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Is Lane Lambert the Right Choice For the Islanders?

Lane Lambert

The Islanders announced last week that Lane Lambert would be the 18th head coach in franchise history. Lambert has been an assistant coach with the Islanders for all four years of Barry Trotz’s tenure with the team. This will be Lambert’s first opportunity as a head coach heading into a pivotal season for the Islanders. Did Lou Lamiorello make the right move in hiring Lambert for this upcoming season?

Lambert’s Background

Lane Lambert


Courtesy of NHL Network

Lambert’s NHL career began as the 25th overall draft choice by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1983 NHL draft. He produced 65 points across eight NHL seasons, playing with the New York Rangers and Quebec Nordiques after spending his first three seasons with the Red Wings. In his post playing career, he took up several coaching jobs. He started with the WHL, being an assistant for the Moose Jaw Warriors and eventually the head coach for the Prince George Cougars.

In 2007, he became head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals, the AHL organization connected with the Nashville Predators. He worked four seasons with them, taking them to the playoffs in all four seasons. In the 2011-12 season, he got his first NHL coaching job as an assistant to Predators head coach Barry Trotz. From there, he’s routinely been a part of Trotz’s coaching staff right up until the 2021-22 season.

A Familiar Voice

Lane Lambert
Courtesy of NHL

Lamiorello said the Islanders were in need of a new voice after firing Trotz. While Lambert is certainly new as a head coach, he’s not exactly a new voice. He coached three games this past season while Trotz was away, going 2-1 in that span. The team is already very familiar with him and may be coaching the team in a very familiar way. Lambert has spent his whole career coaching the “Barry Trotz way”, leaving many to wonder how much his coaching style is going to differ from Trotz’s. From his introductory interview, it doesn’t seem like he wants to stray too far from the Trotz style of play. He maintained that he wanted the team to be “hard to play against ”, a trait that played a big role in their back to back conference final appearances. 

So What’s New?

The Lambert hire leaves the question of what exactly will be different from how the team previously operated. From what has been passed around through the rumor mill, it might just be a departure from playing in a primarily defensive system. Rumor has it that several players expressed some level of discontent with the defensive system during the team’s exit meetings. If this much is true, it adds up to why Lamiorello made this move. He keeps a familiar face that can still implement aspects of the Trotz defensive system. But he can also satisfy the players desire to play a more high tempo offensive style in a way that Trotz was unwilling to do in his own coaching philosophy. 

Analysis

Firing Trotz is still a very questionable decision, but hiring Lambert as a replacement is the best case scenario. He can serve as a bridge between the old style and the new. Because as much the Islanders players may desire a more offensive style, they aren’t a perfect fit for it. Outside of a few players, the offensive talent just isn’t there. The core of this team is made up of grinders and inconsistent scoring forwards. Its not a roster that’s currently built to score at high volumes.

The play style the team committed to under Trotz helped make up for their limited goal scoring capacity. A slow paced game with an emphasis on defensive safety allows the team to win without having to compete in a score fest with faster paced opponents. Ideally, Lambert should include that style of game in his own coaching philosophy as its proven to be effective, especially in the playoffs. But he should also be more flexible to playing up tempo on offense. This season proved that you can’t solely rely on that defensive style and have the same kind of sustained success. There does need to be a higher focus on scoring the puck to bring the team to the next level. 

A lot of the team’s success under Lambert is also going to hinge on the Islanders offseason moves. They desperately need a quality scoring winger and a puck moving defenseman if they hope to succeed in a more offensive-oriented system. Only time will tell how the team will perform under Lambert, but on paper it’s the right move. He’s the safest option to understand how the team has been operating and what needs to be done to try and get them back to the postseason.

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images

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