The New York Islanders did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the conclusion of the 2021-22 NHL regular season.

Why did this happen, you may ask? How did a team that reached the Eastern Conference finals in back-to-back seasons follow that up with a 9th-place finish in the conference? There were certain factors that played into their demise, but most fans would agree, the head coach was not the root of the issue.

The Islanders' front office seems to disagree, and they made a decision today that's caused an uproar within their fans.

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Firing Barry Trotz Was the Wrong Move for the New York Islanders

The New York Islanders announced earlier today that head coach Barry Trotz would not return to his post next season. Isles' General Manager Lou Lamoriello said to the media that this was far from an easy decision, but that it was also his job to make the decisions that aren't easy.

Lou Lamoriello has made a number of great decisions during his illustrious front office career, and frankly, I don't believe this is one of them.

Barry Trotz is a great hockey coach. He coached the Nashville Predators from their inaugural season in 1998 through the 2014 campaign, before moving to the Washington Capitals, and winning a Stanley Cup in 2018. He would go on to sign with the Islanders, and bring the team to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals appearances in each of the last two seasons.

San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals
Barry Trotz holding the Stanley Cup as coach of the Capitals / Getty Images
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This was the first year since 2013-14 that a team coached by Trotz failed to make the playoffs. And yet, the answer, is firing him?

I find it impossible to blame Barry Trotz for the majority of this year's struggles. The team parted ways with long-time pillars Nick Leddy and Jordan Eberle (one defenseman, and one forward), and did nothing to replace their production in their lineup. Instead, they signed older, washed-up players to try to plug holes in their lineup, and didn't find much success with any of the players they brought in.

Meanwhile, with the construction of the team's new home, UBS Arena, not done by the beginning of the season, the team embarked on a 14-game road trip to BEGIN the season. They looked depleted by the end of the road trip, and it took months for them to bounce back.

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders
Barry Trotz coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic / Getty Images
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Oh, right, and they had a COVID-19 outbreak to deal with during the winter months of the season, too.

All of these issues were compounded by the fact that their star offensive players, by and large, failed to produce at any point of the season. Whether it was Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, J.G. Pageau, Anthony Beauvillier or others, there were few players on the roster who didn't take a step back this year versus last.


So, What's Next for the New York Islanders?

Well, you can't just fire a head coach and do nothing. With every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction, and with every fire, there must be a hire.

Then the question becomes: who? Well, you can look at the experienced coaches who are currently free agents. Rick Tocchet has coached in the league for six years, last with Arizona, to a record of 53-69-26. He's currently working for TNT, and is available. You could poke around with former Winnipeg Jets' coach Paul Maurice, who has 775 career wins, and see if he's interested in returning to the league less than a year removed from resigning in the 'Peg.

You could go with a fresh face, like Rikard Grönborg, who is currently coaching in Sweden, and is regarded as one of the better first-time candidates currently available.

Edmonton Oilers v New York Islanders
Islanders' associate head coach Lane Lambert / Getty Images
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You could also keep the search internal, and promote your associate head coach, Lane Lambert, who will likely depart the franchise for another head coaching gig if you don't choose to promote him. He is being mentioned with Gronborg as another strong first-time candidate, and in Lambert's case, he already knows the franchise very well.

No matter what you decide to do, there's one question you must answer. Will we be better next season with a new coach, versus if we had kept Barry Trotz?

I'm sorry, but regardless of who you hire, I don't think the answer to this question will ever be a resounding "yes", and that should upset Islanders' fans everywhere.

 

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