With the huge news coming down yesterday of Lou Lamoriello’s resignation from the Devils and hiring by the Maple Leafs to be their next General Manager, I thought I would give a few more thoughts on the whole situation.
Reading some of the reaction of Devils fans around the Internet, the majority of them seem to be a mixture of shock and a feeling that it is what was best for both Lou and the team. Echoing Ken Daneyko’s thoughts to Dan Rosen of NHL.com, they feel somewhat bittersweet. For some fans, Lou was the only constant they have known throughout their lives as Devils fans. Players came and went, but Lou was always there like a member of the fan’s family. Having been with the team for almost thirty years and been the one to build the team from a “Mickey Mouse organization” as characterized by Wayne Gretzky to three-time Stanley Cup champions, there becomes a bond that fans have with the GM that many thought would never be broken.
But now Lou is in Toronto hoping to bring glory back to a team that was a proud franchise in the days of the Original Six, but since expansion has tasted very little. They were the last Stanley Cup champions of the Original Six era in 1967, but have not even made it to the Finals since the league doubled in size during the 1967-68 season.
They came close a few times during the days of Cliff Fletcher as GM, Pat Burns as coach and Doug Gilmour as captain, going to the Campbell/Western Conference Finals two years in a row in 1993 and 1994, but that was it. They lost in 1993 to Gretzky and the Kings and in 1994 to the Vancouver Canucks.
Now, after giving the Devils a history they can be proud of, the task comes to him to reclaim the Leafs’ proud heritage. As I pointed out in yesterday’s blog, Lou will not be able to hide much of anything from the media in Toronto. Things will leak out and he might find it more frustrating to do things the same way he did them in New Jersey. Time will tell on that. Lou is a very smart man; he most likely knows this and will adjust accordingly. If he lets his stubbornness get the better of him, there could be a rough time between him and the media horde that follows the Leafs on a daily basis.
When change happens around the Devils, it happens in a hurry. In the last two years, we have lost broadcaster Chico Resch, who ended his longtime association with the club to go in to retirement, longtime goalie Marty Brodeur, who went to the St. Louis Blues to finish his career and take a position in management there, former team captain and on again/off again coach Scott Stevens, who was replaced when John Hynes was brought in, longtime scout David Conte and the Devils parted ways and, of course, Lamoriello being replaced by Ray Shero and eventually leaving for Toronto. With all of that change, Devils fans whose heads aren’t spinning are going to be more than a little upset. That is okay too. However, there is only one way to quell any unrest amongst the fans, and that is winning. If the team puts a good product on the ice and it results in capital gains over the next few seasons, then all will be forgiven.
One thing that we know is that both teams will be in good hands going forward. Lou’s track record speaks for itself and he will lead the Maple Leafs well over the next three years of the contract he signed there. As for the Devils, it is like team co-owner Josh Harris told Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger in an interview: that he, Lou and (Devils’ co-owner) David Blitzer agreed “that people like Ray Shero don’t come along every day and that it was an ideal time to think about the next number of years for the Devils.” There is no doubt that Ray Shero has a vision for the Devils. It may take a few years for everything to play out, but the Devils should be in good hands going forward.
In addition, both teams showed incredible class in the whole situation. Brendan Shanahan and the Maple Leafs offered an official “thank you” to the Devils organization for allowing Lou to move on to them. Likewise, the Devils owners officially thanked Lou in a statement and Lamoriello even took out a full page ad in the Star-Ledger thanking Devils fans and the people of New Jersey for the last 28 years.
In the end, the word that Ken Daneyko used best sums things up, as this is truly a “bittersweet” ending for the Devils and their fans. While we may have witnessed the end of an era in Lou leaving, we are also setting off on a new course for the New Jersey Devils. One that will hopefully be more successful than in recent years and will give Devils fans something to cheer about as the team returns to its former glory.