As a disappointing season shrouded in COVID-19 scheduling and COVID-19 hurdles come to an inevitable end with the team’s first playoff loss since 2018, Barry Trotz has taken to calling it “weird.”
It seems strange that president and general manager Lou Lamorillo decided on Monday to relieve Trotz of his coaching duties after four seasons, only one of which has been affected by the pandemic.
“It would be a huge understatement to say that this was not an easy decision,” Lamoreello said on a conference call. “Unfortunately, my role was to make the best decisions for the organization in the future. I think this group of players needs a new voice.”
Lamoreello added that there is no timetable to hire a coach, and at the moment all Trotz staff – assistant coach Lynn Lambert, assistant coaches Jon Gruden and Jim Heller, goalkeeper manager Mitch Korn and goalkeeper coach Piero Greco – are still under contract.
Lamoreello said he couldn’t answer what kind of “new voice” the islanders needed, nor did he explain why he thought the islanders needed a voice.
“Any kind of decision like that doesn’t happen overnight, but rather over a period of time,” Lamoreello said. Certainly, all extenuating circumstances that occurred this year, which cannot be controlled by everyone or anyone else, are taken into account. But I’d rather not go into any of the reasons because that’s my business based on the information I have and the experience to make that kind of decision.”
Lamoreillo, just under a month after joining the Islands, named Trotz on June 21, 2018, shortly after directing the Capitals to that organization’s first Stanley Cup.
Trotz, who will turn 60 on July 15, went 152-102-34 in his four seasons with the Islanders. Trotz began his NHL career with the Expansion Predators in 1998 and coached 15 seasons in Nashville before four seasons in Washington. He has a career score of 914-670-168 with 60 draws in 1,812 games. Trotz tracks only Scotty Bowman (1,244) and Joel Quinville (969) in NHL coaching wins and only Bowman (2,141) in coached games.
In Trotz’s first season, the Islanders went from allowing the most goals in the National Hockey League in 2017-18 to allowing the fewest, and the team swept the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs before they were swept away by hurricanes.
Trotz then led the Islanders to two consecutive National Hockey League semi-final appearances, losing to both-time Stanley Cup champion Lightning. These two seasons have been cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 Post-Season was played in playoff bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton in August and September.
The season kicked off with a 13-game road trip for the franchise record as the construction of the UBS Arena was completed. The COVID-19 outbreak that began in mid-November led to a series of postponements and rescheduled matches, leaving the islanders for extended periods without matches in December and early January before pressuring 17 games in March and 16 through April.
Trotz missed three games at the start of the new year – with Lambert replaced behind the bench – after his mother died and then tested positive for COVID-19.
“I think we can always deal with something different after the fact,” Lamoreello said. “None of that decision has been made basically just this season.”
There were other factors that may have been taken into account in Lamoreello’s decision.
Trotz is believed to be entering the final season of his contract, although Lamorillo asked directly, he said that did not play a role in Trotz’s dismissal.
There are other jobs available in the NHL, including the Winnipeg Jets. Trotz grew up in nearby Dauphin, Manitoba, and his father still lives there.
As for the team that left, Lamoreello said the core of the islanders must respond to Trotz’s firing.
“Now they have noticed that a new voice is what is necessary for us to succeed,” Lamoreello said. “My opinion is what I should make these decisions.”
“We would like to improve our defense, if we can. If there is a way to make a hockey deal with our attackers, we will do it. What we have to do is improve from our young players as well as a whole year from some of our veterans than we did this year.”
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