NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York Islanders have set sail in an altogether new direction.
Mere weeks after hiring legendary executive Lou Lamoriello as president of hockey operations, the Islanders announced on Tuesday afternoon that general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight have been relieved of their duties. Lamoriello will take over GM responsibilities and said he would begin the search for the team’s next head coach immediately.
“The New York Islanders would like to thank both Garth and Doug for their dedication to the franchise,” Lamoriello said in a statement. “Both started their tenures with the franchise as players and grew as tremendous leaders to the positions they held.”
Both are expected to remain with the organization.
“I feel they can be valuable in me picking their brain, asking their opinion in certain areas,” Lamoriello said.
Snow’s ouster comes after a 12-year run that featured just four playoff appearances. The Islanders have won just one postseason series since 1993, a six-game victory over the Florida Panthers back in the spring of 2016. The Isles have missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
Weight, a Stanley Cup winner as a player, left his role as the team’s assistant GM/coach to take over on the bench for fired Jack Capuano in January of 2017, despite having never been a head coach before at any level. He proceeded to rally the Islanders to a 24-12-4 record on the strength of a more wide-open style of hockey. Based on that success, much was expected of Weight and the Isles this season, but atrocious defense and goaltending led to a 35-37-10 record and seventh-place finish in the tough Metropolitan Division.
“Not every coach is for every team and not every team is for every coach,” Lamoriello said during a conference call later Tuesday. “If we had that coach, he would be in place.”
The Islanders had 101 points back during the 2014-15 season and 100 the season after, but dropped to 94 and 80, respectively, over the last two.
Following co-owner Jon Ledecky’s odd season-ending press conference in which he said ownership would be evaluating all aspects of the team’s hockey operations, both Snow and Weight expressed confidence that they would return in 2018-19 and even took part in player evaluations and overseas scouting. However, with 75-year-old Lamoriello now in charge it’s clear the architect of the New Jersey Devils’ three Stanley Cup championships and countless playoff appearances between 1987 and 2015 plans to put his own mark on the Islanders.
“There’s a culture change that’s needed and there’s new voices needed in different areas, and because of that, the changes (were) made,” Lamoriello said. “There’s been a lot of changes for different reasons, and right now is just trying to stabilize anything, start off with a fresh face, start off with a fresh mind, a fresh coach, and just go forward.”
The biggest offseason priority for Lamoriello will be to re-sign franchise center John Tavares. The No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, who is coming off an 84-point season, reportedly was pleased with the hiring of Lamoriello, who spent the last three seasons rebuilding the Toronto Maple Leafs. How far it will go toward Tavares turning down monster free agent contract offers from other teams come July 1 remains to be seen. All indications are he had a good working relationship with both Snow and Weight and it is unknown how their ouster will impact his thinking.
Lamoriello has been cagey about a reported meeting he had with Tavares before his hiring by the Islanders was officially announced.
“When it comes to talking to players, whether it be with contracts, whether it be personally or whether it be coaches, anything that has to do with their own situation, I will never comment about it,” said Lamoriello, when asked about Tavares back on May 22. “I haven’t in the past and won’t.
“I think everyone in the National Hockey League knows about John Tavares. He’s one of the elite players, a gentleman on and off the ice. He’s just a quality individual, as well as a quality player. I don’t know any better way of describing him.”
In addition to bringing back their best player, the Isles have serious work ahead of them fixing a defense that was among the worst in the NHL this season. Lamoriello will also be under the gun to find a No. 1 goaltender.
The Islanders have two first-round picks in the upcoming draft, Nos. 11 and 12.