Lou Lamoriello defends coach but challenges Islanders stars: ‘much more to give’

Lou Lamoriello defends coach but challenges Islanders stars: ‘much more to give’

Lou Lamoriello is backing his head coach and asking for more from his stars.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the season started, the Islanders’ general manager said he still sees Lane Lambert the same way he did when hiring the head coach last year, but that Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal “have much more to give.”

“I believe they will, and that’s the good news,” Lamoriello said of the top-line duo. “I think [a lot of] their abilities and what they can bring, but I think they have more to bring.”

As for Lambert, whose job status came under scrutiny when the Islanders were on a seven-game losing streak last week, Lamoriello offered support.

“Lane’s composure through that whole process was evident by the way the players came out of it,” Lamoriello said.

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello defended Lane Lambert while saying Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal “have much more to give.”NHLI via Getty Images

Before the team’s Western Canada trip, fans at UBS Arena chanted for Lambert and Lamoriello both to be fired. The home fans have been a little bit more content since the Islanders returned from Calgary with the losing streak snapped — they had won three in a row before a 1-0 shootout loss to the Flyers on Saturday, with points now in six straight — but Lamoriello was asked about the chants nonetheless.

“I have no response,” he said. “Like I don’t have any response when you write some ugly things. That’s part of the game. That’s part of your profession and I respect the fans. They have the right to do what they feel. I love their passion. I don’t mind. We’re expected to win.”

Samuel Ersson makes a save on Mathew Barzal during the shootout of the Islanders’ 1-0 loss to the Flyers.Getty Images

That road becomes a lot tougher for the Islanders after the news Saturday that Adam Pelech will go on long-term injured reserve, with Sebastian Aho also out for the time being, both with upper-body injuries.

The Islanders claimed defenseman Mike Reilly off waivers and called up Grant Hutton from AHL Bridgeport to slot into Saturday’s lineup alongside Samuel Bolduc while awaiting Reilly’s arrival from Florida. That amounts to a reasonable stopgap, but still, the team may need its stars to carry a greater load while they wait for Pelech to get healthy.

Barzal was tied for the team lead in points with 16 entering Saturday’s game, with Horvat close behind with 14. Lamoriello did not quite criticize their play so much as try to walk a line of pushing them in public without being critical.

“Don’t misinterpret my answer to that question. It’s just that Mat’s been playing very well. We like to think that players like Bo and Mat, there’s always more to give and we’ll never accept where they’re at at that time,” Lamoriello said. “It’s an unfortunate thing but that’s what happens. … That was my point. We can always get more.

Bo Horvat takes a shot during overtime of the Islanders’ shootout loss.USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“That’s not saying they’re not doing very positive things. You see them out there on the power play, out there in the last 30 seconds [Friday] night. So they’re doing the right things and Mat scored a big goal [Friday] night and has been playing well. But I’ll never give them the satisfaction that we can’t get more.”

Lamoriello’s assessment of his team’s 8-6-5 start to the season, though, was in line with Lambert’s message that even during the losing streak, the Islanders were playing well — citing that they got points via overtime losses and that mistakes like bad penalties and turnovers have been corrected.

“I think the last several games, our coverage has been exceptional. I think our breakouts have been extremely good and I think we’ve had some great offensive opportunities which we’ve capitalized on different times,” Lamoriello said. “At this point, all you do is you look forward, you don’t look back.”