Speculating the Cause and Effect of Barry Trotz’s Firing

ELMONT, NEW YORK - MARCH 03: Head coach Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders speaks with the media prior to the game against the Vancouver Canucks at the UBS Arena on March 03, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On Monday, islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello announced that coach Barry Trotz had been relieved of his head coaching duties. The news came as a shock to many, as Trotz has led the team to success in past years. Lamoriello commented that it was his decision, was best for the team, and that the Islanders needed a ‘new voice’ in the locker room.

The Islanders finished with a 37-35-10 record, fifth in the Metropolitan Division. The Islanders’ season was tough. The team started the year with a long road streak as work on the new UBS Arena was completed. Then, once they were back on Long Island, Covid forced out most of the Isles’ starting roster. The Islanders could have competed for a playoff spot had they not hit these pitfalls. Looking back on the tumultuous 2021-22 season, here is the cause and effect of Barry Trotz’s firing.

Cause

As rumors swirl around the story, you can’t help but feel the Trotz firing has more behind it. Lamoriello has a history of firing coaches at unprecedented times. As Devils GM, Lamoriello fired Robbie Ftorek with eight games remaining in the 1999-2000 season, and the Devils went on to win the Cup that season. Lamoriello also fired Claude Julien in the final week of the 2006-07 season, with the Devils in first place in the Atlantic Divison. If Lou has doubts about leadership, he gets rid of them. Lamoriello did go on to praise Trotz in front of reporters.

“I would like to thank Barry for everything he’s done for the organization for the last four years. It would be a tremendous understatement to say that this wasn’t an easy decision to make,” Lamoriello said. “This is a business decision as far as hockey and winning.”

On Trotz’s side, he struggled mightily with getting the best out of his team this year. During press conferences, he openly questioned his handling of younger players and even said it was his most challenging season as a coach. Trotz began his career with the expansion Nashville Predators.

Still, Trotz turned the team around seemingly overnight. He was hired by Lamoriello a day before franchise player John Tavares decided not to re-sign with the team. Trotz created an amazing culture, which saw immediate playoff success. In the wake of that success, the Islanders lost many pieces of their once-elite defense over the past two seasons. Devon Toews was traded to the Avalanche, Johnny Boychuk was forced to retire after an eye injury, and Nick Leddy was traded to make salary cap room. It was too much change over a short amount of time, and the Islanders couldn’t get their chemistry straight.

Lamoriello spoke earlier today in a short briefing to the media, and one buzzword continues to stand out amongst all the coverage; ‘new voice.’ This term insinuates that Trotz had lost the locker room to some capacity. Lamoriello said he did not consult any players in his decision, but then, why did he wait so long? He has a history of firing coaches before their due, so why wait during a losing season?

I believe that he saw the lack of effort on the ice and attributed Trotz as the problem. When asked about the team’s future, he made similar statements to that of the trade deadline. Lamoriello wants to move one of the forwards this offseason and improve scoring chances on the defensive end.

Effect

As frustrated as fans were with the losing season, Barry Trotz gave this team identity. The Islanders played as a unit and defied the odds for three-straight seasons. Lamoriello has many options to replace Trotz. He could choose assistant coach Lane Lambert or hit closer to home with a coach like Mike Babcock, who coached under Lou in Toronto. The other big-name free agent coach is Joel Quenneville, who the Panthers fired after an 8-0 start because of issues stemming from the Blackhawks’ sexual abuse scandal. Quenneville would need to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman before taking the job.

The most annoying part of a new coach will be the comparison to Barry Trotz. Babcock and Quenneville coach about the same way, with Babcock being a bit more archaic than Trotz. A new coach creates a different culture around the team.

For the fans, the firing of Trotz is a gut blow that warns of instability. The early success that Trotz had eased fans into a sense of security. The aura around the team heading into the offseason was hopefully optimistic. A head coaching change brings chaos to an Islanders franchise that needs anything but that. The point of bringing in Trotz and Lamoriello was to create a culture and long-lasting playoff success. A neutral change of head coach is a puzzling move.

Trotz

Trotz leaves New York with his reputation intact. He has the fourth-most wins as an Islanders head coach and is the second coach in team history to be nominated for the Jack Adams award. The Islanders tied the Bruins for the second-most playoff wins, and series wins since 2019. Trotz is third all-time in wins behind Scotty Bowman and Quenneville.

Trotz will be highly sought after as a free agent head coach. There are a plethora of coaches on the hot seat this season. He could choose to join the Winnipeg Jets and control a possible rebuild or join the Vegas Golden Knights, who surprisingly missed the playoffs this year.

The Verdict

The loss of Barry Trotz hurt the Islanders’ fan base and will prove to be a risky decision for general manager Lou Lamoriello. Lamoriello fired Trotz, possibly fearing a total regression of a once-elite Islanders team. Lou needs to decide on a new head coach and quickly re-tool the Islanders into a winning organization. With players on long-term and high-money contracts, the playoff window for the Islanders is in jeopardy, and this firing either extended that time by a few seasons or slammed it shut completely.

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