Patrick Roy trying to turn around this NY Islanders season and set stage for the next

Jan 25, 2024; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy behind the bench
Jan 25, 2024; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New York Islanders head coach Patrick Roy behind the bench / Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

By agreeing to take the New York Islanders head coaching job, Patrick Roy took on the task of trying to turn around the season while setting the stage for the next. The Islanders are still in the playoff picture, but regardless of where they finish, Roy will be the man in charge next season, and his objective is to create new habits aligned with how he wants this team to play.

It would have been easy for Roy to rely heavily on Lane Lambert's two assistants, John MacLean and Doug Houda, and evaluate the team based on the system they played throughout the year. Perhaps Roy's presence, voice, and message alone would have created a spark to change the course of the season and lead the Islanders to the playoffs, but that's not the path Roy has chosen.

Rather, Roy is determined to shape the 2023-24 Islanders into the long-term vision he has for the team. The four days off before the Stadium Series have allowed him to use practice time to focus on the fundamentals of his system. "I love to see our D into the rush, I love to see our D very active. I want us to play a little more aggressive on our forecheck, our neutral zone forecheck," Roy said after Friday's practice. "These are all the areas we've been working at. The response has been very good from the guys, but be patient enough to process all of this."

Instinctively, hockey players don't distinguish between good and bad habits; they react to what they have learned over time. That's what makes what Roy is trying to do so difficult. With every game of the utmost importance, he's challenging a veteran team to break bad habits and pick up new ones quicker than what would happen naturally.

“Breaking habits, it takes time to bring it to new habits. It’s probably a lot easier when you get a group that doesn't know too much about it, but a group that’s been there for so long and had those habits added Roy. "I’m not saying it was right or wrong what was before me; I’m just saying it’s a different approach. It’s a different mentality.”

Roy is emphasizing the team's competitive level, using their stick, and improving puck management. He stopped Friday's practice several times to ensure the team was on the same page. In some ways, he's made a difficult job more challenging by trying to instill new ways of working in the middle of the season. We'll find out if it pays off over the next 29 games, but either way, Roy is banking on it to pay off in the long term with him behind the bench.