Lou Lamoriello And The Deathly Hallows

A meeting with Lou in the post-Lou run Isles runs like a cross-examination during a court case. There will be Yes or No questions. There will be no room for personal opinion, extra descriptions, or any spin. His face will put Garth Snow’s poker game to shame. It belies absolutely no read whatsoever. 

And the meeting will probably be about 10 minutes, at best. 

The longer it goes, the more it starts to mimic one of the Dementors of Azkaban where Lou starts to suck your soul. Just ask the last GM and coach…

Voldemort… err… Lou has taken over Hogwarts and kicked Bumbledore and Doug Weight right to the curb. The rest of the staff are shell-shocked and unsure if they have jobs or just need to dance at Lou’s request to survive. 

Yes, Lou says everyone else is status quo as they set up for the NHL draft. In checking, this means ALL other staff is still there now working for Lou. And when you look at the table at that draft perhaps you will see shaking, quivering in fear, and just plain dread. You will definitely be able to see their uncertainty. 

Not a one will be sitting comfortably except for the guy at the head of the table. 

Rumors are now spewing on that John Tavares is unhappy with the firing of Doug Weight. Yes, JT liked Weight and felt that the offense of the NY Islanders clicked under him… until a lack of trust in goaltending and defensive implosion shut it down. But these rumors sound a lot more sour grapes from the Weight NHL pal channels. 

You can’t have a high-flying offense when pinned in your own zone or fearing that any old shot will go through your own goaltender. Tavares is no idiot. He knows there were deficiencies, despite who he likes or prefers. 

What might give JT pause is to what kind of team and set up there will be if he does re-sign. Nothing can avoid that process now. But perhaps that answer is in Lou’s own words in citing working with the team players as he looks for a coach. 

It’s all about the organization, not just the pending UFA franchise player. Either buck up and climb aboard or see ya… 

The NY Islanders internal assessment that goaltending and a myriad of issues like new defensive schemes, player adjustment, and a slow coach recognition of items and handling all piled up last season. Chances are, Lou likely agreed with their assessment.

HOWEVER…

The problem (for the GM and coach) was Lou saw even more objectively. He knew who created that house of cards that collapsed. Plus, he has his own vision and plan… stemming from his meeting with Malkin. Lou gets to assure that the team is on an upswing, and god help anyone who stands in his way. 

Lou is going to do what he is going to do. Hey, even I’ve learned my lesson after getting burned twice on buying the Isles internal position pre-Lou. Lou was given the keys to the kingdom. There can be no doubt now. The isles internal position was upended in one fell swoop. 

He pulled the plug on both Snow and Weight citing the need for a culture change.

Well, what does a culture change mean exactly?

It is likely that the two previous weeks was a very data Intensive process of Lou pulling information and getting questions answered by various personnel.

The result was stunning, and the reaction was bigger than the Ewok celebration for Isles fans who saw only more of the same with the old guard. 

Basically, Lou saw the need to clear out a festering myopic view of hockey operations and a fierce disconnect to the NY Islander fans, seeing right through a reality distortion field that has only dug in deeply over the course of 12 years. There was a heavy blanket of paranoia that hung over the organization. The hockey operations subsequently were very insular and self-absorbed. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if it leaked over to the player culture, as well. 

I’d think that Garth’s conservative nature and the pace was a detriment getting in the way. The entrenched view and vision were too narrow. It ignored fan desires and the speed at which the team needed to take now… both were now a priority for owner Scott Malkin. 

There has always been a very aloof (at best) position by Snow, refusing to have hockey operations have an eye on fans or outside peanut gallery takes. Well, that until one of those members of the peanut gallery was finally placed in-charge. 

There also has been a very big chip on his shoulder stemming from his time where he took control of the Isles and trying to gain respect throughout the league. In the latter Coliseum years, he actually earned some. But when Malkin and Ledecky took over and he was given cap max… Garth flubbed it with a series of errors that led to missed opportunities last season and the year before. That respect dwindled this past year.

When you finally get the wind and opportunity to fly unencumbered by Charles Wang’s budget… the Isles crashed to Earth. There seemed to be an acceptance there, but not enough introspection that the overall philosophy was the actual impediment. I believe that was Malkin’s deepest doubt and led to him directly to Lou to provide oversight and course correct, if necessary. 

Course corrected. Slow and low is no longer the tempo. 

What has led to this is John Tavares and his agent, Pat Brisson’s very long decision play. This lies at the very center of this tornado in Isles Country. By doing so, they have forced the Isles owners to blink. Malkin decided to bypass the Snow and company opinion and hockey view to installing a what he believed to be a better judge and overview on the enterprise. 

Lou was brought in not just redecorate (my error, and the Isles internal brass first expectation), but adjust the foundations while blowing off the old roof. The hound has been released. Now he stalks the halls, has quick functional data-driven meetings and will enable what he thinks is the best culture is built. 

I think Lou’s ultimate goal is not only to fix and push the organization to win… but also to contort the hockey operations to fix the deficiencies as fast as possible not only to create that uptick but to attract Tavares for the long term. Even if it removes some expectations or items that JT might have wanted. This is the high-end play here. 

I think Tavares is that important to their plans for Belmont (fiscally, besides just team) and they loathe to lose their most important player in decades that will assure ticket sales. 

In the end, I do not believe that Lou planned on canning either Snow or Weight at the start but quickly realized in that amassing of data, that something was wrong with the fundamentals that he believes is key for any hockey organization. Had he wanted to remove them straight away, they would have been tanked the day he took over. 

Lou doesn’t just take a hockey operations view, but an entire organizational view. This is where the difference, and likely the ultimate schism from Snow and company. 

The organization stands for everything from coaches to ticket takers. Everyone deserves the utmost respect and attention. 

Lou’s philosophy veers totally from previous myopia. The only answer was to cut it at the head. Now will begin the process to present a new culture that encompasses this and that pace will likely be just as fast. 

No, Lou is no miracle worker as GM since the last lockout (more on that another time), but in being someone who has established organizations, his work here is hard to criticize. Something irked Lou right away and he reacted quickly and efficiently – WHICH coincidently was the VERY MISSING THING from the NY Islanders organization these last few years.

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