In a relatively quiet summer of NHL player news, Torontoa��s administration has made perhaps some of the most buzz-worthy changes. While trading scorer Phil Kessel and hiring coach Mike Babcock have been been substantial moves, it is the hire of general manager Lou Lamoriello that should have the most impact on the direction of the franchise.
Lamorielloa��s successes during his early years with New Jersey are well documented, but therea��s a consistent focus on the struggles in recent years. Hea��s missed the playoffs four out of the last five seasons and struggled to usher in a youth movement. This undoubtedly leaves both Leafs fans and the hockey world asking which Lou will show up and what they can expect from him.
As for what we can expect from him, it is important to know that Lamoriello is particular about the way his ship is run. He likes having absolute control, referenced by his former title of President/GM/CEO of the Devils. As a result, his impact is profoundly felt through every facet of a franchise. Above all, there are two key trends we can expect to see in Toronto: keeping news close to the chest and firm management of his players, even down to their social media activity. (Remember that controversial tweet from Patrik Elias? Didna��t think so.)
These traits will spread throughout the Toronto organization right from the beginning. For starters, it is unlikely you will hear rumblings of trades or signings from their front office. If it is silent on the trade deadline, it could just as well mean that big changes are underway. Leta��s not forget when he shocked the hockey world with the last-minute trade for Ilya Kovalchuk, or traded their first-round pick for Cory Schneider before even Martin Brodeur knew.
To aid his fight for silence, Lamoriello has an arsenal of vague and deflecting statements in the face of probing questions, which Toronto will come to know all too well. For example, during press conferences, expect to hear a�?Everything is status quoa�? when all signs point to the contrary, or a�?When you have time, you use ita�? when deadlines are hours away. This is classic Lamoriello.
In addition to his silence in front of the media, Lamorielloa��s impact will certainly be felt among the players. Not only will Toronto skaters shy away from social media, but I would be shocked if even locker room problems reached the media while Lou is seated in the big chair. His presence demands respect from his players, and any internal player problems have only come to light after the fact in the Devilsa�� history.
During press conferences, expect to hear a�?Everything is status quoa�? when all signs point to the contrary, or a�?When you have time, you use ita�? when deadlines are hours away. This is classic Lamoriello.
For example, struggles between captain Jamie Langenbrunner and coach Jacques Lemaire during the 2009a��10 season were kept under wraps until the season was overa��and the Devils still finished first in the Atlantic Division. While the market size differs dramatically between New Jersey and Toronto, it is logical to expect some consistency in player management coming from Lamoriello. In fact, following a tumultuous season from the Leafs and their locker room, this could even be a cornerstone of his hire.
While these Lamoriello-isms help to understand what to expect, it still does not answer the question of which Lamoriello the Leafs are getting. The one thing they should be able to consistently expect is a winning mentality. In his 27 seasons with the Devils, they made the playoffs 21 timesa��including a streak of 13 straight seasons. Of that, they reached the cup final five times and hoisted it thrice. For reference, the Lakers pulled in six championships in that time, the Yankees five, and the Patriots four.
The Los Angeles Lakers, New York Yankees, New England Patriots, and New Jersey Devils. Which of these things is not like the other? Three big-market teams, and a team whose best option for a ticker tape parade location would probably be a residential street.
To be sure, the Devils have faced a difficult patch in recent years. However, this patch included a trip to the Stanley Cup finals as well as the departure of their two top scorers (Zach Parise signing with the Minnesota Wild and Ilya Kovalchuck retiring to the KHL) and one of the greatest goaltenders of all time. He leaves a young, promising defensive core and an elite goaltender. Perhaps most importantly, one a�?rough patcha�? over a 27-season career is far better than any other general manager can boast.
It is difficult to deny that Lamoriello has made magic in the Devilsa�� front office. When Ray Shero took over in New Jersey, Loua��s discomfort letting someone else run his ship was inevitable. He thrives off of having this control, which he will have once again in Toronto. Age is against him, but hea��d be the first to tell you, a�?When you have time, you use it.a�? Expect his time in Toronto to be no different.