The New York Islanders announced Monday morning that head coach Barry Trotz had been relieved of his duties. Trotz had been coach of the team for four seasons, making the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three straight before missing out in 2021-22. The Islanders had made it to the conference finals (technically) in back-to-back seasons. This move is a bit surprising unless Trotz was looking to get out from under the wrath of Lou Lamoriello.
The Islanders had regressed this season, but there were plenty of questionable moves made by the front office over the four years Trotz was coach. Trading D Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche for next to nothing was a mistake that came to fruition the past two seasons. Toews is now a top-pairing defenseman for a team that is likely to win the Stanley Cup this season.
The Isles also have a stable of 30-plus forwards who are signed long-term, including Kyle Palmieri, Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Matt Martin and Zach Parise. The team was unable to sign RFA C Mathew Barzal to a long-term extension and now he’s set to become a RFA again after next season.
Lamoriello opted to bring in veteran defensemen like Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara rather than going with younger players. Adam Pelech was an All-Star and is signed for a while, but also isn’t a true top-pairing defenseman and is overpaid for what he provides. Ryan Pulock is more of a mid-pairing guy than a top pair.
The only bright spot moving forward is goalie Ilya Sorokin, who should be a Vezina candidate on a good team year in and year out. Will he be playing in front of a good team is another question. The Isles don’t have much in terms of cap flexibility without figuring out a trade. That may be involving Barzal at this point. New York has too many aging forwards on bad contracts. This is exactly the type of thing Lamoriello did to the New Jersey Devils before leaving them in shambles. The Isles have 10 forwards signed for at least the next two seasons after 2021-22. Moves will have to be made.
As for candidates to replace Trotz, well, those are big shoes to fill. Mike Babcock, Claude Julien, Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma and John Tortorella are all available. Those are the veteran names who you would think would be at the top of the list given how the NHL coaching carousel works. Boudreau and Babcock make the most sense. Julien plays a style of hockey that would be appealing to Lamoriello.