To the bitter end, the players in the Islanders’ dressing room were backing Lane Lambert, even as it became clear that a change might become necessary after a four-game trip last week came and went without a victory.
And while Lambert paid the price, it is the players who ultimately feel responsible for Lou Lamoriello making a change behind the bench and hiring Patrick Roy as the team’s new head coach.
“We’re just as accountable as Lane,” Anders Lee said before the Isles faced the Stars on Sunday in Roy’s debut. “We’re the ones that go out there and play the game. And we’ve come up short on our end of the bargain in that regard. It’s on us to take this opportunity and go with it. And so that responsibility is absolutely shared.”
If that was one public-facing message in the dressing room Sunday morning, another was excitement at what Roy brings — which came with a tacit admission that something had to change, even if the Islanders did not want to see anyone lose his job.
“We take a lot of responsibility in the room for that happening,” Mat Barzal said. “We didn’t play well the last four games. Sure, it’s a full organization that it takes to win and lose, but at the end of the day, we’re the ones on the ice playing the game. We didn’t play well enough, we didn’t score, ultimately cost Lane his job.
“Excited that Patrick’s here. Obviously brings passion, intensity immediately. I think that’s exactly what this group needed. [You] see the lack of, maybe, passion for lack of a better term on the ice. It’s been very stagnant the last few games. Part of that’s on our group, not as much Lane as it is the boys in the room.”
The change in energy was evident even in the morning skate.
Roy, at one point, even stopped line rushes — normally a mundane drill — to make sure the team was doing it right.
His message on Day 1?
“We’re gonna have to do this together,” Bo Horvat said. “It can’t be one or two guys going, it’s gonna have to be everybody. Everybody pulling on the same rope.”
The Islanders entered Sunday just two points out of the second wild-card spot, but over the last month, have fallen out of the playoff bracket from as high as second place in the Metropolitan Division.
That prompted Lamoriello to pull the trigger on a move that has caught the league’s attention.
“This is welcomed,” Lee said, “and we gotta move forward with this and do the best that we can.”