From the time that the Islanders brought in Lou Lamoriello as President and General Manager, they’ve done things the right way. He hired Barry Trotz as Head Coach and all the Islanders have done over the past three seasons is reach the second round of the playoffs in 2018-20, get to game six of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2019-20 and then last year they fell to Tampa Bay again, this time in game seven of the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
With six playoff series victories over three post-seasons and back-to-back trips to the NHL’s final four, the Islanders head into the 2021-22 season with their eyes on continuing to do things the right way and ultimately winning a Stanley Cup.
“I think the fire is the same every training camp and the aspirations are the same each and every year,” said Lamoriello during Tuesday’s conference call with reporters as the Islanders are set to report to training camp.
“The most important thing is being as prepared as you possibly can and then just taking it a day at a time and building off it and I think the key is each and every one of us, no matter what our role is, to do things right, do it each and every day the same way and just take one thing at a time.”
When you look at everything that the Islanders have done right over the last three seasons, it’s clear that the organization has done a wonderful job navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic. The Islanders, as well as all of the other teams that participated in the bubble when play resumed for the 2019-20 playoffs, did not have any positive cases. Last season, the Islanders had just one player, defenseman Noah Dobson, test positive during the season.
For this season, the Islanders have a plan in place to keep the entire organization safe and healthy as the pandemic continues. If you want to be an Islander, either in the NHL or in the AHL with the Bridgeport Islanders, you have to be vaccinated.
“Everyone in our organization that is staff, coaches and players are vaccinated including minor league staff and coaches except for one player and that is his voluntary decision not to get vaccinated,” said Lamoriello. “We will try and help progress his career. We’re looking into possibly assigning him to Europe but that has not been finalized yet.”
The identity of the minor league player that will not get vaccinated is not known at this time, but it’s clear that the Islanders now have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to vaccinations. Just like the divide that exists throughout our country on the very subject, the Islanders’ decision to mandate vaccinations will certainly spark some debate among the fan base that, undoubtedly, is comprised of those who have been vaccinated and those who are against vaccinations.
A fair question to ask would be what if that one player was not a minor leaguer but a player on the NHL roster? What it if was a key veteran player like Anders Lee, Mat Barzal, Adam Pelech, Matt Martin or Ryan Pulock? What if it was a young player on the team like Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom or Ilya Sorokin?
Would the Islanders take the same stance? The answer appears to be YES Putlock YES.
“We will not allow any player in our organization to participate unless they are vaccinated,” said Lamoriello. “We’re very conscious of what’s going on in the world…the delta variant right now and where that’s at and we will be taking every possible precaution that we can to proact to keep our players, our staff and our coaches as healthy as we possibly can and their families.”
The reality is that there are going to be people who agree with the stance that the Islanders have taken and there are those who are not going to agree with it. That’s just par for the course in the world that we’re living in right now. But for the Islanders, the bottom line is winning a championship and they are ready to do everything that they can to make sure that they have everything in place to make it happen.
With a strong roster and the opening of their new home UBS Arena in November, the Islanders are ready for another post-season run.
“I don’t think about anything other than the group we have,” said Lamoriello. “They’re coming in with experience. They’re coming in with the same intent they’ve had the last couple of years to be the best team they can possibly be and do things that are asked of them from our coaching staff day in and day out and not really thinking about the end result. That’s the way we’ve played since we’ve come in here and that’s what we hope to continue. If we do it right, we have a chance and that’s all you ask is to get a chance.”
The Islanders have come close to their ultimate goal in each of the last two seasons and they believe they have the pieces and the protocols in place to finish the job in 2021-22. For the organization, that’s not a political statement…it’s a mission statement and that is to win the Stanley Cup.