Lou Lamiorello is a Hall of Fame NHL executive. But what would make me, a lifelong Islanders fan, happy about having Lou? First off, I’m not a guy who has an affinity for the Devils, or the Maple Leafs, or the douchebag Rangers, or any other team in a sport that frankly hasn’t figured out how to monetize itself save for 3 cities geographically. I do however care about my local team. And in looking at my local team with a legend GM after 2 drafts, 2 free agency periods, and one trade deadline, my concern is that this is still a roster created by Garth Snow. And Garth Snow was an absolute fuck up.
You’re probably going to say something like “Well, Lou offered Snakeface and Breadman the highest contracts of any team involved in bidding.” Yes, yes he did. So why did they both say no? My guess is Lou.
There was a time in history when Lou Lamoriello was maybe the best GM in the entire league. His drafting with the Devils was legendary. The results? 5 finals, 3 cups. That’s an average of a cup victory a decade, and almost 2 finals a decade. Solid shit.
After the Devils was an interesting time for Lou. When the Devils forced Lou out after a mediocre run? The Toronto Maple Leafs snapped him up. But more to be the man to restructure an organization. They surrounded him with talent to make decisions on all levels, from coaching to draft to scouting. And Lou made sure everyone was handsomely paid.
So what did Toronto do under Lou? They built an exciting team that won absolutely nothing. In return Toronto let Lou seek other pastures.
Lou Lamoriello contains the wisdom of a 50 year career in a sport. I have to give him credit for breaking into Russia and bringing championship players like Slava Fetisov to the NHL that would have never seen NHL ice. He single handedly expanded the sport, and deserves recognition for players like Pavel Datsyuk or Pavel Bure or Vagina Malkin playing in the NHL. That’s all Lou.
But that bravado? Does it translate to today? Nope.
The NHLPA has gotten smarter and better under Donald Fehr. That dude is a genius, flat out. Every time he gets involved in a sport, players get rich. Look at Major League Baseball. Their minimum wage is 35000% higher than actual minimum wage. I don’t know about you, but I’d love a 35000% raise. Hockey players are starting to have those expectations, and are winning at it, as evidenced by all of the absurd restricted free agent contracts being thrown around the NHL to 20 year olds.
But Lou? Look at his last few years with the Devils. With the exception of that last cup run on the back of Martin Brodeur, the Devils record on everything was unimpressive. They lost Zach Parise. They gave Ilya Kovalchuk an absurd deal that…the Devils have been paying that since 2010 are still paying for it until 2025. Who the fuck is stupid enough to give a 15 year deal? Oh…right. Garth Snow.
So there’s history. And yes, I am flying past the reliving of, but really, if we needed to, we can say this- Martin Brodeur and Scott Stevens and Scott Neidermeyer and Ken Danyko meant no one scored against the Devils. The punch on offense? Bobby Holik? Shit, Jason Arnott was a Devils hero. Jason Arnott. That’s a guy you build a team around, amirite?
But I’m losing focus. Let me focus on what Lou Lamoriello has done as the GM of the Islanders.
He could not retain John Tavares. He could not attract Artemi Panarin. He offered both of these turds the most money anyone could have offered them. The response? Fuck Lou. I have to shave? Cut my hair? Dude, I’m a multimillionaire. Eat a bag of dicks.
And scarily, there was NO plan B.
Consider this: fans of Lou have said that the Islanders won the 2018 draft. Nice. How many NHL games have those players won? How many overpaid veterans were traded away to make room for the scary talent of 2018’s draft? That 2018 draft talk reminds me of the 2008 draft that everyone said Garth Snow won. What exactly did Garth win with that draft? Fuck it- HANG THE BANNER!
Historically Lou has had some choice drafts, although he does reach a bit just like another ass clown for players he likes despite “best player available” status. So let me ask you this- is anyone saying that the Islanders won the 2019 draft? No. Maybe because history has shown that Lou has shanked the equivalent of about 13 entire professional drafts?
Outside of drafting, look at the players that Lou has brought into the Islanders. This would be a clue as to what the GM values. So who does Lou respect? You’d expect guys with good hands and offensive upside. Nah nah yeah nah. It’s players with no creativity. Grunts, not scorers. Matt Martin. Leo Komorov. Tom Khunackle. I’m sure I spelled that wrong, but I also don’t care. Where’s the talent? And don’t say Valeri Flipula. That was an outlier season for him. And he’s not here. Neither is Robin Lehner. Seems Lou still values 80’s and 90’s hockey today, when the game itself does not.
So, back to a previous thought – who has Lou signed over 2 free agent periods? Who has he acquired for a 103 point team at a trade deadline? Who has he acquired that’s worth a shit via trade? Yes, there was the story about Max Pacioretty that was scuttled because Lou had some good first round picks. So where are those picks? The NHL is a young mans league. 19 year olds are common. Dobson? Whalstrom? Bellows? Hello?? Is the old man asleep at work? Has Garth Snow rubbed off on him?
Then there’s the Mitch Marner offer sheet rumor. The money involved would cause the Islanders to lose 4 1st round picks. OK. It’s not like the Islanders have used first round picks well. Still, after the raises to bring back the same team in a tougher conference, there will be no offer sheets. The Maple Leafs cap manager is fully operational, so Mitch Marner has no chance to become an Islander. And I’mnot positive Lou knows what an offer sheet even is.
But say there was. What if the Islanders were going to offer Mitch Marner a contract that cost them 4 1st round picks? Were there alternatives?
Brayden Point is a top notch offensive player. He made $900,000 last season. Where was the $5m offer sheet? Which would screw over Tampa Bay’s salary structure? And cost the Isles a 2nd and a 3rd?
Patrick Laine? He’s like Anders Lee but with speed. Kyle Conner. Matthew Tkachuk. All players who score and are available if you want to burn off 4 first rounders. Oh, and move someone or someones from the roster to create the cap space for them.
But lets’ talk about the value of 4 first round draft picks. What if we used them differently?
Two of the picks you were willing to burn on Marner? Use one to send Andrew Ladd and his albatross contract to anyone that wants a first. That’s it. Use another to move Johnny Boychuk somewhere to play out his days. The picks we traded for him have served Boston just as well if not better than Boychuk has served the Islanders. That saves you two first rounders and creates a lot of cap space. Then you can use the other two to acquire someone to help the team. Look at what the Devils sent to Vegas for Gusev- a 2nd and a 3rd. So two firsts will get you a seriously solid player. Rich Nash in his prime didn’t get two firsts from the Rangers.
To many moving parts? Lets simplify. Call the Chicago Blackhawks and offer your next 3 1sts and Andrew Ladd for Patrick Kane. You know, a leader with cup experience and a crazy but not unreasonable contract.
But hey, Lou knows better. Because his last title was almost 2 decades ago. Lou-sing.
For the record, I am not a fan of offer sheets unless those sheets are reasonable. What is reasonable? Tactical. For instance, Mitch Marner. I would have offered him $10 million dollars a year. The draft pick compensation would have been negligible (two 1sts, a 2nd and a 3rd), but if Toronto matched? They have half of their entire cap invested in 4 guys. Consider this- to draft a Marner would have required a 1st round pick. So is Mitch Marner worth a 1st, 2nd, 3d? Yes, yes he is. But offer sheets…get matched? So we don’t try?
The Montreal Canadiens offer sheeted and failed at Sebastian Aho. Carolina easily matched. Kudos to Montreal for thinking outside of the box. This one time. But Carolina was able to match because of payroll flexibility. Which is something a team with Josh Bailey and Andrew Ladd making 13% of the cap just does not have.
Aslo, we have Mat Barzal coming up to be in a position for an offer sheet. Who do we need to move to secure Barzal’s future as an Islander? Nick Leddy can sure use a new home. Johnny Boychuk’s contract is now officially bad. As is Cal Clutterbuck. But the best value to trade?
Josh Bailey. Why? Josh Baileys career 14 goal average can be moved because he’s a recent all star. And of course Bailey would acquire 4 first round draft picks, right? Nah. Besides, 15 goal scorers do not earn $5 million dollars per season. Not yet, anyway. So you’d probably have to package him with a pick to get something back, like a prospect or a 2nd round pick. Still, its removing useless cap space so it’s a good value.
So why are players who are getting mega offers from Lou saying no? That’s because Lou is a grandpa. Grandpa loves the kids, but in his heart he wishes those kids were as World War Two ready as he was. Except there’s never going to be another World War Two, despite creating a roster like it’s happening now.
Does Lou communicate with younger players? Let’s look at Robin Lehner. First off, Lehner was a value signing 12 months ago. Then he somehow became an issue. If you ask Lehner, the Islanders sandbagged him. If you read Lehner’s quotes, he was completely full of shit about wanting to play on Long Island. And yes, it is ON Long Island. But he still turned down a guy he was praising in public all season. Lou lost the young man, because Lou has grown out of touch.
Lou’s touch with communicating with youth is that he expects players to conform. Players do not live in the age of conform. They live in the age of pampered babies. Whereas Lou is old school and older retired athletes and present coaches respect him, younger players are placated and spoiled. The Russians that Lou worked with came from an authoritarian regime. Shaving facial hair was the least of their worries. Now? The KHL has enough allure that Russians don’t feel a need to come here for fame. Look at the Islanders- Sorokin issue. Sorokin came here for a training camp, looked at Garth Snow, and realized that anything in Russia was more professional than that. This includes both Russian whorehouses and mail order bride organizations.
This may sound mean, but this is realistic- when a player asks Lou what the long term goal of the organization is, they realize they’re asking a guy that is 76 and in a high stress job. He may not outlive the current season, never mind a long term plan.
So how do we solve this mess? It’s time to make Lou what he excels at- an organizer. Lou needs to have his role solely as team president. He needs to add a GM to the mix, just like Toronto had oversight for Lou. Let Lou acquire coaches and scouts and whatnot. But it’s time for the players to hear a different voice. One that can convince a player to come to this organization out of any reason that’s not desperation. One that can make a trade (it’s been over a year if you’re keeping track). One that can communicate to the modern athlete.
Until then? It’s like Garth Snow is still in charge. And if it feels like that to fans, imagine how that feels to talent. Even with a 22nd century arena, it’ll still be a team run in the 1980’s. Until the Islanders solve the GM issue- and it is now officially an issue- they’re going to be seen as a reflection of their GM: swinging and missing at the stars and the playoffs. A bunch of Lou-sers.