Lou Lamoriello has plenty of experience with players who had been in his fold but bolted in search of greener pastures.
Lamoriello just shook them off like a pitcher knowing the next one would be a strike out.
Having covered the Islanders new hockey boss since Lamoriello’s Devils debut in 1987, I’ve admired the manner in which he always managed to adjust his club after the Bye-Bye Brigade exited for hockey’s Shangri-La.
-Kirk Muller: Nice knowing you ex-captain.
-Bobby Holik: Enjoy your riches elsewhere — but no more Cups for you.
-Jason Arnott: Thanks for that biggie in Dallas; forget about champagne after that.
–Scott Gomez: Two Cups in New Jersey; none elsewhere.
Oh, yeah, Brendan Shanahan, Bill Guerin and Ilya Kovalchuk; remember them?
Dare I say even Martin Brodeur?
After challenging Lou, their New Jersey shelf life was reduced to the Square-Root-Of-Zilch.
Which is why you can expect Larrupin’ Lou to rebound from the expatriation of John Tavares to his beloved, adored and Royal-Blue-And-Whitish Maple Leafs.
Tavares couldn’t handle the Islanders challenge and took the easy way out. No problem; it was all legal. Meanwhile, Lou has been out marketing this week with some compelling returns.
The move I like most so far is his acquisition of Robin Lehner. At 27 and just approaching goaltending prime — as well as NHL maturity — Lehner looms as the host with the most to offer.
— MSG Networks (@MSGNetworks) July 3, 2018
Hockey News columnist Jared Clinton agrees with me as well.
“The Islanders landed the best goaltender of the free agent field.” wrote Clinton. “It’s the perfect fit; the right move at the right time for New York.”
Right now, The Maven will go on record predicting that the Sweet Swede will take over as Number One between the pipes with Thomas Greiss as the experienced back-up.
Why am I going out on such a long limb with Lehner? Because I have always liked combative goalies — Bill Smith being the best example — and Lehner is at the top of that class.
Plus, I did my research and contacted one of the men who knows Lehner best, Kiurt Kleinendorst.
The ex-Devils assistant coach (under Lamoriello), Kleinendorst was head coach of the Binghamton Senators during the 2010-11 American Hockey League season when Robin was his back-up goalie who came to the fore.
Lehner rallied Binghamton from a one-game-to-three playoff deficit against Manchester and a stunning come-from-behind upset win.
“Our starting goalie at the time was Barry Brust,” Kleinendorst told me, “but when we got down 3-1, I decided to go with Robin and what a job he did.”
Game 6 against Manchester hurtled into double-overtime; Lehner vs. Martin Jones, now the San Jose Sharks starter. Robin robbed the Monarchs with 51 saves, won 2-1 and thereby pushed the series to the seven-game limit.
“He took us all the way to overtime in Game 7,” Kleinendorst recalled. “We looked doomed when the ref called a penalty shot against us in sudden-death.
“Manchester’s best shooter, Buddy Holloway, took the penalty shot but Lehner stoned him and we went on to score and then beat Houston in six games for the Calder Cup.”
Kurt told me he’s aware that Lehner has not exactly been dazzling NHL foes with his goal work lately but my source insisted that Lamoriello did right by his club.
“Robin has a tremendous amount of potential,” Kleinendorst explained. “What he needs most is to know that he has a coach who really cares about him. In that regard Barry (Trotz) will do a good job; and Lou also will be great for him.
“I found that when I took the time to get to know him, Lehner is as good a person and competitor as you’ll find; and a fighter as well. The trick is not to butt heads with him because he’ll butt back.”
Trotz’s goalie coach in Washington was the much-esteemed Mitch Korn. If, somehow, Korn decides to follow Barry to Brooklyn, it would even make it better for Lehner.
Kleinendorst: “Another thing I like about Robin is how well he bounces back from a bad game. He’s determined; mentally strong.”
Of course, Lehner was not Lou’s only catch this week. The Boss brought smiles to thousands of fans’ faces when he re-acquired the ebullient Matt Martin in a one-for-one deal with Toronto for goalie prospect Eamon McAdam.
Management’s previous attempts to fill the Martin gap with the likes of Jason Chimera and other un-reasonable facsimiles merely made Matty’s absence more conspicuous.
Not that Lou is finished wheeling and dealing. After all, the defense needs work and there’s still an Erik Karlsson out there waiting for the blockbuster to fall somewhere but who knows where?
Meanwhile, Lou named Lane Lambert associate coach.
Lambert worked the last four seasons with Trotz in Washington, reaffirming that Barry is bringing in his trusty aides.
Question now: Will Korn be next; the perfect mentor for Lehner?