It’s Lou Lamoriello’s Islanders, With a Nod to the Yankees Express News
EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Barry Trotz’s snow-white goatee is gone.
He works for Lou Lamoriello now, and Lamoriello prefers that his employees adopt the Yankee Look — clean-shaven, hair trimmed, neatly dressed. It is the way George Steinbrenner wanted his Yankees to look and the way they still look today.
Lamoriello, Trotz and Trotz’s clean-shaven face are all evidence of the Islanders’ extreme makeover this off-season.
The first step in the franchise renovation was bringing on Lamoriello, 75, as president in May. A few weeks later, he fired Coach Doug Weight and General Manager Garth Snow and took over Snow’s role.
Then, two weeks after he led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup title in June, Trotz became coach of the Islanders.
Trotz, who left Washington in a contract dispute, said he would not have joined the Islanders had Lamoriello not been in charge. Trotz, in fact, thought he would take a year off after coaching the Capitals for four years. He knew Lamoriello only well enough to say hello at league functions.
But when Lamoriello calls, you listen. Nine years have passed since he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, his occupation’s lifetime achievement award, but Lamoriello still thinks hockey is challenging and fun.
“If hockey isn’t any fun, why do you do it?” Lamoriello said after a recent practice.
With the Devils, he built a model franchise that rolled to three Stanley Cup titles in nine seasons. The Devils had a no-frills structure centered on teamwork and work ethic. Good grooming is part of the commitment.
So Trotz, 56, decided he was all in, happily adopting the Yankee Look with other Islanders employees. Trotz rubbed his bare chin after a recent practice, then smiled and said: “I’m O.K. with that. It separates us from everyone. Lou gets it totally. Everyone pushes boundaries on everything.”
Not much is expected this season from the Islanders, who open at Carolina on Thursday. They lost their stalwart center and captain, John Tavares, who signed a seven-year, $77 million free-agent contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, his hometown team.
Tavares, 28, scored 272 goals in nine seasons with the Islanders and in 2016 led them to their first playoff-series victory in 23 years. Lamoriello offered an eight-year contract. Tavares decided to sign with Toronto. Lamoriello conceded it was a big blow. But, he said, “you move on.”
“There’s no question of the quality of player he was,” Lamoriello added. “We offered him eight years. That in itself says what you think of him. But you go forward. It challenges other people.”
In 2012, when Lamoriello was the Devils’ general manager, he lost the high-scoring forward Zach Parise to the Minnesota Wild in free agency shortly after the Devils lost in the Stanley Cup finals.
“Zach wanted to be with his dad,” Lamoriello said, referring to J. P. Parise, a former N.H.L. player who died in 2015. “John went home. I don’t think there’s anything else to do with that. We wanted him to stay.”
But Tavares is gone, and Lamoriello and Trotz will do the best with what they have. Forward Anders Lee scored 40 goals last season. Mathew Barzal, a 21-year-old center, won the Calder Trophy as the N.H.L.’s top rookie. Forward Josh Bailey had 71 points, a career best, in his 10th season.
“It’s been different,” Bailey said of training camp, “but at the same time, we knew that going into camp.”
They knew, for example, about the Yankee Look.
“The discipline is a big thing,” Bailey said. “We can all buy into that.”
Lamoriello is all in, too. He still owns a house in New Jersey but bought one on Long Island, and he has a side project: discovering the best Italian restaurants in the area. He peppers his employees for suggestions.
He wears a royal blue Islanders jacket to watch practices from the corner of the training facility nearest his office. It is odd not to see him in a coat and tie, or a black jacket with a Devils logo, but he is still learning about his new organization.
In May 2015, Lamoriello announced that he would step aside as the Devils’ general manager and be replaced by Ray Shero. Lamoriello planned to stay on as the Devils’ president, but he jumped to the Maple Leafs two months later to become their general manager.
He said he made a three-year commitment to the Maple Leafs’ president, Brendan Shanahan, the first player Lamoriello drafted as the Devils’ general manager in 1987. He could have stayed with Toronto for five more years as a special adviser.
Then the Islanders offered him a job. He said he had to think about it for a while. But he realized he wanted to be more than a “special adviser.”
“If you feel good health-wise,” he said, “and you think your mind is good, what else are you going to do?”
The loss of Tavares notwithstanding, Lamoriello said, the Islanders are a little ahead of the young Maple Leafs team that he joined in 2015. The Islanders, who missed the playoffs the last two seasons, could be rejuvenated.
“No preconceived notions,” Lamoriello said. “They all have a fresh start with a new coaching staff.”
Matt Martin, a punishing veteran forward, started his career with the Islanders and then jumped to the Maple Leafs to sign a four-year contract in 2016. By the end of last year, Martin was a regular healthy scratch. Lamoriello made a deal to bring him back to Long Island. (The team itself will be back on Long Island more, playing 20 of their 41 homes games, including the last 10 at their former home, Nassau Coliseum.)
“I’m a big fan of his,” Martin said of Lamoriello. “He has rules in place, but you can ask him why. You can go up and ask him a question, and he’ll give you a straight answer. At the end of the day, it’s all about putting the best product on the ice.”
During Martin’s first time around with the Islanders, his hair was shaggy and his chin was often dotted with stubble — the rugged look of an enforcer. But Martin says he has no problem with the Yankee Look.
“He’s all about building a culture on and off the ice,” Martin said of Lamoriello. “He’s done everything there is. For him, he loves it. Loves the game. But he’s hard and holds people accountable.”
As he sat in a gallery with plush seats that overlooked one of the Islanders’ practice rinks, Lamoriello said he hired Trotz because he had the dedication to the game that he did. The players respected Trotz and responded to him, a critical prerequisite for Lamoriello.
In fact, Lamoriello said he felt even better now about bringing on Trotz than he did when he hired him. It is to be determined if this all works. But the Islanders have a foundation to build on.
“You have to change every day,” Lamoriello said. “The game has changed. It’s a much faster game. But the one thing that has remained constant is character and work ethic.”