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 NHL.com. 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.