After losing Tavares in free agency, new general manager Lou Lamoriello got busy adding to his roster. Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula and Robin Lehner were among the top free agent signings. The team wasn’t able to bring in a big-name, high-impact player, but Lamoriello has always been about creating a team culture that cultivates a winning atmosphere.
That’s already underway in New York. Lamoriello downplayed the idea the Islanders are going through a John Tavares “aftermath,” emphasizing that everyone had already moved past the crucial July 1 decision.
“It’s different if they had won championships. It’s different if they had had a lot of success. They haven’t done much — and I don’t say that with any disrespect,” Lamoriello told the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “Haven’t been to the playoffs the last couple years. Things haven’t worked out the way everybody would have liked them to, from what my understanding is.
“So, an aftermath? There’s no such thing in my mind. What the players we have here should be thinking about is not making the playoffs last year, and that’s what the goal should be. Teams win, not players. Individual players win some games, but teams win championships. And that’s what we have to create.”
On paper, this Islanders team doesn’t look like one that will contend for the playoffs, which is partly why Lamoriello is intent on creating expectations and adding veteran leadership to execute this transition.
Don’t expect any Islanders players to have beards, or for younger players to wear high numbers. Josh Ho-Sang has already traded in his No. 68 for No. 26.
But Lamoriello’s end goal is to make changes to the organization that run much deeper than these cosmetic moves.
Days before Tavares’ decision, the Islanders hired Barry Trotz as the team’s new head coach. His experience will be invaluable to this transition since he’s been a part of building the Nashville Predators from scratch, and is now a Stanley Cup champion.
“The way Lou has put everything in place — everything has order to it; order and accountability,” Trotz told the Post. “Once you have order, accountability and structure, it naturally puts discipline into the group, but it also takes out any doubt. I think there’s no, ‘What about this? What about that?’ That’s taken away. I think you can feel it. I think the players are excited. I’m excited.”
If there’s any doubt of a Tavares hangover, Trotz also put it to rest.
“I don’t think with us we mentioned John once, other than when we get asked,” Trotz said. “We move on. We’re not looking back, we’re looking forward.”