Can Lou Lamoriello Play Nice in a Management Committee?

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. 

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. 

  • silentbob

    Lou is going bring some badly needed experience to a very green managment team …

    think mentorship as Shanny, Hunter and the kid learn how to run a professional sports team.

  • silentbob

    So far Shanahan seems to have done a very good job hiring good, quality people, and putting together an effective group to run this team.

    until we are given reason to believe otherwise, hasn’t Shanahan earned our trust when it comes to this stuff?

  • STAN

    Nice piece, but I disagree that Shanahan has “been effective at picking not just the right people for the job, but the right people to work together to get the job done.”

    Why? There’s no proof on the ice. Wins. Losses. Leadership. Captaincy.

    We’ll see soon whether this entire Shanahan experiment is pure folly.

    As for Lou, he gets to have business cards that read “General Manager”, but he’s basically a consultant.

  • Between Lou and Babcock – Babaloo? – the head office has some real experienced weight in the upper echelon.

    Although Lou brings many things to the table, the big thing for me is that we now have a coach and GM with a history of demanding adherence to the plan and delivering results with those players who buy in to the plan.

    I like the Shanaplan so far but I’m not an NHL player. If I was looking at the Leafs, I would see the same plodding organization with a bunch of rookies at the helm. It would not give me much hope for enduring positive change.

    Now? There’s the young blood with new ideas and some old warriors with the cred to stay the course. I’m hoping for a relatively quick turnabout to being a more respected organization amongst the players – both internal and external to the dressing room.