Hockey Hall of Famer Patrick Roy was looking for another opportunity to coach an NHL team.
On Saturday, he got it. The New York Islanders announced that they’ve brought Roy on board after firing Lane Lambert.
The 58-year-old spent three seasons behind the bench of one of his former teams, the Colorado Avalanche, between 2013 and 2016. He put up a record of 130-92-24 for a .577 points percentage and won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in his first year. But Colorado’s only playoff appearance also came that first year, a seven-game upset loss to the Minnesota Wild.
And Roy tarnished his opportunities for future NHL employment when he left the Avalanche in a bad spot. Ahead of the 2016-17 season, he decided in August that he would not to return, stating that he didn’t have enough “say in the decisions that impact the team’s performance.”
That left then-GM Joe Sakic scrambling to find a replacement after most coaches were already in their roles for the upcoming season. He was able to attract Jared Bednar, fresh off a Calder Cup win with the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters. And while the Avalanche finished dead last in Bednar’s first season with just 48 points, that set the team up to draft superstar defenseman Cale Makar with the fourth pick in the 2017 draft.
On-ice performance also picked up quickly. In 2018, the Avalanche returned to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. In 2022, they won the Stanley Cup. And now, Bednar is the third longest-tenured coach in the NHL, behind only fellow Cup-winners Jon Cooper with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Mike Sullivan with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As for Roy: he spent two years away from hockey before returning to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he had previously been team owner as well as head coach and general manager.
Once again, Roy took over as coach and general manager. He spent five seasons back with the team and after capturing the 2023 Memorial Cup with his group last June, he stepped away — making it clear that he was hoping to make an NHL return.
He does so at the expense of Lane Lambert, the 59-year-old who was midway through his second season in charge of the Islanders.
In 127 games, Lambert amassed a record of 61-46-20 for a .559 points percentage. Last spring, the Islanders made the playoffs thanks to a strong second half, but fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. This year, they’ve been inconsistent at both ends of the ice, but their record of 19-15-11 through 45 games has them in the mix for a playoff spot in the crowded Eastern Conference race, just two points out of a wild-card position following Friday’s games.
But on Friday night, the Islanders lost their fourth-straight game and sixth in their last seven. They dropped a 4-3 overtime decision to the struggling Chicago Blackhawks, who sit second-last in the league standings and are riddled with injuries, including rookie prodigy Connor Bedard.
As a player, Lambert was a journeyman center who put up 123 points in 283 NHL games for three different teams between 1983 and 1989.
Roy was a superstar who won two Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens and two more with the Avalanche and was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for three of those runs. He also won three Vezina Trophies and his 551 career wins were second-most of all time until he was passed by Marc-Andre Fleury just a few days ago. He’s an icon of the sport with a big personality, who will draw eyeballs to an Islanders team that is regularly overshadowed by the New York Rangers and, lately, also by the New Jersey Devils in the Tri-State area.
As of Saturday afternoon, there is no word on whether there will be other changes to the Islanders’ coaching staff.
There won’t be much time for Roy to get to know his players and prepare for his new assignment. The Islanders open a two-game homestand against the formidable Dallas Stars on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET).