More on Lou Lamoriello’s Departure

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, 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.

Winds of Change Persist: Lamoriello Resigns as Devils President, Hired as New Leafs GM

In another change in a summer of upheaval for the New Jersey Devils, Lou Lamoriello, the rock of the franchise for 28 years, has resigned as President of the team and has been named General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lamoriello had stepped down as GM of the Devils earlier this summer and was replaced by Ray Shero.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Famer was hired by the Devils on April 30, 1987 when he was named the team’s second President, according to a press release on the Devils official site. He was hired from Providence College in his native Rhode Island and became General Manager and President prior to 1987-88 training camp. The Devils would go on to make a Cinderella playoff run that season, going all the way to game seven of the Wales Conference Final before ultimately losing to the Boston Bruins, a measure of success that the franchise had never known before. This success would set the tone for Lamoriello’s tenure in the Garden State. Over time, the Devils would win three Cups, five Eastern Conference championships and nine Atlantic Division championships as well as the Patrick Division Playoff championship in 1988.

But Lou did not only win at the NHL level. The recipient of the 1992 Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in the United States and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer also served as GM for Team USA in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, which the team won and at the 1998 Winter Olympics (the first to feature NHL pros at the Olympics). In addition, during the time the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association and the Devils were both a part of George Steinbrenner’s YankeesNets group, Lou served as the CEO of the Nets. During his time with the Nets, the team would make two consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. He served on the NHL Board of Governors’ Executive Committee as well. In addition, when he was with Providence College as athletic director and hockey coach (a post he held for 15 seasons going 248-179-13 according to the Devils’ press release), he led the Friars to 12 straight post-season tournaments. This includes a trip to the 1983 Frozen Four (as it is now known).

The Devils’ press release includes some amazing stats regarding Lou’s time in New Jersey. While he served as GM, the Devils went 1,093-779-268 for a .578 winning percentage (incidentally, he had the exact same winning percentage as coach of the Providence Friars) during the regular season. They went 136-116 in the playoffs for a .540 winning percentage. In addition, during the last two decades, the Devils had the second-best NHL records overall, going 396-275-110 for a .577 winning percentage in the ‘90s and 422-223-95 for a .634 winning percentage in the 2000’s.

Now, Lou brings all of this to the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that has not tasted Stanley Cup success since 1967. He joins former Devils player and Leafs President Brendan Shanahan (who credited Lou at the Draft for teaching him a lot of what he knows about management) in an effort to rebuild a franchise that has missed the playoffs for nine of the past ten seasons. Toronto also has a new coach going into the season: the high-priced former Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock (who called the Lamoriello signing a “home run” for the Leafs organization) and have made moves like dumping perceived malcontent Phil Kessel. Will Lou be able to work his magic in a city that is notorious for its unrelenting press coverage, hungry for every little bit of news it can get from the Maple Leafs? Lou certainly cannot play it as close to the vest as he did in New Jersey with the Toronto media, that is for sure.

Another thing that comes out of this whole affair is that Lamoriello was apparently not as okay with stepping down as GM as he initially let on. Will Devils fans be able to cope with the change? If the season goes south, will the blame be shifted to Devils’ owners Joshua Harris and David Blitzer for “tinkering” with things too much? Will the inevitable comparisons between Lou’s style and that of Shero come sooner or later from the fans? These are real questions that will be answered in time.

One thing to keep in mind is how the team needed a change “as sad as that is” Ken Daneyko told Dan Rosen of Daneyko went on to say that the day is “bittersweet” in that while it is a fresh change for New Jersey, it is also like losing “your mentor.”

But Ken Daneyko is now one of the last of his kind. One of the fans’ last links to the Devils’ glory days, seeing as how most have moved on. Most know that this is a business. They do not call it professional hockey for nothing, but it still hurts on some level. However, the team was left in more than capable hands and has an incredibly bright future. The coming season will be a test, but no one ever said this would be easy.