By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
It’s been a whirlwind several days for sports fans. The Mets authored a thriller in Philly on Thursday. Monsoon-like rain forced the Yankees and Mets to postpone their Friday and Saturday games. An 80-1 odds horse named Rich Strike won The Kentucky Derby at the last possible second. The Rangers and Penguins played some good old fashioned pond hockey in Game Three of their playoff series on Saturday. And let’s not forget the card for UFC 274 ended up featuring a couple of stunning upsets.
Exhausted yet? No? Then try this on for size. A plain as can be Monday morning, May 9, 2022, was turned upside down when the Islanders announced they had fired Head Coach Barry Trotz. Didn’t see that coming now did ya?
After four mostly successful seasons with the Islanders, Barry Trotz was unceremoniously shown the door because, as General Manager Lou Lamoriello put it during his Monday morning press conference, “These types of decisions are made for going forward, not backward. I think, with this group we have, they are on notice right now that a new voice is what’s necessary for us to have success, in my opinion.”
Lamoriello wasn’t exactly forthcoming regarding his reasoning for canning Trotz, but the above quote does offer a glimpse into the GM’s mindset.
There’s no way Lamoriello, or any GM, would fire a coach as successful as Trotz based solely upon his track record with the team. The Isles are only one season removed from back-to-back Semi-Finals appearances. But they did miss the playoffs this year. And while it’s hard to blame the playoff miss strictly on Trotz – there were plenty of other factors as to why the team failed to qualify for the post-season – it’s not hard to see the potholes in the road.
Barry Trotz has demanded the Islanders play a gritty, grinding, defense-first system. It has made them an extremely difficult team to play against. But you can also see how some of the players on the roster don’t fit with that system. Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier and Oliver Wahlstrom are just three of the players who don’t fit Trotz’s system like a glove. Barzal and Wahlstrom especially seemed to have difficulty playing Trotz’s style of hockey. While the playoffs are often filled with tight-checking, low-scoring affairs, you first have to get there and to do that you can’t only rely on defense. You still have to score.
We know from sources that Barzal and Trotz didn’t have the easiest relationship, although there’s no doubt each has immense respect for the other. Wahlstrom always said the right things in public about his now former Head Coach, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the young winger was often displeased with how he was treated.
Now, this was far from the player-led mutiny that cost John Tortorella his job with the Rangers close to a decade ago. But there were clearly enough things said by the Isles players during their exit interviews that made Lamoriello decide to move on from Trotz. Lamoriello stated he did not “consult” with anyone or “speak to his players on this decision,” but you’d be foolish to believe he made the decision on his own without taking into account whatever was said to him during those exit interviews.
The question for the Islanders now becomes, “who replaces Trotz?” The answer is not yet known. There are a number of coaches out there whose names are swirling around the rumor mill. Mike Babcock, Lane Lambert, Joel Quenneville, Claude Julien, Pete DeBoer, Rick Tocchet, Paul Maurice and John Tortorella have all been talked about by the hockey world as potential replacements. Whether or not Lamoriello considers all, or none, of them is a different matter entirely.
Only time will tell who’ll be the next Isles’ Bench Boss.
By the way, another high profile hockey guy was fired on Monday. The Ottawa Senators relieved Pierre McGuire of his duties after only one-year with the team. That was also a shocker, although the state of affairs in Ottawa is vastly different from that on Long Island. The Senators are in a state of flux considering the recent passing of Owner Eugene Melnyk, so it’s not fair to speculate what led to McGuire’s ouster.
Here’s a thought I saw making its rounds on social media that’s sure to make Isles fans happy. Maybe Lamoriello should hire McGuire to replace Trotz. (Ducks).
When reached via text, McGuire said he “will work hard” to find his next landing spot.
And speaking of new roles, P.K. Subban has joined ESPN for the duration of its playoff coverage as an Analyst. Subban appeared on Monday’s “The Point” and gave his insights on a number of things; including the always controversial goalie interference calls that have been all the rage during the first week of the playoffs.
Subban fit into the program’s dynamic seamlessly and could very well choose to stay at ESPN should he not receive any free agent offers to his liking from any of the NHL’s 32 teams. However, it is expected he will receive some interest from teams – if he’s willing to take a paycut – to continue his playing career.
Lastly, the NHL’s Draft Lottery is Tuesday and one lucky team will win the right to select presumed top prospect, center Shane Wright in the upcoming Entry Draft. Montreal currently holds the best odds at securing the Number One pick, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that these types of lotteries rarely go off without some type of surprise.