For how long the passionate fans of the New York Islanders waited for a day like Tuesday, the fact that change has already taken place is a beautiful thing.
Just two weeks after being hired to oversee the Isles hockey operations, Lou Lamoriello wasted no time relieving both Garth Snow and Doug Weight of their respective positions. As soon as those moves were announced, you can hear a collective sigh of relief from Brooklyn all the way to Montauk. In finally extinguishing the “country club” and excuse-laden mentality of the organization, Lamoriello proved to the fanbase a new era had been ushered in, one overdue now for two-plus decades.
Then yesterday, Lamoriello went on with the FAN590 in Toronto to discuss his decision behind the moves. One of his statements, about why he pulled the plug on Weight reverberated amongst the natives.
“I had my reasons why,” the Isles President and GM said boldly. “The interaction I’ve had with Doug, he knows why.”
After that message went public, many of the Isles fans started to speculate what could have behind such vain words. Could it have been not Weight not making the right defensive adjustments midway through the season, his handling of the media at times during the year, his inexperience or even just him being a part of the former regime; no one will ever get a specific reason out of Lou. But one thing is certain, the culture never shifted with Weight at the helm, leaving him partially responsible for the team’s recent failures.
Beyond making changes to the front office and head coaching position, fans should be giddy that Lamoriello has easily identified what the major needs are for the franchise to win again. One of those is culture.
Even though he said he’s not very fond of the word culture, Lou beyond a shadow of a doubt has instantly changed the direction that the organization from where they stood just two months ago.
Revealing that they will be in the market for goalie Philipp Grubauer, possibly Braden Holtby, and a few other names show that for the first time in over a decade, the organization is being proactive in finding stability between the pipes for the future. The same goes for defensemen and shoring up the wings. Never before in the Garth Snow era — because everything was kept so close to the vest — were the Islanders so hellbent on becoming a “win now” type of organization.
But moving away from the on-ice product and front office, what Lou’s hiring and firings have done to re-energize the fanbase needs to be taken into account. Scroll through social media since 2:00 Tuesday afternoon till now, and you’ll be swarmed by with posts, tweets, and messages of the enthusiasm and appreciation because ownership finally got it right after dropping the ball. All you need to do is ask those fans — who gave up on this team and said they wouldn’t spend a dime until changes were brought — just how much Lou shaking up the franchise means to them in the long run.
Many around Islander Country will still say that John Tavares being re-signed will finally put their nerves to rest, but the fact that he’s perceived to be “fine” with the changes made according to Arthur Staple of The Athletic and sees there’s now an actual plan in place, should get fans to move back just a little from jumping off the ledge.
Ask those who cover the team, the analysts up in Canada not from the city of Toronto, and the legion of supporters on the Island, and they’ll tell you that the perception has definitely shifted upward when it comes to the Captain committing long-term. That’s all because a respected hockey savant of Lou’s nature is now running the show.
Now with the search for a G.M. — possibly Mark Hunter once his contract runs out next month in Toronto — and new head coach, the faithful rest assured can know that the days of hiring friends, unqualified backup goalies, and for that sake unqualified hockey people are now out the door.
There still a lot of work to be done to make sure when the team takes the ice in October they’ll be a playoff contender, but for now, things are moving forward for the first time in and around the Islanders.