Was Lou Lamoriello the best GM in the NHL this season?

When the NHL awards come rolling around in a couple months, there’s essentially no chance there’ll be talk of any Leafs bringing home hardware. And as a team in the league basement for seven months, nor should they. 

Even when it comes to the late-season additions of young Marlies and their performance, there’s no one eligible there for any rookie honours. And looking at the coaching staff, there’s no doubt Babcock has done as much as he can with the least amount of talent in the league, but he won’t be taking home his first Jack Adams this year by any means. 

But further up the chain there’s probably an argument to be made that Lou Lamoriello has had the best season of any general manager this winter. Like the above-mentioned roster and coaching staff, because of the standings he likely isn’t about to get any sort of recognition either. But out of all of them, Lou and his front office would be the most deserving. 

Much like the Jack Adams, the General Manager of the Year Award is usually just handed out to the guy who heads up the team which exceeded expectations the most. [Though I will say the latter appears to follow this formula a little less than the former, and the GM award is newer so we don’t have as much evidence to go on]. But no matter how you slice it, finishing last in the league is going to keep you out of the running for any of these awards, and that’s probably fair from a hardware standpoint. 

Regardless, I still think Lou Lamoriello may have been the best general manager in the NHL this season. And I want to emphasize this season, since he wasn’t hired until late last summer, so his work didn’t really get under way until nearly training camp.


It’s been a master class, put on by the old master – someone who’d been written off to go be a figurehead last summer.

It seems when you do the research, lay out the plan, and put up the targets, Lou can still knock them down as good as anyone.

Like many have mentioned, this is supposed to be the “easy part” of the Leafs rebuild. But if it’s so easy, how have we never seen it executed so well before? And if these days are supposed to be simpler than the later phases, it’d be best to get it as right as possible to make those difficult days down the road a little less difficult.

If you did a poll of Leafs fans right now, I’d guess Lamoriello’s approval rating would be the highest of any manager the team has had since the 2004 lockout, which is pretty absurd considering this will be one of their worst seasons ever points-wise. But when you’re smart, up front with the fanbase, and execute moves with the shrewdness we basically have never seen, you gain our trust. And for his work this year, Lou definitely deserves it. 

When you look around the league and compare general managers, you have to treat each situation differently. Keeping in mind the various stages of development or contention of each of the league’s thirty clubs, I think there’s a case for Lamoriello being the best at his craft over the last eight months given how the Leafs are looking to build. Someone like Brian McLellan or Jim Nill will take home the award, and I’d have no complaints about that. But Lou, given this team and this situation, has out-worked nearly everyone, and he’s been so smart about it. Since his hire, move-for-move there’s probably no one in the league who’s been better. 

The Leafs have been able to do a lot of things all at once this season: Raise the stock of veterans, ship off said veterans, acquire draft picks and cap flexibility long term, call up kids and put them in a position to do well despite the lack sheltering available, and finally, somehow stay somewhat competitive night-to-night but finish in Auston Matthews territory. Rarely do we, as observers, see a plan unfolding this well.

Going back to his hiring, you can obviously make the case that the main reason Toronto brought in Lamoriello was for his abilities as a trader. Shipping off Phil Kessel last summer was the right move for the Leafs, but holding back 1.2-million dollars in cap space wasn’t ideal, and it seemed as though that was a trigger for Shanahan to bolster the front office with someone who could lean on other managers a bit more. 

In terms of his performance from trades alone this season, here’s a look at what Lou has been able to exchange on the whole.

lou

Even without getting into dollars and term too much again (since we’ve broken down each single deal a billion times already), this is just an insanely good haul for a team in the early stages of building. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone really go after it this way before, hence the talks of a “master class” we’ve seen mentioned above.

And make no mistake, when you look through that list it’s clear the Leafs have had to take on some painful money in the short term to make gains down the road. But overall their approach can be summed up nicely by Lamoriello himself (via TSN.ca):

All I can say is that everything has transpired throughout the year, no matter what it might be, has pointed in a positive direction. For any step that was taken back, two or three was going forward and that’s the way you look at it.

If Lamoriello keeps operating at the pace he has this past season, which, in my opinion, rivals any of his peers, perhaps those steps will add up more quickly than we expected.

  • jimithy

    completely transformed the farm system, got rid of most of the dead money, added a lot of picks and young prospects, made excellent deals, no salary retained for phaneuf and got a bunch of 2nd round picks for spaling, polak, phaneuf and winnik WITH top prospects included in the deal… yes. mvp of the leafs this year. nominate him for the hart trophy.

  • Tyler I

    Nice sycophantic piece of writing, get out the pom-poms for a guy who really hasn’t done much except find a sucker to unload Phaneuf to and get players to look like they belong in the army where short hair and a clean face reduces participants to robots. Check the team that wins the Cup this year and see what kind of hair they are sporting – beards galore, long hair, ugly, etc. Lou’s regimen is 60 years out of date and players will rebel sooner or later.

    And sure we got some draft picks but let’s see what we get in the draft before passing judgement. Fourth round picks are unlikely to mount to anything, and even 2nd round picks have

  • Nice sycophantic piece of writing, get out the pom-poms for a guy who really hasn’t done much except find a sucker to unload Phaneuf to and get players to look like they belong in the army where short hair and a clean face reduces participants to robots. Check the team that wins the Cup this year and see what kind of hair they are sporting – beards galore, long hair, ugly, etc. Lou’s regimen is 60 years out of date and players will rebel sooner or later.

    And sure we got some draft picks but let’s see what we get in the draft before passing judgement. Fourth round picks are unlikely to mount to anything, and even 2nd round picks have

  • Tyler I

    Let’s not give Lou all the credit, it’s not like he hasn’t had a lot of help. Actually when I think about some of the silly things he did in Jersey the past few years I get the feeling like he may be the figurehead and it’s Hunter and Dubas calling the shots.

    • I thought so initially as well but have changed my mind. I think everyone on the 3 headed GM beast has their role. Dubas takes care of the Marlies, and also does a lot of analysis for the Leafs as well as strategy around player/team composition. Hunter drafts and does team/player composition… and while Lou is def a figurehead, I feel like he was brought in specifically to help negotiate with other GM’s. The Kessel trade showed that having 3 newcomers to the NHL management area ended with a less than favorable deal for us…. So bringing in Lou to help mentor Dubas (who is obviously being groomed to take over) and apply more pressure to other GM’s in negotiations was the plan… and its worked GREAT

      • magesticRAGE

        I agree. I had my doubts too. I’m assuming that he didn’t have the support system that he has with the Leafs, and connected to an ownership that has been completely on board with the Shanaplan.
        In Jersey, Lou was everything apart being an owner. Towards the end, he was probably wearing too many hats, compared to focusing on GM duties has has now, which he does best. He now has legit and forward thinking hockey minds to bounce ideas off of, from 2 different generations.
        It’s a perfect scenario, which was brought to by Brenden Shanahan, Leaf hero.

  • Gary Empey

    The Leafs were doing just fine with the rebuild long before Lamoriello showed up. He hasn’t hurt the team but he also has done anything to make it better. Anyone who thinks he should be GM of the year is completely brain-washed. All the prospects in junior and most on the Marlies were in place before he arrived. Coaches in place. Scouting team in place. Dubas could of made that trade with Phaneuf and probably got another first like he did for Kessel. The Leafs are raising their ticket prices after going from 4th worst team in the NHL to worst overall. TV rating are way down. The Leafs desperately need a number one center. Did he get one? No. Leafs desperately need a 3rd and 4th defence pairing. Did he get them? No.The leafs desperately need a number one goaltender. Did he get one. No. Acquiring Tobias Lindberg certainly was a good move but I suspect it was others who pushed to get him.

    • The man with Father Jack as his avatar speaks some sense. Feck! I wouldn’t be so quick to pile the good tidings upon Lou, although I’m happy with his work so far. More than anything, this strikes me as a backroom team effort as I don’t think Lou will be the sole-decider on the draft picks, and I also doubt he was the only one with the eye on the prospects they took back.

      Boring, I know, but a lot of his work now can only be judged in a couple of years when we see how some of these prospects and picks play out.

    • Gary Empey

      …except that I specifically remember Bryan Murray explain in a radio interview how easy it is dealing with Lou during the trade process. From my understanding of Murray’s explanation, it came off like Lou is as forthright with the opposing GM in a trade situation as he bhas seemed to be in interviews with the Leaf media this year. Murray said he worked with him to get a deal that works for everyone.

      As for the ticket prices, that’s not the GM’s job really (his main job is team building). If anything, that’s probably ownership pushing for that so blame MLSE. As for ratings, what did you expect? The team is rebuilding. Next. As for centres, do you expect a team to just trade us a #1 mid season. I’m pretty sure there is this ‘Steve’ guy who hasn’t signed yet so let’s not count our chicken’s just yet. Second line d-men can be found pretty easily actually. Islanders got a couple first liners just a couple years ago including Boychuk and some would argue Corrado, Carrick, Gardiner, or Marincin could fill that role based on their numbers this season on a relatively bad team. Really, any of your issues can be and will be addressed in the next couple drafts with the ever increasing number of picks the Leafs have over the next 3 years. This is a rebuild. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  • Gary Empey

    It was revealed in an NHL survey published today that Lou Lamoriello’s clean shaving grooming policy and his ability to aquire 4th round draft picks, is the reason the Leafs have become the most feared team in the NHL.

  • Gary Empey

    Say what you will about the hair beard thing. But every single morning there is a subtle reminder about who they work and play for. Toronto has a way of creating frankensteins that think they are bigger than the team. That they do t have to listen to the coach anymore and he will be gone…its a slight shift in attitude created by a simple act

    • Gary Empey

      Let’s not kid ourselves. It is a not so subtle, draconian, reminder that the Leafs own their right to make a living playing hockey, lock, stock, and barrel. It you dare to defy us. you will be suspended and out of hockey. Just ask Jonathan Drouin. It is the type of thing Punch Imlach(Lanny McDonald) and Harold Ballard used to do. It has nothing to do with aesthetics,. It’s move for power and complete control. Personally, I have neither a beard or a mustache. Facial hair is part of the male sexual identity. Who the hell is Lou Lamoriello to tell me whether I can grow one tomorrow if I wish to.

      It is probably a moot point anyways. It looks like nobody on next year roster is shaving yet.

      • silentbob

        Lots of jobs and work places have dress and appearance codes. For example, not many law firms are going to hire a lawyer who looks like he belongs in a 1% gang.

        The leafs (I believe the NHL in general) has a dress code fro players no playing and travelling to and from games. The hair/beard thing is just an extention of that.

  • Gary Empey

    H avve to agree with you Gary.I watched the San Jose game tonight and guess what.Riemer has played 8 games for them now and has 6 wins.He’s sporting a 1.62 GAA and a .938sv% with 3 shutouts.I think Toronto done got rid of the wrong one.

  • Gary Empey

    I tend to agree that old leaping Lou has helped the leafs management with his years and years of experience. But as others have pointed out Hunter Dubas and the rest of the management team was already beginning the foundation.

    The leaf management seemed to sour on Reimer. I’m not sure why but one couldn’t help think greener pastures would see James perform well. Let us not forget he is a free agent and obviously has helped his value.

    As far as the facial hair situation. Who cares what policy is in place. Just win baby just win.

  • SEER

    Best GM we have had here in many decades..!!

    Agree with most of the comments above… Getting rid of the Kessel and Phaneuf contracts alone, was a miracle..! And 12 Draft picks is just unheard of…!! He honored about everrything he said he would, in his interviews in this video…

    The Godfather: Lou Lamoriello 1987-2015 Interview-Montage – TML 2015-16

    —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO5uxqwB75s

    ——————

    One of my final and most recently requested 2016 Draft Montages for you…

    Carter Hart/ Goalie/ shoots R/ Born Aug 13 1998/ Sherwood Park, ALTA./ 17 yrs. ago/ Height 6.01/ Weight 170

    RECENT STATS: (*Up to April 5th 2016)

    2013-14 Everett Silvertips – WHL
    2 Games. 0 Wins.. 1 Loss.. 1 Tie… 0 S/O’s… 893 SV % . 3.49 GAA…
    —–
    2014-15 Everett Silvertips – WHL
    30 Games 18 Wins 5 Losses 5 Ties 4 S/O’s 915 SV % 2.29 GAA..
    ——
    2015-16 Everett Silvertips – WHL
    63 Games 35 Wins 23 Losses 4 Ties *6 S/O’s 918 SV % 2.14 GAA
    —–
    2016 WHL PLAYOFFS
    1 Game… 1 Win… .933 SV %….. 2.00 GAA

    Carter’s Wall: Carter Hart 2015-16 Highlights – 2016 NHL Draft Prospect

    —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up20NuaSjlo

    • jippers

      After less than a season, the best in decades? I guess that isn’t saying much anyway. We were all pretty hot on Burkie too, right?

      And the small return for Kessel contract isn’t exactly gone. The Buds are paying a part of it until it expires.

  • jippers

    Definitely not.

    I realise the need to open up roster spots, but a load of kids for Grabner was a disaster.

    And I hate the Reimer trade so much it makes me sad to think about it. So I won’t.

    • Gary Empey

      The Grabner trade wasn’t a disaster:

      Matt Finn – Arguably one of the better prospects in this trade, selected 35th overall. Unfortunately reoccurring knee injuries derailed his chances of being a productive NHL players.

      Carter Verhaeghe – Probably the biggest upside prospect on the list but probably will be a player similar to what Grabner currently is, bottom 6 in the NHL when and if he actually makes it.

      Taylor Beck, Tom Nilsson, and Chris Gibson – Fringe players at best and easily replaced.

      The trade gave the Leafs 4 additional SPC slots and a better NHL veteran player than Beck for the season.

      Two of those spots went to Kaskisuo and Corrado!

  • Gary Empey

    I wasn’t suggesting our GM has done a bad job. Ryan Fancey believes that Lou Lamoriello should be awarded Best GM of the year.
    I see little evidence of that.

    If any Leaf executive is deserving of an award I would recommend Mark Hunter.

  • Gary Empey

    Lol. This article is silly and so are the vast majority of comments. Deconstructing a team is the easy part of the rebuild. The most important phase and the most challenging phase is rebuilding the team. The writer and most of the commenters gloss over this like it doesn’t mean anything. Well folks, it absolutely means EVERYTHING!!! The logic is truly baffling. Lou had cratered a team better than anyone else in history so he should be given an award. Lol!! Maybe next year if the Leafs gain some traction, maybe you should wait until then to give out the awards.