It didn’t come as a shock when the New Jersey Devils announced Lou Lamoriello’s resignation a little after 10 am on Tuesday. It was the following announcement a few minutes later from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who hired the Devils honcho to be their general manager.
Needless to say, it turned some heads in the hockey world.
No one doubts Lamoriello is a great hockey executive. He singlehandedly took a “Mickey Mouse” hockey franchise in New Jersey and made it into a model organization. But over the years, he was known as someone who did it his way, going through coaches like water – even experimenting with a three headed beast this year – treating the media with disdain and pinched many pennies over the years, which drove many a Devil out of town.
And now turning 73 in October, Lamoriello is going to an organization where the hockey culture is far, far different.
This is not to say Lamoriello can’t fit into the Leaf’s corporate culture. He now has a boss in Brendan Shanahan, a man he truly respects. He also is expected to work with Mike Babcock, a coach that was brought in before he was hired.
However, Babcock’s resume does have some street credibility, which will go a long way with Lou. You do have to wonder if there will be personal decisions that will cause clashes over the next few years. Shanahan has proven he can lead groups to a consensus, so he will be running rough shot over any potential clashes.
It’s not that Lamoriello can’t exist in that corporate environment. He more certainly can. It’s the market that may give him problems.
In New Jersey, the Devils were covered regularly by just the Star-Ledger and Bergen Record. The Post and Daily News stopped covering them on the road years ago and the organization was very suspect of new media. And full disclosure, they have denied this site credentials on more than one occasion.
Now, Lamoriello is going to a team that has 13 beat writers and nine travel on the road. Essentially the Leafs are covered in Toronto like the Yankees are in New York and they can be very critical of the organization – some fair and some not. His distrust of the media in New Jersey is legendary. You will have to see how he reacts in Toronto.
And then there is the fanbase. Because of his track record, Devil fans generally gave him the benefit of the doubt, even over the last few years. Who could blame them? They revere the guy. He made their team into a relevant organization in New York and in the NHL.
Because of the mismanagement Toronto, he won’t get the same kind of love. There will be a honeymoon, but understand that fan base is as cynical as the Mets in New York.
And at 73, you have to wonder how long he will be doing this. It takes a good five years to fully rebuild a franchise. He currently has a three year deal. Will Lou last until the Leafs become a contender?
This could be a great hiring by the Leafs, but it’s no slam dunk. Lamoriello made his mark in New Jersey doing it his way. That won’t fly in Toronto.
But maybe an old dog can learn some new tricks.