Despite a blockbuster trade, in which the New York Islanders acquired Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a first-round draft pick, Aatu Raty, and Anthony Beauvillier, the team may not be done making moves ahead of the trade deadline. The Islanders have a 3-5-2 record over the course of their last ten games, which begs the question, is head coach Lane Lambert now on the hot seat? The doors have been swung open on the NHL coaching carousel as the Canucks became the first team to part ways with their head coach last week.
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Islanders’ Buying Could Put Lambert on the Hot Seat
With general manager Lou Lamoriello investing so much into this season by acquiring Horvat, the time is now for the Islanders. He will fully expect the team to deliver immediate results following the blockbuster deal. However, he may be walking a fine line if the team continues its inconsistent play.
The Islanders have a favourable schedule coming out of the All-Star Break as they play against non-playoff teams in four of their first five games in February. Lambert’s fate will likely be decided based on the club’s performance through that period. With Lamoriello now fully committed to making a push for the playoffs, if the Islanders stumble out of the break, it wouldn’t be a shock to see a coaching change.
Lambert Not to Blame For All Islanders’ Inconsistencies
With a 25-22-5 record, the Islanders currently find themselves two points out of the final wild card position when looking at the Eastern Conference standings. While fans and front office alike certainly wished for a better first half of the season, many of the Islanders’ inconsistencies cannot be directly pinned on their head coach.
One area of concern throughout the season has been the Islanders’ powerplay. However, Lambert does not personally run the powerplay as that job belongs to John Maclean. Although he may not be running it, the head coach certainly needs to know when adjustments are required, and judging by having the NHL’s 31st ranked man-advantage, some are definitely needed. The addition of Horvat and Kyle Palmieri’s return to the lineup should help the struggling powerplay.
Related: Islanders’ Trade Deadline Direction Remains in Question
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Critical injuries are another reason for some of the Islanders’ inconsistent results. While every team can expect injuries throughout an 82-game season, losing your best defenceman and two of your top-six forwards for extended periods of time doesn’t help matters.
Lambert’s Questionable Lineup Decisions
When missing regular roster players, Lambert has had trouble putting together effective line combinations to create the scoring the team needs. For example, before sending prospect Aatu Raty to Vancouver, the Islanders’ top prospect was given minimal ice time to show off his skills. He eventually played 12 games for the team, averaging just 8:46 in ice time and burning up the first year of his entry-level contract.
In a somewhat bizarre tactic, William Dufour, another highly touted Islanders prospect, was called up for just one game, where he was given 6:48 of ice time. How can a young player make his NHL debut and be expected to make some offensive impact while barely getting enough ice time to get his legs going? Unfortunately, Dufour was not allotted much time to strut his stuff as he was sent back to Bridgeport following his one-game call-up.
Until his recent demotion to the fourth line, veteran Josh Bailey has been given ample opportunity and ice time which he has struggled mightily to provide any sort of offence for the Islanders. Bailey has just six goals and 13 assists for 19 points through 48 games this season.
The Time is Now For Lambert and the Islanders
The time is certainly now for the Islanders, and just last week, Lamoriello gave his coaching staff a vote of confidence. However, that could change quickly if the team fails to respond to Lambert’s coaching tactics. Lamoriello has done his part by adding a legitimate goalscorer to the Islanders’ forward group. Now it’s the coach’s turn to get the most out of his lineup. A failure to deliver results shortly could likely sway the Hall of Fame general manager into looking for a new boss behind the Islanders bench. Ironically enough, the Canucks former head coach Bruce Boudreau may be an ideal fit should the team continue to falter under Lambert’s guidance.