After less than two seasons, Lane Lambert is out as coach of the New York Islanderswith the club announcing Saturday it has hired Patrick Roy behind the bench.
Firing Lambert comes as the Islanders have struggled to find consistency while also trying to remain in the playoff hunt. The Islanders (19-15-11) entered Saturday two points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the final wild-card spot in what has become a crowded Eastern Conference landscape.
Even though the Islanders are two points out of a wild-card spot, they have lost four straight games, which is the NHL’s longest active losing streak. The Islanders have only won twice in their past 10 games.
“Watching our team play, I felt that the inconsistency that has been going on for some period of time was not going to end,” New York president of hockey operations and general manager Lou Lamoriello said on a video call with reporters. “When I had the opportunity to meet with Patrick recently, I felt that this was the best for our organization to go forward.”
Hiring Roy allows the Hall of Fame goaltender return to an NHL bench for the first time since the 2015-16 season, when he coached the Colorado Avalanche for three seasons. Roy won the Jack Adams Award in his first season after he led the Avs to the playoffs, only to miss the postseason in his final two campaigns.
“His presence is extremely aggressive,” Lamoriello said. “I thought he was the right person for the job.”
Roy, who had been coaching the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL before he took the Avs job, returned to the Remparts’ bench at the start of the 2018-19 season. The Remparts reached the playoffs in four of their five seasons under Roy, with the 2019-20 playoffs being cancelled because of the pandemic.
Last season may have been Roy’s best as a head coach. He guided the Remparts to a 53-win season that saw them win their sixth QMJHL title and then capture the Memorial Cup for the third time in franchise history.
Roy’s first game behind the Islanders’ bench could come Sunday when they face the Dallas Stars at UBS Arena.
“One of my objectives will be to bring some consistency to their play,” Roy said.
Roy will be charged with trying to get the Islanders into the playoffs for a consecutive season while also seeking to find solutions for a team that has struggled to stop opponents from scoring. Natural Stat Trick’s metrics show that the Islanders entered Saturday allowing the second-most shot attempts per 60, the third-most scoring chances per 60 and the third-most high-danger scoring chances per 60.
The mounting losses. The inability to gain traction in the wild-card race. The fact there are six teams within four points of the final wild-card spot. The realization their defensive issues have contributed to why they have a minus-21 goal differential. These are among the factors that led to questions about whether the Islanders would part ways with Lambert.
Lambert had been with the Islanders since the start of the 2018-19 season, serving as an associate coach for four seasons. He was hired as head coach at the start of the 2022-23 season and led the Islanders back to the playoffs after they missed the 2021-22 postseason. The Islanders would lose in six games to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round.
His second season faced a tumultuous start, with the club losing seven straight in November. That streak saw them allow more than four goals per game in each of their defeats. The Isles went on a stretch that saw them win nine of their 12 games between November and December, only to end 2023 with a loss on New Year’s Eve to begin another losing run, dropping eight of the next 10 games.
Questions around Lambert’s future further escalated Friday after their 4-3 overtime defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks — a team that has only six points more than the San Jose Sharkswho have earned the fewest points in the NHL.
“I know what you’re probably alluding to, but we don’t want that,” Islanders forward Matt Martin told the New York Post after the team’s loss to the Blackhawks. “We want to come out and start playing hockey. At the end of the day, it’s on us. It’s just on us as players.
“Coaches, they can give you all the X’s and O’s, the game plan, the systems, all the video. If we don’t come out and execute and play well enough to win, that’s on us.”