As you all know by now, the Toronto Maple Leafs have brought in the final piece to their overhaul rebuild – at least, in the front office.
The club announced on Thursday morning that Lou Lamoriello, the tenured GM and president of the New Jersey Devils, had resigned from his position with the Metropolitan Division club to join the Leafs as the new general manager there. That put Lamoriello, who had been in charge of the Devils organization since 1987, in a new position of power for the first time since before 90% of TLN staff was born.
Lou Lamoriello’s career as President of the New Jersey Devils predates my career as a human being.
— Steve Dangle Glynn (@Steve_Dangle) July 23, 2015
TLN’s Jon Steitzer went out on a limb and discussed where he thinks Lou will fit into the Leafs front office – since, as things stand today, that’s not a front office setting or composition that’s especially traditional.
In theory, we all want to see Lamoriello come in to play the perfect ‘even-strength contributor’ role with the Leafs. He is, after all, the final piece of Toronto’s new brain trust that we never realized management was still missing – with a history of being cunning, ruthless, and effective, the highly-esteemed former Devils GM is both smart and wise. He’s been around the league for years (see the tweet above) and has three Stanley Cups to his name over his tenure in the front office.
In reality, though, there are still a few lingering concerns surrounding Lou – and, more importantly, his ability to, ah, get along with others.
Lou vs. the rest of the management team
Obviously, the idea situation puts Lamoriello in a position of equality with the other three currently fronting the Leafs’ office – Mark Hunter, Kyle Dubas, and Brendan Shanahan.
He balances out this group pretty well. Hunter has a history of drafting well at the OHL level (knowing what kind of risk/reward picks need to be made in which rounds), Dubas understands analytics on a deep level, and Shanahan seems to be cognizant of the fact that an organization needs to be comprised of people who get along, but aren’t all best friends. He’s been effective at picking not just the right people for the job, but the right people to work together to get the job done. Adding someone who has a history of success at the NHL level takes the talent of the trio in place and gives it perspective from someone who’s already been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and for good reason, is fantastic.
While Lou’s best attributes are a good fit for a position in the group brain trust committee, though, this is still going to be an adjustment period for him. Since 1987, the only person who has served as president over Lamoriello’s GM position has been… well, Lamoriello himself. He was actually appointed president of the Devils first, then named himself GM in the wake of the appointment.
That’s not to say that Lamoriello can’t work well with others. The idea that the veteran GM is a total power tyrant is probably a bit overblown – while there have certainly been red flags raised regarding Lamoriello’s managing style in the past, he’s still remembered as one of the most effective and respected general managers in NHL history.
Then again, Lou may be sharp as ever – but he’s still nearing an age where some would contemplate retirement. If he wants to win and doesn’t see the decisions being made by the rest of the staff as in line with that desire, there’s certainly a precedence of the Rhode Island native ensuring that he has the final say.
Lou vs. Mike Babcock
Mike Babcock has a history of getting along well with veteran GM’s, which is excellent – but Lamoriello doesn’t exactly have a history of getting along with coaches, period.
While I’d like to say that my biggest concern is with Lou wanting more power in the management community than he’s likely going to be given, this is where my actual concerns lay – in the ability of both Babcock and Lamoriello to cede the power they’ve both held over successful clubs in the past.
Luckily, both Detroit and New Jersey share a lot of similarities. They value shut-down defense – although New Jersey certainly valued it more than Detroit in the past – and there’s an almost old-school method of on-ice group mentality present in the most recent championship rosters for both clubs mentioned. There is no ‘every man for himself’ concept for either Babcock or Lamoriello; for the Leafs, that’s good news.
It may be bad news, though, that both Babcock and Lamoriello tend to favor veteran loyalty. In a best case scenario, the two agree on which veterans need to stick around and which ones can go – but if they don’t see eye to eye in that area, things could get sour. Lamoriello has dismissed his coach and taken a spot behind the bench three times in recent seasons – if there’s ever any tension between the two, expect that to be brought back centre stage in the community.
For now, though, let’s err to the safe side – it seems like Babcock is pretty pleased with the decision to bring Lamoriello on board.
Lou vs. the Scouting Department
This boils down to one thing: if Lou decides to push an agenda that focuses on bringing long-tenured scout David Conte on board, burn everything to the ground.