Lane Lambert did not care much for analytics while he was coaching the Islanders.
That part of the organization’s philosophy is going to shift with Patrick Roy behind the bench.
Roy cited advanced stats more than once ahead of his first game with the Islanders on Sunday, a 3-2 win over Dallas, particularly in identifying where the Islanders need to improve.
“To some level, it doesn’t lie,” he said. “That’s a bit of what I said to the guys. We’re in the bottom of the league with breakouts, we’re bottom of the league in puck possession in our own zone, we’re bottom of the league in puck possession in the [offensive] zone. There’s some work to be done.”
Indeed, though Roy has access to private data, what is publicly available does not reflect kindly on the Islanders.
By Natural Stat Trick’s count, they entered play on Sunday ranked 29th in expected goals against, 30th in scoring chances against and 30th in high-danger chances against.
A club that was once pristine in its own zone saw its defensive structure fall to pieces this year under Lambert — leading to Ilya Sorokin seeing more shots than any other goaltender in the league.
Sorokin, probably not coincidentally, has seen his play drop off after finishing second in Vezina Trophy voting last year.
Shoring up the defensive zone, then, will be one of the first priorities for Roy.
“We’re gonna start to worry about our defense,” he said. “I always believed that if you break the puck out well, then you’re gonna spend less time in your own zone. If you do turnovers over turnovers, there’s no magic recipe against turnovers. Most of the time, turnovers become a pretty good scoring chance.
“I really want to make sure that we talked a lot about our breakouts, our D-zone coverage and make sure we do a good job in that area.”
Though Roy is not about to overhaul the team’s systems on the fly, he does want to make some changes there, and has already started to implement minor tweaks.
“My days in Colorado [from 2013-16], if I was looking at analytics, our team was giving up a lot of puck possession in the D-zone,” Roy said. “And the last seven years, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do, so I do believe in what I’ll try to bring here.
“Different message than what it was then, so it was a very good learning lesson for me. Fortunately for me, I had the chance to do it with junior guys [coaching the QMJHL Quebec Remparts], it worked really well. I do believe it’s gonna be the same thing at the NHL level.”