Luck and skill are two very different things. Lou Lamoriello has both.
After leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs in early 2018, Lamoriello has show a keen ability to acquire talent while getting lucky along the way.
It all started with Barry Trotz. Trotz had just won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals and was widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the National Hockey League (NHL) last offseason.
Washington’s upper management did not want to pay Trotz the salary he was seeking after reaching hockey Mecca.
That’s where Lou Lamoriello came in.
Trotz was unable to reach a deal and the Islanders were the only team in hockey without a head coach after firing Doug Weight.
Lamoriello signed Trotz to a reported five-year, $20 million contract and the rest is history. In his first season on the Island, Trotz won the Jack Adams Trophy and led the Islanders to a 103-point season and sweep over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Last season, Lamoriello did not just need a coach, but he needed a goalie as well.
The Islanders allowed Jaroslav Halak to walk in free agency and sought a new netminder. Philipp Grubauer, Anton Khudobin and Carter Hutton were options, but all did not work out for a variety of reasons.
Lamoriello kept pushing and finally found his man. Robin Lehner, a talented but struggling goalie from Buffalo, was the best choice available amongst the few that remained. Just like Trotz, this could not have gone better.
Lehner felt comfortable enough to share his story with Lamoriello. Even though the 77-year-old general manager is old-school, he took every step possible to allow Lehner to thrive.
And thrive he did.
In 43 starts, Lehner won 25 games and recorded a .930 save percentage and a 2.13 goals against average. Amongst his many milestones, he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, won the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy and shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with Thomas Greiss.
Signing Lehner was not the only schrewed roster move Lamoriello made last summer.
Matt Martin became available after falling out of the lineup and confronting ex-Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock about an incident with Mitch Marner. Lamoriello took advantage and acquired his old friend.
— Matt O’Leary (@MattOLearyNY) November 26, 2019
Martin quickly revitalized the best fourth line in hockey and gave Barry Trotz a weapon no other coach could deploy. With Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Martin reunited, the Islanders went from the worst defensive team in hockey to the best.
Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov helped that transformation as well. These two grizzly veterans needed a new home and Lamoriello recognized their subtle talents.
Filppula was the perfect third-line center and Komarov was a leader on an effective penalty-kill. These moves, along with minor signings like Tom Kuhnhackl and Luca Sbisa, were exactly what the Islanders needed in the post-John Tavares era.
Year #1 went nearly perfect and Year #2 is shockingly off to an even better start.
The Islanders entered the season with a very similar team. But there was one major exception.
The struggling veteran looked like his time in the NHL could be coming to an end. Lamoriello thought otherwise.
He signed the center to a one-year, $1.2 million deal, allowing Brassard to prove himself while taking on very little risk.
Brassard has made Lamoriello look like a genius. After a transformation from third-line center to top-six winger, Brassard has been one of the best players to don the blue and orange.
He has shown a keen ability to participate in a plentiful of offensive opportunities while improving his two-way game under Trotz. His chemistry with Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier has been one of the many surprises this season.
The Islanders racked up 32 out of 34 points on a sensational 17-game point streak last month and Brassard was a big reason why. The streak began when Brassard was promoted from the third-line and began a multi-game goal streak.
Coincidence? I think not.
Whether it is Trotz, Lehner, Martin, Filppula, Komarov or Brassard, Lou Lamoriello has excelled in nearly every decision he has made since joining the Islanders.
Some moves have been lucky. Some moves have been perfectly executed as planned. But all have one theme: they work.
With one of the best general managers in NHL history leading the way, the future is bright on Long Island.