not what you guess, read, or hear.”
Now that the season is over, ownership needs to inform its fans whether Lamoriello will be back for a sixth season as the Islanders General Manager or if the time for a change in leadership is now.
Lamoriello has received unwavering support from Ledecky in recent years, with the co-owner citing his back-to-back Jim Gregory GM of the Year awards and his past success. Lamoriello gets credit for hiring Barry Trotz and reshaping the Islanders' culture into a serious organization.
After missing the playoffs in 2021-22 after back-to-back trips to the Conference Finals/Semi-Finals, Lamoriello doubled down on his roster and core group of players but made the stunning move of dismissing Trotz and later hiring longtime assistant Lane Lambert as the team's new head coach.
The move to fire a future Hall-of-Fame and Stanley Cup-winning coach had opened Lamoriello to plenty of criticism that appeared warranted as the Islanders played inconsistent hockey through the first few months of the season and then had a miserable January that left them on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
But, just as things seemed at their low point, Lamoriello surprised the hockey world by trading Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and a 2023 protected first-round pick to the Vancouver Canucks for All-Star center Bo Horvat. Lamoriello spoke to the acquisition being a move for "today and tomorrow" and quickly signed Horvat to an eight-year extension.
To go from where the Islanders were at the end of January to where they finished was an admirable accomplishment for the players, coaches and the GM. At the same time, this team never quite felt capable of winning a Stanley Cup, and their limitations, especially offensively, showed up during their first-round playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Changes will happen to this roster for next season, just as they always do, but the extent of those changes will likely depend on whether there is a change at the top. Ledecky and Malkin need to make that decision or inform the fanbase if they already know if Lamoriello is coming back. If so, it'll be perceived that Lamoriello can stay the course with a roster that is good enough to make the playoffs but may not be talented enough to be considered a Stanley Cup contender.