Lou Lamoriello

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Graziano: Islanders Enter Preseason As Lamoriello's Changes Take Effect

Team Set To Begin Season Under Lou’s Rules

Andy Graziano
September 13, 2018 - 3:19 pm
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It’s finally time. Finally, time to play hockey.

With the conclusion of rookie camp Tuesday, culminating with Wednesday’s exhibition against the Philadelphia Flyers’ youngsters, the veterans showed up Thursday for physicals, official team photos and to get prepared for the first on-ice session of training camp under new coach Barry Trotz on Friday morning.

New York released its training camp schedule, which will include three practices per day split into groups A, B and C. As the listings end with a day off on Sept. 23, one could assume that, by that date, the team will have pared down the initial camp roster and made numerous demotions to Bridgeport.

Sunday also brings the first preseason game. It’s a repeat of last year, with the Flyers coming to Nassau Coliseum for a 1 p.m. puck drop that will officially kick off the Islanders’ 2018-19 season.  

MORE: Graziano: Expectations Low For Islanders, But There Are Reasons For Optimism

Make no mistake, things will be much, much different from start to finish under new team president and (for now) general manager Lou Lamoriello.

Looking to establish organizational respectability and to quickly stamp his foot down as the boss with zero exceptions, Lamoriello has enacted a policy carried over from his days as a top executive with the New Jersey Devils. He’s taking a page out of the New York Yankees’ playbook by banning facial hair, and don’t even think of growing a mullet.

Nick Leddy is one of a few unrecognizable Islanders coming into camp sans beard. That also includes Cal Clutterbuck and Andrew Ladd. Short hair is the order of the day for Matt Martin, Mathew Barzal and Scott Mayfield (who actually cut his last year for charity).

Another policy brought over from his days in the swamp is lower jersey numbers for non-veterans. Players such as Johnny Boychuk and Casey Cizikas, for example, can keep their Nos. 55 and 53, respectively, but Arthur Staple of The Athletic has already reported a number of other changes, such as Adam Pelech (No. 50 to No. 3), Mayfield (No. 42 to No. 24), Anthony Beauvillier (No. 72 to No. 18) and Josh Ho-Sang (No. 66 to No. 26).

MORE: Graziano: Islanders Training Camp Primer, Part II: Reasons for Concern

It’s all part of a larger plan by Lamoriello to restore the team-first/all-for-one mentality that can sometimes help a team overperform and exceed the expectations set by fans and pundits (see 2017-18 Vegas Golden Knights). Lamoriello has also, as of now, planned zero open practices. That’s right, none. All rookie camp practices were also closed to the public.

Lamoriello has had a sluggish offseason after losing John Tavares to free agency. He has signed too many third- and fourth-liners, including a four-year deal and no-trade clause for Leo Komarov. The Islanders also lost Calvin de Haan from a defense that gave up chances galore and leaked 296 goals last season. He has also not been able to bring Jordan Eberle or Anders Lee to the table for extension talks. Both are eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer, although that might be his plan. The entire team is in evaluation mode right now.

The new executive did apparently sit down and grant a clean slate to Ho-Sang, whom the Islanders could really use to bolster a second line that, unless Brock Nelson magically discovers consistency, will need the help. Lamoriello has wisely stayed away from a very expensive trade market while watching his scouting department accept the two gifts named Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson that fell into their lap at the end of June.

Lamoriello isn’t afraid to fire up the fanbase while also giving his new team a collective pat on the back. On Tuesday, speaking to the New York Post, Lamoriello had some very cutting comments about the departure of their former captain.

"There’s no aftermath. Players come and go," Lamoriello said to Brett Cyrgalis.

"It’s different if they had won championships. It’s different if they had had a lot of success. They haven’t done much — and I don’t say that with any disrespect. Haven’t been to the playoffs the last couple years. Things haven’t worked out the way everybody would have liked them to, from what my understanding is."

I thought Lou would have taken the high road in that situation and been a little more ‘executive’ with his comments, but hey, all is fair in love and war. And it never hurts to show the fan-base that you have its back and are feeling similar feelings to what it has felt the past two months. You can bet the players saw those comments and immediately felt emboldened heading into the new season.

At the end of the day, the comments won’t matter. Short hair and clean faces won’t matter. Low jersey numbers won’t matter. And be certain that my opinion also won’t matter.

It’s all about wins and losses, plain and simple. Just win, baby. Just win.

Follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyGraz_WFAN