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Islanders building a winner off the ice

Lou Lamoriello may be criticized for constructing a confusing on ice product but there’s no doubt that his presence has revitalized the Islanders.  He’s signed a bunch of aging veterans and grinders but has also assembled one of the best staffs in the NHL around them.  Maybe the personnel wasn’t the problem last year and it was more a systematic issue.  Maybe having one of the best coaches in the world and having your captain spurn you for his hometown will light a fire under this team.  Maybe all this team really needed was some veteran leadership and a real voice, instead of years of mediocrity and excuses from Garth Snow.  Let’s take a look at some of the Islanders’ best personnel decisions;

Lou Lamoriello

We start at the top because without Lou Lamoriello the Islanders would probably still have a rag-tag group running the team with no leadership or captain.  What Lou Lamoriello may lack in knowledge of today’s game (still to be determined) he more than makes up for it in accountability and legitimacy.  When the Islanders hired Lamoriello to run their hockey operations, it was a move that brought instant credibility to the team that hadn’t had that in 20+ years.

The Islanders have always been run as a Mickey Mouse organization, whether it be a con artist buying the team, a group of owners who didn’t even want to own the team, or a lower-level businessman who stripped down the team to its bare necessities yet still was losing millions of dollars a year.  Lou Lamoriello is a multiple Stanley Cup winner and the architect of one of the greatest teams in the past few decades.  If he does nothing else but change the culture of the Islanders into a winning one, his tenure here will be a success.

Barry Trotz

The most overlooked piece of the Islanders’ offseason is the fact that they were able to obtain the services of a future Hall of Fame coach and Stanley Cup winner.  People may still be complaining about John Tavares leaving, but Barry Trotz just won a Stanley Cup and WANTED to come to the Islanders.  In his interview with Stan Fischler, he states that he was fully on board with Lou and wanted a new challenge in turning things around on the Island.  He knew this franchise had fallen on hard times and wanted to change that.

Among other things, Trotz is both a disciplinarian and a player’s coach.  He has already come to bat for Josh Ho-Sang and has his full endorsement, and even more importantly has stated many times that his team is excited for the season and ready to prove people wrong.  He is an excellent general, an excellent defensive coach (something the Islanders desperately need) and will get the most out of his players.  Everyone is most excited to see how Trotz will utilize players like Andrew Ladd and Brock Nelson, two forwards who could use a good kick in the rear.

Assistant coaches

Lane Lambert has signed on as the associate coach.  He’s been the right hand man to Barry Trotz for a while and also brings a lot of legitimacy with him.  In addition to Lambert, John Gruden joined the fold as an assistant coach and Scott Gomez was the only assistant coach retained from the Garth Snow/Doug Weight era.  Gone are the days of the 72% Greg Cronin Penalty Kill.

The most important part of the new coaching staff is the goalie gurus that were brought in.  The Islander’s biggest bugaboo was their porous goaltending, and who better to bring in than Piero Greco and Mitch Korn.  Greco may be relatively unknown but he was the goalie coach for the Toronto Marlies, the AHL champion this year.  He worked extensively with Garrett Sparks and is known to be a player’s coach as well.

The prized jewel of this Isles staff is Mitch Korn, who is the ultimate goalie guru.  He has worked with Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek and perennial All-Stars Braden Holtby and Pekka Rinne.  If he can get Robin Lehner to get out of his own head and return Thomas Greiss to form the Islanders will have a good tandem going into next season.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were the Islanders.  There is still a ton of work to do on this team but things are looking up.  It seems as though the Islanders may surprise a lot of people, as everyone is paying attention only to their on ice product.  If you take a look off the ice, you’ll see that they’re slowly building for the future, and casting a foundation that will be used for years to come.  It isn’t all bad this offseason, you just need to look a little deeper to find the positives.

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