As of May 2021, there are currently only 62 head coach and general manager positions in the National Hockey League. There a handful of current openings across the league; however, when the regular season came to an end, there were only 32 executives welcomed to the after-season party known as the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The combination of New York Islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz has never played a single NHL game, yet the pair entered the 2021 Playoffs as the league’s most decorated duo.
The Trophy Case Is Full
Trotz is a two-time Jack Adams Award winner as Coach of the Year for his outstanding seasons in Washington (2016) and New York (2019). He’s the only multiple-award winner still coaching, with Bruce Cassidy (2020) and Dave Tippett (2010) the only other currently-employed coaches with trophies. The 58-year old also ranks third all-time in victories behind the bench. With 877 wins, Trotz only trails legend Scott Bowman (1,244) and current Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville (962).
There is no doubt that Quenneville is a spectacular coach. The man has three Stanley Cup victories with Chicago (2010, 2013, 2015) and a Jack Adams Award with St. Louis (2000). You could argue he’s the most accomplished bench boss in the playoffs, but I must point out that Quenneville’s general manager Bill Zito has not achieved anything yet at the onset of his NHL management career.
Unlike Zito, Lamoriello is no stranger to hockey hardware, with three championships as general manager with the New Jersey Devils (1995, 2000, 2003). He was already a Hockey Hall of Fame member before signing a contract in New York in 2018. He then went on to win the recently created Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award in 2020.
The Islanders’ current executive duo has a combined four Stanley Cup titles and three personnel of the year trophies on their mantle. The only coach and manager duo within striking distance is Ken Holland and Dave Tippett from the Edmonton Oilers. Holland brought four Stanley Cup titles from his days in Detroit, and Tippett won a Jack Adams Award with the then-Phoenix Coyotes.
As mentioned, neither Trotz nor Lamoriello have suited up for an NHL game, but they are not unique in that regard. A handful of coaches and general managers in the current playoffs have no NHL game experience. That shortlist includes Winnipeg’s Paul Maurice and Kevin Cheveldayoff, the Vegas Golden Knights’ Peter DeBoer and Kelly McCrimmon, Nashville’s John Hynes and David Poile, and the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning’s Jon Cooper and Julien BriseBois.
Out of the names on the list without experience, only Cooper, BriseBois, and Cheveldayoff have won the Stanley Cup in one capacity or another, making the experience Trotz and Lamoriello bring to the Islanders even more valuable.
The Islanders’ 2021 first-round opponents, the Pittsburgh Penguins, bring a wealth of NHL experience (1,317 games) and three Stanley Cup titles to the matchup. Head coach Mike Sullivan recently guided the Penguins to back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017, while general manager Ron Hextall won his only Stanley Cup as a member of the 2012 Los Angeles Kings.
The Truth Is on the Mantle
The Lamoriello-Trotz duo has guided the Islanders to the playoffs in their first three seasons, including a 2020 Eastern Conference Final loss to eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Lamoriello’s brilliance in recognizing the right pieces to build a contender is just what Trotz needs to succeed on the ice. Together, the pair have been through it all in the regular season and playoffs, which is why they are still employed after three decades in the game.
I could sit here and type out numbers describing more statistical categories, but there is no need. When you look at what Trotz and Lamoriello have accomplished in their time together on Long Island, you can see that experience matters.
Ryan Gagne is back for his second tour of duty with The Hockey Writers. In 2021 he wrote about the New York Islanders and now will embrace the challenge of covering the Calgary Flames. The best part of this new assignment is Ryan currently lives in Edmonton and will get to see both sides of the Battle of Alberta up close and personal. None of this will make much sense since he was born and raised in New England and the Boston Bruins are his still team.