Lou Lamoriello has been the president of hockey operations and general manager (GM) of the New York Islanders for the past five seasons. The three-time Stanley Cup champion is 80 years old, and it may be time to start looking for his replacement.
The Toronto Maple Leafs decided to part ways with their GM Kyle Dubas on May 19. Dubas and Lamoriello worked together with the Maple Leafs for four years until he replaced Lamoriello, and the two reportedly have a “strong relationship” (from ‘Could Kyle Dubas and the Islanders be a match as Lou Lamoriello’s future remains uncertain?” The Athletic, 5/19/23).
The Islanders have to start looking at the future. The ownership group needs to realize that Lamoriello is nearing the end of his tenure. He has been successful and brought credibility to the franchise, but it’s time for him to hand the reigns to his former colleague. With a candidate like Dubas available, the Islanders should at least reach out and gauge his interest.
Evaluating Dubas’ Time in Toronto
Unfortunately, when you are the GM of a team like the Maple Leafs, you are bound to take most of the blame for the team’s failures. However, Dubas did a good job of giving the Maple Leafs a chance to contend. He signed John Tavares in the summer of 2018 and was able to keep their core four of Tavares, Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, and Willy Nylander together. He was also with the organization for nine years and GM for the last five. The 37-year-old was close to signing an extension with the team, but team president Brendan Shanahan had a change of heart after the team was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
Dubas was a very aggressive GM, unafraid to deal his first-round picks. He was also known for making big moves at the deadline to try and get the Maple Leafs over the hump. They finally did so this season and won their first playoff series since 2004. The fact that he was able to land one of the biggest unrestricted free agents of all time (Tavares) and keep his stars together is a big reason why his tenure should be considered a success. He also acquired big names like Jake Muzzin, Nick Foligno, Ryan O’Reilly, and Jake McCabe over the years to help his team win.
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The biggest criticism against him was his inability to find consistent goaltending and for trading one of the heart and soul players of the organization, Nazem Kadri, who went on to win a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2022.
According to Sportsnet, Dubas negotiated 204 signings (doling out nearly $628 million, according to CapFriendly), oversaw the drafting of 44 players, and made 71 trades (from ‘Looking Back at Kyle Dubas’ biggest moves as Maple Leafs GM’, Sportsnet, 5/19/23). For the most part, Dubas did a good job of keeping the Maple Leafs competitive, learning the ropes from Lamoriello as his assistant GM for four years. The players simply did not live up to expectations.
The Islanders were eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes on April 28, and we still haven’t heard anything from management or the coaching staff. We are used to Lamoriello keeping things very quiet, but there hasn’t been an end-of-season interview from the GM or head coach. Could this signify that change is coming? This was the last season of Lamoriello’s contract, but according to Andrew Gross, the Islanders’ Newsday Beat writer, he is not going anywhere. He believes that Lamoriello has already agreed to a contract extension, likely a three-year deal (from ‘It looks as if Lou Lamoriello will get a new contract’, Newsday, 5/14/23).
If that is the case, and Lamoriello is sticking around, he should consider taking on the sole role of president of hockey operations. The team needs to get younger and faster, and that includes management as well. If the ownership group is serious about winning, the team needs to start looking at the future, and Dubas is a perfect candidate.
The big question is whether he is actually interested in the position. The Islanders are entering a difficult period with their roster because they have aging veterans on long-term deals and are not in a great position cap-wise. It would be a big challenge for Dubas to navigate through these issues, but Lamoriello would be there for support.
Dubas would be a great fit for the organization. He would take the pressure off Lamoriello, and at his age, that is very important, but he would still have the final say in hockey decisions. Unfortunately, it sounds like the Pittsburgh Penguins have the upper hand in hiring Dubas, but maybe management’s silence is a sign that something is coming. We just have to wait and see.